Sunday, June 25, 2006

Typing 101

My son's handwriting is not great. We will keep pursuing legible writing, but I will begin to teach typing/keyboarding or whatever it is called now. I took typing in ninth grade when there was no question what to call it with an ancient rigidly coiffed teacher who gave "business" (secretarial) instructors the type in stereotype. We all rushed to that class, not because the class was so exciting, but to stake out the few electric typewriters. Even though class was typically amusing, it had nothing to do with the lessons and everything to do with the frazzled older teacher managing (or not) her class. I digress.

Anyway, I began researching typing/keyboarding programs a while back and I found out a couple of things. No matter what program you use, learning to type is not exciting. No matter how many cutesy characters they intersperse into the lessons - typing is typing. I don't ever remember anyone saying in my whole life, "Oh, I love typing. Please let me type that paper for you." I do remember people making a good living in college typing papers.

Anyway, here are the resources I found. Some are better than others:
  • Typing instruction in a book (much like I used when I was in 9th grade). I looked at a few of these, but decided that since the computer was already involved, why not use it as a resource for instruction as well.
    • Typing for Kids! -- This is spiral bound, which is great for typing instruction since the pages lie flat, black and white line art book. The lessons take you slowly through the keyboard learning one or two keys per lesson. This is a basic approach and at $7.95 you can find much better in a computer oriented program.
    • Keyboarding Skills -- Another spiral bound book for typing instruction. This one loses the cutesy drawings and adds speed. This book will take you further faster. If you really want a book, this one is for the older audience who really wants to type. I think this one was $19.95, but I wasn't that interested so I forgot to document.
  • Typing computer programs -- I was stymied here for a while since most of the more documented programs have not kept up with technology or were not written for the Macintosh crowd. I eventually found several interesting typing tutors for modern machines (both Mac and PC) complete with bells and whistles.
    • Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing 17 -- This is the newest of the Mavis Beacon typing empire (Make sure you get the version 17. The older programs are still floating around in the discount shops, but will not work with more modern machines). This program has oodles of bells and whistles, videos and arcade games, and lessons (231) and tests. This is a huge program. My question is this. Do you really need it all? The price is $40 or there about and you can download a free trial here.
    • -- Offers free typing instruction for both adults and children. The basics are covered in a basics section and then there are exercises in another section. There is nothing to stop the child from skipping the basics and moving into the exercises without instruction. Though the information in the basics section is sound, there is not as much practice of the basics to ensure that proper form or hand placement is achieved.
    • Ten Thumbs Typing Tutor -- I like this Viking Typing Teacher. The on screen keyboard shows where the correct letter is so you don't have to look down. Lessons are short, can be repeated, and you get live stats. Some of this information is not important for the 10 year old boy, but for the parent who likes to play with the children's school resources, having all of the information is just grand. Another adult or child bonus is iTune connectivity. You can actually type the lyrics of the song you are hearing (if the lyrics are available). This is a shareware program for all operating systems so you can try it for a few days before deciding.
    • Arcade Typing Tutor -- I am addicted to this program. The program is for practice only - no lessons here. You must shoot the meteors, spaceships, etc by typing the words associated object. Some of the spaceships shoot back, so be careful. Speed, only, is important. $11.99 and you are supporting a med school student - a feel good purchase for Mac only.
    • Master Gecko's Home Row - I like this program for my 6 year old - though I hadn't thought much about teaching her typing, yet. I can read her writing. A gecko teaches the keyboard, then he introduces you to his friends in a maze game. Obviously, home row refers to the asdf - jkl; on the keyboard and you move forward from that point. You can choose levels - beginner, intermediate, or expert. This is a cheap any operating system program.
    • There are hundreds of typing programs that I won't address here. This site gives you reviews and a screen shot of many of them. There should be something for everyone.
After looking at many, many programs, I purchased the Arcade Typing Tutor and Ten Thumbs. Now, I have to set aside some time for typing. Making it a priority, setting aside practice time, and insisting on consistency will create a young typist no matter which program you choose.


Frankie said...

Guess what?

I love to type. I always have. I actually loved typing class, I can remember my teacher very well, and the typewriter I was assigned to. My profession (court reporter) involved typing.

In my day, I typed well over 100 words per minute. I think I still can but only in bursts and only if I cut my nails.

One of my favorite sounds is that of my fingers hitting the IBM Selectric typewriters of the past, the heaviness of the keys, and the clunking sound it made.

To add to your fantastic list, Yahoo Games has a game called Typer Shark that my son and I love to play.

We used an OOP book called Kids Can Type, Too which I loved and DS thought was okay then switched to Baron's Typing Made Easy.

For younger grades, there is a fantastic program called Read, Write and Type. My son did that in second grade in public school and loved it so much that I bought it (on Ebay of course) and he did it at home, too.

My son has issues with handwriting. We still work on it, but learning keyboarding skills has been a huge plus here!

wisteria said...

Wow! A typing maven! I'm so impressed! Thanks for the add ons. I haven't started, yet, so I still have time to change my mind. Right?!

I was never great! Better than some, but never 100 wpm. Wow!

Susan said...

I can't believe I actually can contribute but... at my overly sporty testostrone filled house they like one called Slam Dunk Typing by Creative Wonders. Look for the basketball picture:) on the cover. Of course it involves competition....

gpk said...


It's interesting to read your post!

I might the odd one as well.

I like to type. I feel satisfied every time I finish typing a letter, report or things like that.

I was trained to type during my high school days using manual typewriter. I even sat for typewriting exam and got passed with a distinction in terms of proficiency!

Knowing how to touch type helps a lot in my work because I tend to finish my job fast. I would think that typing for kids is important and they should be trained to type as early as possible.