Sunday, July 24, 2011

Review: Keyboard Classroom


I remember when I learned to type in high school, hunched over a typewriter with an instructor chanting keystrokes.  It wasn’t exactly thrilling, but I now say it was the most useful skill I learned in high school.

Hardly anyone waits until high school to learn typing any more.  It is too much of a necessary skill now to wait that long. My daughter learned at age 8 with a popular software program.  I intended to use the same program for my son, but it just didn’t take off with him.  After another software failure, I switched over to the old flip book style that reminded me more of how I learned to type.  Unfortunately, it wasn't as successful as I had hoped. I especially wanted him to learn to type early because writing is difficult and tiring for him. However, while he can now type at 12, he just isn't as functional as I think he needs to be at this point.

While all of the programs we tried were somewhat successful, none were the best program for him.  The software programs seemed to either have too many distracting games, or weren’t systematic enough.  The flip-books were very systematic, but didn’t have any motivation tools and also required constant supervision from me. The end result was that my son could type, just not with the needed speed to get maximum benefit.  He was pretty good about knowing the location of the keys, but his hands still floated around the keyboard, creating errors. As a 7th grader with increasing writing requirements, he really needs to be a more proficient typist.

When I was presented with the opportunity to review Keyboard Classroom, I was exited to see how it might work in our homeschool.  Keyboard Classroom, which was developed over 20 years of research, is based on a timed fluency approach.  The program takes a systematic approach, building muscle memory toward mastery.

There are five fluency levels: Finger Trainer, Typing Words, Home Stretch, Typing Sentences, and Capital Stretch. Each fluency is based on a 1-minute time limit.  With passing levels closely monitored by the program and gradually increasing difficulty of skill levels, mastery is more easily achieved and ensured.

As the student progresses through the program, tokens are earned to play games.  The users also increase in rank (Cadet – General) as they move up in levels, which gives the student a big picture of their progress.
A unique feature of this program is the finger guides that are affixed to your keyboard.
keyboard_1
They are attached with Velcro, allowing you to remove them when desired.  I was anxious to give the guides a try, since wandering hands were slowing down my son’s progress.

The video below explains more about the program and allows you to see it in action.

We all know that something can look great, until we try to implement it into our homeschool.  I’m happy to say that we’ve had a lot of success Keyboard Classroom. It seems to have all the features we need that other programs we tried didn’t.

For starters, the finger guides immediately solved my son’s problem of his hands floating around keyboard and improved his accuracy and timing by not having to constantly look down at his hands.

While there are fun games in the program, the games are being used as reward and reinforcement, not the method of instruction.  We’ve tried too many programs where either a focus on games was too distracting or the program was so dry by not having any games that it wasn’t motivating.  Keyboard Classroom seems to hit the right balance of having students learn through systematic repetition, while earning tokens to play games.

For my distractible son, the 1-minute fluency exercises were perfect.  The short exercises gave immediate feedback and clear goals (master 6 times before moving to the next level). The ranking system helped him see his overall progress so far, which is motivation to keep continuing.  Earning tokens to play the games was also motivating, without the games becoming the primary focus.

There are a couple of things which you need to be made of aware before purchasing.  The software can be purchased with a license of 1, 2, 3, 5, or 25. So, if you have more than one student needing to learn to type at the same time, make sure you buy accordingly.  However, if you want to use the program for one student, then save the software to use with another child later, that is possible with licensing for just one.  Just be aware that once you remove and add a username, that all work for the previous user will be lost. You should also be aware that in order to play the games, an internet connection is needed.  The basic program will still run without internet, though.

Keyboard Classroom was designed with the student with learning differences in mind, but the methods used would be a benefit to any child learning to type. I’ve had my son practice his typing for 15-minutes a day and have been pleased with the results. While he has learned to type some over the course of everything we've tried previously, I think Keyboard Classroom has the repetition, independence, and motivation to finally get him where he really needs to be. It is definitely a program that we’ll continue to use.

Keyboard Classroom sells for $39.95 for a single license.  Please visit the Keyboard Classroom website to learn more about the software or to make a purchase.

Disclaimer:  I was given a copy of this product in exchange for my honest review. 

2 comments:

Carrie Shaw said...

Heidi,
Thank you for your review of my typing program. I am very excited at your son's success with Keyboard Classroom.
We worked so hard developing the correct balance of learning and incentives. Kids at this age need a back-to-basics approach to learning instead of games with lots of distractions! And the incentives is a good "pat on the back" which they also need!
I wish your son success in what ever he does. And I thank you for giving him the life long skill of typing!

MeritK said...

That looks like a fun program- thanks for the information!