Keyboard Classroom is a computer program for learning keyboarding skills. It works in conjunction with a set of patented finger guides. You can purchase an individual license for permanent access for one person or a family licence that gives you permanent access to the program for up to five users, set up on one computer. Finger guides are sold separately. You should need only one set. The program runs on Windows systems or on a Mac running Parallels. The program is downloaded to your computer and runs without an internet connection. An internet connection is required only to access “help” or to play the games.
The program is divided into five sections: “keyboard finger trainer,” “typing words,” “home stretch”, “typing sentences”, and “capital stretch.” Within each section is a series of progressive exercises that are purposely repetitive. The practice is designed so that students develop familiarity with the keyboard and the most efficient ways to type each character as well as “finger memory” so that students automatically move their fingers to the correct keys without having to look at the keyboard.
For the exercises, students can choose practice or timed mode. They should begin with practice mode then begin timed mode once they have developed some fluency. They will need to complete a repetitive series of timed exercises achieving a certain level of correct keystrokes within one minute to earn tokens and get credit for the exercise. Students must complete each identical timed exercise six times before they can move on to the next exercise in that category. There are 20 or more levels within each area, so there is plenty of typing activity in the program. As students complete levels they move up through ranks from cadet to general. Students can work in any of the first three categories whenever they please, but the last two categories are not available to them until they reach a certain rank within “typing words” and “typing sentences.”
Timed exercises run one minute each so that they don’t exceed a child’s attention span. Of course, students can practice for longer sessions, and they can complete more than one timed exercise in a sitting. I like the one minute limit since I’ve reviewed programs where it seems like each exercise goes on forever, and if you stop in the middle you have to start from the beginning next time.
The Keyboard Classroom finger guides are unique. They attach to the keyboard with Velcro strips so they are easily removable. The finger guides force students to hold their hands in the proper raised position rather than flattened out. They also help students keep their hands properly positioned in relation to the home keys.
In addition to the finger guides, the program uses a color-coding system. It uses a particular color for each finger then highlights the key to be typed with the same color as the finger to be used. A hand with the colored finger is shown to the left. Students might refer to this at first if they are “lost” on the keyboard. The finger guides are also pictured on the screen so students can see where fingers are supposed to be placed in relation to the finger guides.
Be sure to watch the video at www.keyboardclassroom.com/software/ before you begin. It will help you understand how the finger guides work; this isn’t taught within the program.
There are no cartoons or animations in the basic program, although there are animations in the games. Even the sound effects are kept to a minimum with only a fanfare at the beginning and end of each timed practice.
Tokens earned for completing practice sessions can be used to play the four simple games built into the program. The games are challenging, maybe more so than some younger children can handle. Still, they will want to at least try them out. No typing skills are required for the games.
Keyboard Classroom is a disciplined and efficient approach to learning keyboarding skills. It seems to me that students can’t help but learn to type if they work through the program. It isn’t as entertaining as some other programs, but I think it is more certain to accomplish its objective. The publisher even guarantees that if a child works diligently for 15 minutes a day, he or she will become a proficient typist in six months.