Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Review: Keyboard Classroom

I know this comes as a huge shock to everyone who reads this blog, but sometimes I really struggle to put my thoughts into words.  Reviewing Keyboard Classroom has been a struggle for me, and I think I finally figured out why, so maybe I can actually write up a review.

The problem?  The program is working, and I haven't been able to figure out why!  What makes Keyboard Classroom different from the other programs we've used to teach our kids to type?  I.  Don't.  Know.

What I do know is that William got the chance to review this product, and has now been using it for about six weeks (it took us way too long to get it installed... my fault, the installation was easy peasy).  He remembers to do it without any nagging on my part, he never complains about doing it, and I can see that he is making progress.

Watch this video, as it explains the program FAR better than I can:

William - age 12, and severely dyslexic -- is doing great with this.  Here are a few bullet points about why, maybe, I think this is working:
  • The little finger guides are phenomenal -- they anchor him to the keyboard.  He hated them the first couple of days, though.  
  • The ranks.  He LOVES moving up in rank.  And you move up separately in each of the five "fluencies" so if he is struggling in one area, he can still be progressing in others.  
  • The progression just makes so much sense to me.  He doesn't have any access to harder skills until he works through the basic ones first.  
  • I'm very impressed with the "Home Stretch" activity.  This one is designed to always bring the learner back to the home row at the end of each segment.  That is something I know has been a problem with other things we do.  He'll type words and leave his fingers pretty much where he ends up.  He doesn't have the habit of returning to the home row... so he gets to the next word, and he can't do it because he doesn't know (without looking) where his hands are.  This particular drill is helping him to get back to that home row anchor.
  • The program does not require him to be reading at "grade level," nor does it require him to spell well.  
  • He hasn't started using it yet, but the fifth fluency is "Capital Stretch."  Oh.  Wow.  It is designed to work at fluency with the shift key... and one thing I LOVE is that if you are trying to type, say, an "F", the computer will not recognize the shift key on the left.  You HAVE TO press the shift key on the right.  I know, I know, I know that this fluency is going to be an enormous benefit to him.
  • He always knows exactly what he has to accomplish to move up in rank, or to move on to a harder exercise.  It is clearly spelled out for him.  
  • Not a lot of 'flash' -- and this is a big plus.  Other things we've tried let him play games or whatever (shooting down the words by typing them, for instance) and he loves that.  But he knows that he plays the games and he doesn't do the actual instruction part.  The games make him a more effective hunt and peck typist.  With Keyboard Classroom, however, the focus is on the instruction.  He told me that with this, he knows he is improving and that is way more motivating than the games ever have been.
  • One minute sessions.  If he totally blows something, he knows it will end soon and he can start again.  Since each activity is only a minute, he will do "just one more" especially if an increase in rank is involved.
What don't I like?  It is hard to think of anything, really.  Besides wanting it available for a Mac -- but honestly, I like having this on the desktop instead of the laptop anyway, so it being PC-only isn't a big deal.

The one thing that I would like to see is the opportunity for a parent (or a sibling, for that matter) to try it out... when you purchase, you purchase a set number (1, 2, 3, 5, or 25) of licenses.  When a child completes the program, you can delete them and re-use the license for another child... and I love that!

But it would be nice if there was something available so that I could log in as a guest -- and it wouldn't even have to save my progress -- and try each of the five fluencies, just to have a handle on what is truly happening.  The ability to earn the first rank in each would have made it far easier for me to support and encourage my son.

My bottom line:  I am contacting Keyboard Classroom to see about purchasing another license.  Or two.  But for sure one.  That way, Connor (14) can work through the program, and we can allow the next child to participate as an older one finishes.

If you have a child with learning disabilities, you must look into this program.  I think it is going to be great for my oldest though, too, so I would recommend it for more typical learning kids too.

A single-user license is $39.95, and you can check here for other pricing options.

Disclaimer:   I received this program for free from Keyboard Classroom.  No other compensation was received.  The fact that I received a complimentary product does not guarantee a favorable review.  

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