Guest Post by Andrew from Match Next
Software Review: TypingClub
Ever see someone pecking at a computer keyboard like this with their fingers?
No offense to our typing-challenged readers, but it’s tough to watch. I’ve gotten into debates before with others about whether kids need formal typing instruction, or whether they should just ‘figure it out.’ Some people say that everyone eventually figures out ‘what works best for them,’ and that we don’t need to push a particular style of typing. I’ll call this the ‘Tim Tebow Theory of Typing.’ In college, Tebow figured out a throwing motion that “worked best for him.” And it worked pretty well - well enough for two Heismans.Then he decided he wanted to play in the NFL. Ask Belichick how he felt about ‘Tebow’s way’ (and how many millions of dollars Tebow missed out on because he couldn’t fix his ridiculously long throwing motion).
So if you’re like us and want students typing with all ten fingers and using the home row, here’s a great program we’ve found. It’s called TypingClub.
Typing Club is an online program that teaches students how to type using the correct fingers.
I’d rate it an 8 out of 10. I haven’t spent much time trying out other ones, so if you have one you like, it may very well be as good or better than what we’re using. If you’re looking for something to use, though, TypingClub is a great option.
How it works:
There are 100 ‘lessons,’ though you can add more or make your own if you want). Some are introductory levels, some are practice levels, and others are review levels. Here’s Level 1: Intro to “f” and “j” (the pink arrows added by me):
And here’s level 9, a review level of the home row:
Students type the letters that are shown above. Green highlighting means they hit the right key, red means the hit the wrong key. On the bottom right of the screen, they can see both their speed and accuracy. There’s also a picture of a hand and a keyboard. The highlighted key + fingertip shows which finger the user should use to type a key. Students can choose to turn this option off (or the teacher can just remove this option completely when setting up the level). More next time on how we’ve used this option.
I also set a few minimum requirements for students to “pass” a level. They need to get 95% of the keystrokes right and type at a speed no less than 15 words per minute (wpm) in order to pass a level. If they don’t hit these benchmarks, they have to do the level over again.
Those numbers have worked pretty well for us. I picked 95% sort of randomly randomly, and I picked 15 wpm because that’s about how fast our average student can handwrite.
The good: Simplicity. It’s simple to use, simple to navigate, simple to analyze kid data, simple to sign in.
Customizability. You can move levels around, delete student progress to have them redo certain activities, set minimum requirements for passing specific levels, or even rewrite entire levels if you feel like a particular one isn’t good enough.
The bad: It’s not really ‘fun.’ If you’re like me and grew up on Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing, you know the thrill of flinging insects from your windshield as your ‘car’ responds to your typing speed. TypingClub has no such games.
There’s another challenge that’s not really the program’s fault – it’s hard to enforce ‘correct’ finger usage and no-look typing (that is, typing without ogling your hands). We’ve had some trouble with this. We’ve tested a few ‘hacks’ for this puzzle, but more on this in a later blog. But warning: if you don’t solve this, all the data you get from the program is worth about as much as Tebow is to an NFL squad.
There’s a dashboard with all sorts of nifty analytics about student’s progress through the program. You can pretty much see everything, like
the number of attempts students made on any level
students’ typing speed (wpm)
# of attempts on each level, etc.
Here’s a picture of one of the data-dashboards:
Some interesting things here. But like I said, it doesn’t really mean anything if your students’ aren’t using ‘correct’ fingers, or don’t actually learn where the keys are.
Next time: I’ll describe all the ‘hacks’ we’ve tested to get students using the program correctly. Stay tuned.
if you want to talk shop: firstname.lastname@example.org