Keyboarding is a necessary skill in our new digital world.
Having the ability to type by touch gives students a speed advantage over others, because as muscle memory begins to take over, words can literally flow from their fingers without a lot of time between the thought and seeing it in print. Since I have kids with special needs, their needs are always at the forefront.
Keyboarding has additional benefits for special needs students, including:
Strengthened hand-eye coordination
Prevents letter reversals in dyslexic students
Enhanced spelling practice
Reduction in handwriting. This is HUGE I tell you, huge.
The ability to produce written work for students on the Autism Spectrum, which many are unable to do with pencil and paper because they get caught in the process of it.
Dramatic speed increases over hand written work.
Audio reinforcement: Computers can read back what a student has written, helping him to ensure that what he wrote is what he meant to say. (This is a built-in Microsoft setting under Accessibility!)
Work begins and ends in an uncluttered setting: A blank word processor page rather than a cluttered worksheet or notebook paper with lines on it.
A number of years ago I had a really great keyboarding program for my girls (my “Round 1 Kids”). They enjoyed it, and they both learned to type. I had hoped to continue using the same program with our younger boys, but technology as it is now tends to change rapidly. Windows 95 gave way to Windows 98, which gave way to XP which sadly gave way to Vista. And with Vista, our wonderful typing program was no more. To make matters worse, the publisher quit making it.
Enter my “Round 2 kids”, both boys with writing and/or developmental disabilities. With the seemingly simple act of hand copying sentences from a model taking up to 10 times the length of time that it does for most kids, keyboarding is essential for their academic success, as well as my sanity.
I searched for over 2 years to find a good keyboarding program that was appropriate for preteens, would teach them good habits and “the basics” as well as work on speed without the distraction of obnoxious cartoon characters. It was hard search. When I was offered the opportunity to review Keyboard Classroom, I jumped at it.
Keyboard Classroom is a fairly simple program. It is unique in that they provide plastic guides which attach to your keyboard to help your students place their hands correctly on the keys. The guides are a big strength of the program because proper hand placement is something many kids struggle with when they are first learning to type. Unfortunately, the guides didn’t fit either of our keyboards, so we went without.
There was just no way to make them fit without them sitting on a row of keys. Lessons begin with learning letters on the home row, progressing to letter combinations, words, then sentences. Each level has a practice mode and a timed mode. They can choose which they want to work on.
The practice mode has no consequences for missing a stroke. They have the time to just practice with no pressure to perform. A missed stroke just keeps the cursor there until they hit it correctly, and then it moves on. The letter trainer has boxes that are highlighted, making it easy to know exactly what they’re working on.
The Practice Mode for Typing Words gives them a cursor underneath the set of letters that they are working on. A space at the end of a set prompts the cursor to move over or down to the next line. It allows them to correct errors as they go. As students work through each level’s parts, they gain ranking, from Cadet on up through General. Rankings earn them coins, which give them game play time as a reward for their hard work.
In Timed mode, they are supposed to complete each exercise with 5 errors or less.
The nice thing about Keyboard Classroom is it is powerful in it’s simplicity! Graphics are simple, easy on the eyes, and not distracting for my oh-so-distractible son. They are rewarded for their work, which for my gamer guys really does help keep them motivated.
I decided to try it out too, and spent an hour working my way through some of the lessons. My typing speed is somewhere around 60-70wpm, and I can tell you that after working with this program for a while, my accuracy and speed both improved. Your kids do not need to be beginners to see gains from this program! If they are beginners, or have special needs, I am confident that you will see great gains if they work on it regularly, as I have with my own sons.
Full Disclosure: I received one copy of this software program for evaluation purposes.