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Do you know how to type well? Do your children? Knowing how to type with speed and accuracy is not only useful at home, and extremely efficient for education, but is now a required skill for many jobs. Keyboarding has simply become a fundamental skill in this age of computers and technology. And yet…
More than 75% of our children can’t type. Oh, they can hunt and peck, and some of them are pretty fast. But put a book or a pile of notes next to the computer, ask them to type without looking at the keys, and they’ll crumble like a wounded video game character. So I ask the question… If you wouldn’t give a child a book without first teaching them to read, why would you sit them at a computer before teaching them to type?
— Carrie Shaw, Keyboard Classroom blog
We’ve made typing a requirement in our home education. A few years ago we looked at several typing programs and used one that worked moderately well for some of our older children, but they didn’t stick with it. They were more interested in the numerous typing games that came with the program. Earlier this summer we decided to really get serious about teaching typing before our children’s writing assignments increased.
Shortly after that, Carrie Shaw offered me the opportunity to review Keyboard Classroom. I was thrilled to have a few of my children try it out, and am very happy to share our experience with you.
Keyboard Classroom, from Keyboarding4Kids, is a unique, “fluency-based” learn-to-type curriculum, designed for use with children ages 7 to 14.
Learning to type is all about muscle memory. Great typists, like great athletes, need to learn the fundamentals by practicing them day after day, building new skills only after they master something less difficult. Keyboard Classroom is systematically designed so a child must truly master a skill, before advancing to a more challenging one.
It works for all children, even those having trouble in school, or students with special education needs or learning disabilities like those with ADD/ADHD, Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, Asperger Syndrome, and some other forms of Autism. With a dedicated commitment by the student and parent/coach, our studies show the average student can begin to see results in their keyboarding skills in just 6 to 10 months, practicing just 15 minutes a day!
— quotes from Keyboard Classroom website
The software comes with a free set of finger guides that attach to the keyboard with velcro stickers (they can be removed for someone else to use the keyboard). They are situated so that a child places two fingers on either side of the guides, on the home-row keys. (To see this in action, watch the video on the Keyboard Classroom home page.) I was eager to see how they worked, but after my children learned where their fingers should sit, they said the guides got in their way (particularly my 15-year-old son whose hands are enormous). I can see how the guides would be useful for young children, especially those with learning disabilities, to keep their fingers in the correct places. I plan to try the guides again with my younger children when they start to learn typing.
The moment we started up Keyboard Classroom, my children were exclaiming with delight to see military insignia for the ranks they would be aiming for as they worked through the program. To move through the ranks, each exercise allows you to practice and learn what to do before actually taking a timed test. The test is very short – just one minute – but it must be successfully passed 6 times to advance in rank. There are a certain number of correct keystrokes required to pass (the number increases as proficiency is acquired) and a very small allowance for errors (I think no more than 5 – it’s wonderfully strict!).
At first, some of my children became very frustrated because they weren’t passing the tests. I discovered they were hardly practicing – just diving into the tests. After a reminder to practice as long as they needed before taking the tests, they really started loving the program! Fun bugle sounds filled the house each time they took a test and when they advanced to a higher rank. They began making shouted announcements like, “I just became a Sergeant 2nd class in Typing Sentences!” The rest of the family celebrated with cheers.
There are five fluencies to master:
- Finger Trainer
- Typing Words
- Home Stretch
- Typing Sentences
- Capital Stretch
When a student begins the program, only the first 3 levels are accessible. After certain ranks are achieved in those first three, the last two become available for practice and testing. This makes it so easy for me as parent and teacher – I don’t have to monitor my children to make sure they aren’t jumping ahead (my children never do that…ahem). The incremental pacing of skills is built in to the software – students must master a skill before they are allowed to proceed. (For a detailed description of each fluency, please see the Keyboard Classroom Software Features page.)
Right away I fell in love with the logic behind Keyboard Classroom. The Keyboard Finger Trainer teaches finger placement in a unique way by teaching the letters in alphabet order – not just home-row “asdf” and “jkl;” sequences (although that comes later). My children loved this! They were so motivated to work at typing the whole alphabet “the real typing way” that some of them worked on the computer for half an hour or longer. Not long after learning the alphabet keystrokes, they asked for extra keyboards so they could practice “offline” when typing time was done.
They would get the keyboards and sing the ABC song with their eyes closed, while another child watched eagerly, tying to catch them using the wrong finger to hit a key. They thought this game up on their own and ran their own drills! They even had timed races to see who could type the alphabet the fastest. My older children who were trying the program have begun teaching the finger positions to my 4 and 6 year olds – just for fun. It’s fantastic to have something that inspires my children to teach and drill themselves and their siblings – while enjoying it!
My favorite fluency by far is the Capital Stretch. This teaches the use of the correct shift key (right or left) when typing capital letters. For example, when capitalizing the letter E, typists should hold down the right shift key with their right pinkie finger, while pressing the E key with their left middle finger. The software is programmed in such a way that is does not respond if the wrong shift key is pressed. This forces the student’s fingers to memorize which shift key to use for each letter, drastically improving their speed and accuracy.
Keyboard Classroom also motivates children to learn by offering incentives – they can earn tokens to play games. The games do not teach the typing, they are the reward for learning the skills. One game token is awarded each time a fluency test is passed – two tokens are granted when a new rank is achieved. Each game “costs” two tokens to play. (While an internet connection is not required to use the program, it is needed if students want to play the games.) One of my children worked really hard and saved up lots of tokens. He was planning on a long game session, and discovered (to his dismay) that no matter how many tokens you have, there is a limit to how many games you can play in one session. 😉 I am delighted with that feature!
I also like that the games are not as flashy and high-tech like others I’ve seen (although I have nothing against those in general for proficiency and speed practice after typing skills are learned). They are almost old-fashioned as far as computer games go, but I noticed that all of the games involve eye/hand coordination, speed, and accuracy. Since most of the games involve moving objects or letters that change colors, the idea struck me that they could be extremely useful in diagnosing if a child has difficulty tracking motion, or seeing certain colors.
Another great aspect of this software is great customer service and technical help. Carrie Shaw answered my emails quickly and helped me when my children were frustrated at first. She asked me questions that helped identify what my kids were doing, and gave me tips for how to guide them. It’s obvious she loves this software and is committed to helping parents and teachers produce competent touch-typists!
We highly recommend Keyboard Classroom! I am ecstatic that our search for a great typing program is over. I can see why it is “the fastest-growing learn-to-type program in America.” My children have gone from frustration and boredom with typing instruction – to joy and confidence as they are learning a skill that will last them a lifetime.
Our testers have not yet completed the program – each is progressing at their own pace, and they still enjoy it. My 15-year-old son has the highest rankings so far. After a couple months of typing practice, he grinned when I asked him to enter some receipts in our budgeting software, saying, “Cool. Now I can get some REAL practice.”
Learn More About Keyboard Classroom
- Visit the Keyboard Classroom website – lots of great information and resources
- Facebook page – more screenshots of the program
- You can follow Carrie Shaw, veteran educator and president of Keyboarding4Kids on her blog and Twitter. Or you can send Carrie an email – I know from experience that she promptly and happily answers all questions! 🙂
How to Get Keyboard Classroom:
- Try before you buy: You can download a free demo trial version from the Keyboard Classroom website.
- Purchase it: You may purchase a single-user license for Keyboard Classroom for only $39.95 – the Finger Guides are included absolutely free. It is worth every single penny, in my opinion. Only one child can use the software at a time, because the software customizes itself for each student. When they are finished, however, you can set it up for another student. If you need to have more than one student learn typing at the same time, you can also purchase licenses for 2, 3, 5, or 25 users. Note:Currently, the software will only run on Windows-based operating systems. It is not compatible with Macintosh OS unless you are running Parallels software (version 4.0 or above).
- Save 10% with this COUPON CODE: The code to enter is typing and it is case-sensitive.
Our family received a complimentary license for Keyboard Classroom in order to facilitate this review. All opinions are 100% our own.