Evaluating Keyboarding Software

for Grades 3-5

 

a research project by

Celeste F. Craig

May, 2006

 

Objectives:

 

·         To identify a list of keyboarding software programs that will progress with students in Grades 3-5.

·         To evaluate a keyboarding program based on its ability to teach, practice, reinforce, and assess.

·         To judge a keyboarding program based on its ability to engage, entertain, and motivate students in Grades 3-5.

 

 

Discuss It:

 

With the Internet Age upon us, students, at a very early age, must be able to learn, write, and communicate rapidly. The skills that will help them is touch typing - also known as computer keyboarding. In an article written by Patricia Nieman, children with keyboarding skills compose faster, neater, and easier to read documents. They are prouder of their work and have been found to be more motivated when completing writing assignments. Good keyboarding skills help students progress with reading, composition, spelling, proofreading, and creativity.

 

In a longitudinal study on Elementary Keyboarding, it was found that school districts are realizing the importance of keyboarding skills for elementary students. “Learning an efficient inputting skill is as basic as learning handwriting in today’s technology-driven world”. A good keyboarding program needs to be structured and sequential. It is recommended an amount of time (15-20 minutes every two weeks) be devoted to keyboarding and once instruction begins, reinforcement is continued onto consecutive grades. Students should be taught the proper techniques and skills that will make them successful. Instructors can provide the ways however the right keyboarding software program can provide the means. Keyboarding programs offer instruction, reinforcement, and assessment while keeping students captivated and motivated. The key to successfully choosing the right keyboarding software program is to:

  1. analyze your needs
  2. identify the software requirements
  3. select promising software
  4. read reviews
  5. demonstrate and evaluate the product
  6. make recommendations
  7. users give their feedback

 

 

Lesson Strategies and Assessment:

 

1.                  Analyzing your needs

 

The students in the XYZ School district are required to take typing in 8th grade. Due to changes in curriculum standards, it is now recommended elementary-age children learn how to keyboard. Classroom teachers are unable to provide this instruction. It is recommended that students in grades 3-5 take a formal keyboarding class using a software program which will be facilitated by a Computer Technology Educator. This program needs to be consistent throughout the elementary schools and allow all students access to this instruction. It is with this intent that a committee will evaluate and recommend a keyboarding software program that meets the needs of our educational and district standards.

 

 

2.                  Identify the Software Requirements

 

We are looking for tutorial lessons with plenty of drills and practices. The program should offer students reviews and assessments that accommodate for visual and verbal learners. Also, the program should allow students to play games for positive reinforcement. It needs to teach beginner typists (3rd grade) while at the same time reinforcing the skills of 4th and 5th graders.

 

The program must be Windows-based and work on a network. Students will need to access their individualized typing program from any computer in the district and every year it must accurately update and track their progress.

 

3.                  Select the Keyboarding Software

 

Surveys were sent to several computer technology educators in elementary schools. It was determined that the most schools used Type to Learn in their Grades 3-5 keyboarding curriculum.

 

The Internet provided a wealth of information when we were targeting a specific age-range, specifically ages 9-12.

 

·         Superkids Educational Software Reviews (http://www.superkids.com) listed All the Right Type 3, Type to Learn, and UltraKey.

·         Educational Software Preview Guide (ESPG) Consortium (http://www-ed.fnal.gov/espg/) listed All the Right Type and Mavis Beacon.

·         Technology and Learning Online (http://www.techlearning.com) suggested Type to Learn.

·         Kidsfirst (http://www.kidsfirst.org/kidsfirst/) recommended Type of Learn for this age group.

·         Dr. Harriet Rogers, associate professor at the University of Wisconsin (http://facstaff.uww.edu/rogersh/KeySoftAnalysis/kybrdsftII.pdf) listed Keyboarding for Kids and All the Right Type.

 

As a last resource, I asked the parents of 4th and 5th graders. The majority said knew and recommended Mavis Beacon for their children.

 

4.                  Read Reviews and Create Evaluation Rubrics

 

Reviews were read from SuperKids and Merry Mattson’s article on keyboarding software. All the programs satisfied our needs and software requirements. Evaluation rubrics for students (see appendix A) and for teachers (see appendix B) were created using a variety of Internet sources.

 

The student evaluation form was adapted from the Virginia schools. The rating system consisted of eight questions covering ease of use, educational value, and kid appeal. The students rated the software with poor (1), average (2), and excellent (3).

 

The teacher evaluation rubric was developed using numerous sources – Brock University, The University of Georgia, Kent Washington School District, Georgia Department of Education, International Society for Technology in Education, and from the 4th edition of Integrating Technology and Digital Media in the Classroom. Scoring is based on 0-5 and averages calculated for content, ease of use, support materials, technical quality, and assessment.

 

 

5.                  Demonstrate and Evaluate the Keyboarding Software

 

The following trial software was downloaded:

 

Software

Publisher

Website Address

Mavis Beacon

Broderbund

http://www.broderbund.com/

Type to Learn 3

Sunburst Technology

http://store.sunburst.com/

All the Right Type 3

Ingenuity Works

http://www.ingenuityworks.com/iworks/main/

Keyboarding for Kids

Ellsworth Publishing Co.

http://www.ellsworthpublishing.com/

UltraKey 5.0

Bytes of Learning

http://www.bytesoflearning.com/

 

Mavis Beacon was disqualified from being tested because the trial software restricted the user to only a speed test and one game. Because of this, the program could not be fairly evaluated.

 

Programs were rated on content, ease of use, support materials for instructors, technical quality, and assessment. Averages were calculated and the results were:

 

 

Mavis Beacon

Type to Learn 3

All the Right Type 3

Keyboarding for Kids

UltraKey 5.0

Content

n/a

4.675

3.625

4

4.375

Ease of Use

n/a

4.375

3.5

3

4.25

Support Materials

n/a

5

3

3.2

5

Technical quality

n/a

5

4

3.6

4.4

Assessment

n/a

3

4

3.4

4

Total score

n/a

22.05

18.125

17.2

22.025

 

Type to Learn 3 offers enough lessons to keep students busy from 3rd to 5th grade. It starts with a brief introduction of the keys and then immediately advances into practice drills and challenges. The program is really a typing game for students. The program is colorful and interactive. Its audio is enjoyable (no computer-generated voices) and speaks only when giving directives or feedback. Type to Learn 3 is only a practice program – there are no formal assessments. However, it does keep a good record of a student’s progress with easy-to-read reports and graphs.

 

All the Right Type 3 is a no-nonsense program. It is setup as a space-aged campus where students move from building to building. Users immediately begin to type following a program of lessons and graduated drills. Students focus on the task at hand. The program has no audio so it was easy to get stuck. Students receive immediate feedback after each lesson which is a graphic display of your fingers which suggests which fingers need the most work.

 

Keyboarding for Kids is designed to teach keyboarding correctly to young children. There is a typing booklet used with the program that is divided into sections based on a students reading ability. The program is professionally set-up - no colors or glitter. A student has to be self-motivated to use this program. Students start by learning key positioning and then reinforce their skills using drills. There is no audio so a learner has to know how to read to navigate through the program. On-line sources were comprehensive and very helpful.

 

UltraKey is a solid instructional program … an instructors dream. The management is exemplary and the teaching, practicing, and testing well-structured. You can tell this program was created by teachers for teachers. Teaching how to type is the main goal of this program. There are no bells or whistles. This program does not have any games so there is no “incentive” for elementary-age students. The interesting feature on UltraKey is its text-to-speech synthesis. This software is excellent when it comes to using assistive technology however the voice lacks enthusiasm and character.

 

6.                  Make Recommendations

 

There was no clear winner. The scores between Type to Learn 3 and UltraKey were equal. The committee liked features in both programs. Students are attracted to Type to Learn 3 games. There is animation, interactivity, and color which motivates while reinforcing skills. The audio was more realistic and only speaks when giving directions or feedback. And, its key emphasis is on the drills and practices. The UltraKey has more flexibility - with lessons, drills and tests. The management features allow teachers to meet the academic needs of students. Plus, the assessment and reporting functions were the most extensive than any of the software we evaluated.

 

It is the recommendation of this committee to continue searching, reviewing, and evaluating keyboarding software until a program is found that will include all the strengths we found in Type to Learn 3 and UltraKey.

 

7.                  Student Feedback

 

Two test participants (9- and 11-year-old) were chosen to evaluate the software. Each student was given a brief introduction and then asked to rate the programs. It appears the students found the Type to Learn 3 and All the Right Type 3 to be the most appealing. It is evident that when a program is entertaining for children, they will be more engaged and motivated to learn. Therefore, it would be logical to continue researching and evaluating different programs that will satisfy the expectations of the teachers along with providing fun reinforcement activities that will stimulate the students.

 

 

Mavis Beacon

Type to Learn 3

All the Right Type 3

Keyboarding for Kids

UltraKey 5.0

Total Evaluation

n/a

23

23

19

21

 

 

 

 

 

ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY

 

Educational Software Preview Guide (ESPG) Consortium. Retrieved 4/30/2006. http://www-ed.fnal.gov/espg/.

A database of software programs for any discipline. The consortium assists educators with locating software to preview.

 

Erthal, Margaret J. Who Should Teach Keyboarding and When Should It be Taught? (February 7, 2003). Utah K-12 Keyboarding Research, Utah State Office of Education. Retrieved 4/12/2006. http://www.usoe.k12.ut.us/ate/keyboarding/Articles,Whowhen.htm

Based on pedagogical and psychomotor principles, Margaret Erthal writes an article on the why, when, and who should teach students to type. Educationally, students benefit from keyboarding skills and developmentally they are ready at the elementary-age. She ends the article stating that students learn best when their a combination of software along side a teacher/coach.

 

Georgia Department of Education. Retrieved 4/12/2006. http://www.glc.k12.ga.us/passwd/trc/ttools/attach/mediaspec/SoftwareEvalTemplate2.doc

Sample evaluation rubric used with the Georgia Department of Education

 

Kent School District. Retrieved 4/12/2006. http://www.kent.k12.wa.us/KSD/IT/TSC/ITRC/Keybrd_ex/Final_key_comments.pdf

Conclusions of an elementary keyboarding software evaluation done at the Kent School District in Kent, Washington.

 

Kerr, Dr. Jim, Associate Professor. Software Evaluation. Brock University, St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada. Retrieved 4/12/2006. http://www.ed.brocku.ca/~jkerr/sftwreva.htm

This is a sample software evaluation form created by a faculty member of Brock University in Ontario, Canda.

 

Kidsfirst. Retrieved 4/30/2006. http://www.kidsfirst.org/kidsfirst/

This site is a quality resource for evaluating children’s entertainment. The coalition evaluates, rates, and endorses children's media using a volunteer, community-based jury comprising child development professionals, teachers and parents.

 

Mattson, Merry (December 1996). Keyboarding Software for Young and Older Students. Technology Connection. Dec 96, Vol. 3 Issue 8, p 27. Academic Search Premier. Retrieved 4/14/2006 http://80-web22.epnet.com.exproxy.snhu.edu/DeliveryPrintSave.asp?tb=1&_ug=sid+7D96

This is an evaluation of keyboarding software for younger and older students. Evaluations include PAWS in Typing Town, Alphabetic Keyboarding & Skill Builder, Typing Tutor 7, Mavis Beacon, and Kid’s Typing. A comparison chart is included at the end so you can compare specifications of all the programs.

 

Nieman, Patricia (October 1996). Introducing Early Keyboarding Skills. Business Education Forum. 27-30.

This is an article about teaching keyboarding to elementary students and the advantages of introducing these skills at a young age. As an advocate for proper keyboarding techniques, she states keyboarding is one of the major sources of input for students and as a result a student’s literacy skills improve significantly.

 

O’Leary, Debi. Keyboarding Survey, prepared for Dr. Harriet Rogers, University of Wisconsin – Whitewater, (June 11, 1999). Retrieved 4/12/2006. http://academics.uww.edu/cni/faculty/rogers/keyresearch/oleary/d_o%27leary.htm

This research paper focused on surveying elementary schools about their keyboarding programs. The author created a series of questions for elementary schools to answer. Based on the information received, the author compiled a list of common practices that can be used as a guideline for creating an elementary keyboarding curriculum.

 

Rogers, Harriet, Laehn, Jody, Lang, Anne, O’Leary, Deb, and Sommers, Mary. The Status of Elementary Keyboarding – A Longitudinal Study. Wisconsin Business Education Journal. Spring 2004. Volume 52(2), pp 16-27.

This article is about the results found from a study conducted in 2003 on keyboarding instruction. Over the course of ten years they found that keyboarding instruction increased in the elementary schools, especially in the third, fourth, and fifth grades, and that instruction was once a week in the classroom using software programs on a PC. An interesting conclusion made from the authors is that keyboarding should be structured, consistent, and sequential.

 

Sample Software and Web Site Evaluation Forms, Preparing Teachers to use Technology. National Educational Technology Standards for Teachers. Retrieved 4/16/2006. http://cnets.iste.org/teachers/web/t_form_software-eval.html

Educational Software Evaluation Form developed as part of the National Educational Technology Standards for Teachers.

 

Seven Steps to Responsible Software Selection. Retrieved 4/16/2006. http://www.netc.org/software/eric_software.html
This is a compilation of steps for teachers and committees to follow when choosing the appropriate educational software to purchase.

Shelly, Gary B., Cashman, Thomas J., Gunter, Glenda A., Gunter, Randolph E. (2006). Evaluating Educational Technology and Integration Strategies. Integrating Technology and Digital Media in the Classroom, Fourth Edition. Boston, Massachusetts. 407 & 408.

Sample Educational Software Evaluation Form

 

Software evaluation created by graduate students in the ARCHES (Academic Resources for Computing and Higher Education Sources) program for Grades K-2. The Arches at The University of Georgia. Retrieved 4/16/2006. http:///www.arches.uga.edu/%7Emariah20/rubric.htm

This is a sample Grades K-2 Math evaluation rubric that four graduate students created at the University of Georgia’s Academic Resources for Computing and Higher Education program.

 

Superkids Educational Software Reviews. Retrieved 4/12/2006. http://www.superkids.com/aweb/pages/reviews/typing/

A review of typing software based on youngest learners, video-game lovers, classroom students, and for beginners to professionals.

 

Technology and Learning Online. Retrieved 4/30/2006. http://www.techlearning.com/resources/product_guide.jhtml

This is site is a well-structure database created by the Technology and Learning Network for recommended educational software available.

 

University of Wisconsin – Whitewater, Dr. Harriet Rogers, Associate Professor. Retrieved 4/12/2006. http://facstaff.uww.edu/rogersh/KeySoftAnalysis/kybrdsftII.pdf

An alphabetical listing of keyboarding software developed by Becky Bittner for her Elementary keyboarding project. Includes publishers and links to numerous websites.

 

Virginia School System. Retrieved 4/16/2006. http://www.wcs.k12.va.us/programs/psoft/studentevaluationform.html

This form is a sample of a student evaluation of computer software form used by the Virginia School System.

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