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Keyboard Classroom CD-ROM Software Review by Jennifer Harrison

Keyboarding4Kids LLC
Corporate Communication
98 Sunny Reach Drive
West Hartford, CT 06117

The Keyboard Classroom software has been a hit with my sons. My boys have actually begged to go do their typing lessons. At the end of the day, it is not a surprise to find my sons still on the computer, working away at their typing lessons over an hour after the lessons should have ended. Some moms might jump for joy at this; I became suspicious. For it to inspire my boys to work so long, I assumed it must surely be offering them free cotton candy or something of that nature. A little investigating revealed there was more to it than just typing, but nothing so terrible as free cotton candy.

Keyboard Classroom is designed to help students, ages 7 to 14, build typing fluency through muscle-memory exercises in short, one-minute sessions. Students must pass six sessions successfully before moving on to the next fluency level. These sessions are given in one minute in order to build muscle-memory faster. It is also a great help for those with limited attention spans.

The draw for my sons lies in the built-in incentives. First, students earn rank for their progress. They begin as cadets and work their way up to the rank of general. My boys loved this, shouting, "Look! I'm a sergeant, and I've only been playing one day!"

That's right. He said "playing," not "practicing." Lest you think his idea of playtime would usually include repetitive typing of nonsense words, let me explain that the second incentive is tokens. Students earn tokens for completing levels, and these tokens purchase time in the Game Arcade. There are four very simple games that students can play for the price of 2 tokens per game. My boys loved this. This kept them "practicing" for much longer than intended. While I was not a fan of them playing on the computer so much, it was encouraging to know that they had practiced for a decent portion of their playing. Unfortunately, a student only needs to practice for around 5 minutes before earning enough tokens to play for a good 15 minutes. However, I was pleasantly surprised to see that my son had 80 tokens accumulated and unspent. Students only need 2 tokens to play in the Game Arcade, which means he had continued to practice for the joy of practice alone. Wow!

Practice time is simple yet effective. Students begin by typing letters with the Keyboard Finger Trainer, typing nonsense letter combinations with the Typing Words option or completing a grid of nonsense letter combinations with the Home Stretch Option. At some point, options for Typing Sentences and Capital Stretch become available to students, but the software is not clear on what rank must be achieved before having access to these options.

Something I really appreciate about the program is that if you type the wrong letter, it does not automatically proceed. Instead it turns the letter you've typed red and waits for you to get it right, preventing students from learning something incorrectly. I also like that once I load the CD-ROM, I can install the game on my computer and not need to use the CD every time we want to learn typing. Something I don't like is that students are taught to hit the Spacebar rather than "Enter" to proceed to the line beneath.

A concern of mine is the lack of instruction. It is an excellent program for review, but without a teacher beside them to catch them, students can hit the right keys with the wrong fingers and develop habits that are difficult to unlearn. I recommend that parents watch as their students are typing. Also, another feature of the Keyboard Classroom might be able to help prevent wrong fingering positions. Fingering Guides that attach directly to keyboards are available for free with a CD-ROM purchase through Keyboard Classroom. Unfortunately, these guides do not fit my keyboard, so I am unable to share how effective these are.

The insurmountable downside to this program, for my family, is the cost. For one student, the cost is $39.95. This includes the CD-ROM, the Fingering Guides, and a user license for a single user. I have four children, so I can either teach two at a time at the price of $75.00 (for a 2-user license) or teach all four at a time at the price of $199.75 (for a 5-user option). If a family wanted to teach typing to 6 users at a time, they would need to purchase the 25-user license at $699.00. The purpose of separate user licenses is to keep track of each student's progress. With a one-user license, if one student excels and works up to a high rank, the second student cannot use the same license without starting where the first student left off. To begin with level one, the second student would need to delete the original user and then start his own account.

In addition to this, if I am paying $39.95 for my student to practice typing, I want to see progress reports. I am not content to see that my student is a "sergeant." I want to see what letters he or she has recurring problems with. I want to see how they are progressing or struggling. I want to know specifics, and these are not available with this program.

Although it is a fun program, I cannot say I recommend Keyboard Classroom as being a good fit for many families. However, if all you want is a fun review program, this would be an effective resource.

Product review by Jennifer Harrison, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, March 2010