How I Use It
I use this (paid) product with our junior school students (Grade 4 and 5) as the main (but not only) platform to improve their keyboarding (typing) skills. The opportunity to individualize their experience with the site is helpful as is the reporting options for the assessment process as a educator. Our students usually began in the Computer-Guided mode to offer them a foundation of finger positioning exercises and ergonomic videos and drills to learn keys and work towards a typing test at their specific typing goal. (I usually set this at 10 WPM for beginners and then increased their typing goal by 5 after they "levelled up" their skills. The Computer-guided mode helped establish and reinforce good habits (i.e. using the home row) for future exercises involving timing. Sometimes, students would get stuck (one lesson on emoticons gained a particular reputation for difficulty) in a particular exercise. Also I found that adjusting the punctation training settings (under General) to minimum or reduced helped them in some situations if necessary and appropriate. Failure is certainly an important opportunity for learning. Also changing the Break the Modules into Segments to NO under CG mode encouraged students spend more valuble time typing and less time watching a repetive demo. Although, I was usually was on hand to help with quality control encouraging students to use the correct finger positioning and as well as using the home row. Overall, the ability to make many adjustments like customizing keyboards and applying differianted test settings for students is what originally drew me to this software in the first place.
For more advanced users, this site proved to be useful as our intermediate and advanced typists accessed the Self-Guided mode which allowed learners to complete practice exercises or typing tests as their own pace. Their database of tests were divided into three sections (child, teen and adult) and by the amount of words (i.e. length of time). I used this number of words to encourage next steps and individualize the experience for students saying "Sounds like you are ready for an test between 50 and 80 words in length."
Finally, no mention of typing software is complete without mention of the games and our students used the trivia challenge, goalie (soccer)and meteor storms usually as a reward near the end of class but could access in their "free choice" situations. All three games were with meteor storm being ocasionally glitchy true be told. The other games were good with many different levels and our only wish would be more variety as we often looked to other sites (i.e. abcya.com or typeracer.com) for our typing game fix.
One area that I have not developed is the customized exercises section where students "free type" a set of text either uploaded by a teacher to allow students to type their own ideas. My reason is simply strategic as I want to students to focus directly on building up their typing speed and accuracy and invite them to think of what to type would definitely slow down their productivity. However, it might be a good idea to select some grade appropriate and topic appropriate text (i.e. Canadian government in Grade 4) as a way to work cross curricularly and sneak in some Social Studies or grammar or whatever work.
For me though, this product helped with recording students progress for assessment, feedback and next steps. I created reports detailed on individuals which could profile in detail a learner's keystrokes, activities accessed, time as well as their speed and accuracy. I usually exported the data to Excel to create a simple graph of a class list of student's time spent on the site (shared publically as a Leaderboard) and their AWPM which I kept private only sharing with the individual. I liked to share the time spent on the site to celebrate their achievement of the students investing their time to improve to their skills. These "leader" of time were usually among the leaders for speed (increased effort = increased achievement) but I let students draw their own conclusions about that as students only knew their own scores.
Typing training formed the foundation of our typing program with its tracking and recording options and opportunity to individual the settings to a learner's needs and abilities. Updating the default interface for tests from top left with smaller font to a more central place for text reading and typing like the exercises would be my suggestions. The tutorial section needs an overhaul with more YouTube videos or animations rather text driven paragraphs. More games or even links to popular and free typing games curated from the web would be great. I did this my self on a site called symbaloo if interested.