Friday, May 2, 2014

Free Friday: Online Typing Programs

I am going to feature some of the free technology tools and resources I use regularly in my classroom every Friday. On occasion there will also be a free printable or lesson resource produced by me included! Be sure to check back next Friday for the next featured tool/resource! If you are looking for a resource for a particular purpose or content area, I'd love to hear about it!

I have vivid memories of this large cat looking at me over an on-screen keyboard while in the computer lab in grade school. We had to complete at least one typing lesson with "Paws" in order to be able to visit other programs on the computer like KidPix, Where in the World is Carmen San Diego, and Oregon Trail. The variety of games and instructional activities available today is overwhelming, yet it seems as though we have lost sight of some of the basic operational skills in our excitement over cool new apps, games, and interactive multimedia available via technology.

This was particularly apparent to me when I took my class of 25 second graders into the computer lab the second week of school and watched them spend roughly half of their computer time tracking down letters in their username and password on the keyboard with one finger punches. Not to mention, I had several students that were extremely frustrated as they repeatedly used the right click on the mouse to attempt to select things and upon logging in, had no concept of the Internet button. These are certainly concepts that will be new to many young learners so it was not wholly unexpected, but it was shocking that by second grade they did not yet have even a vague inclination of how to operate a mouse or what the word icon means.

So, I immediately began researching free typing programs that I could use with my students to familiarize them with at least some of these tasks. Below you will find a brief description of my two favorite options, as well as a helpful file to assist you or your students track progress towards completing the program.

Typing Web 

While I liked the in-depth coverage of the full range of the keyboard provided by Typing Web, I found their graphics and instructions to be too static and basic for early learners. Not to mention, the words students are asked to type tend to be outside of the reading level of many young learners. It's definitely a tool worth looking at if you have advanced second or third graders who have had more exposure to typing then my students. It gives students a placement test, provides progress reports, and has a multitude of free games to further motivate your students.

BBC Dance Mat Typing

While Dance Mat Typing does not have the cool classroom management features of Typing Web, it is extremely interactive in it's instruction. This makes Dance Mat Typing perfect for the early childhood classroom. A variety of animals serve as your students typing partners and bring their humorous accents along with them. They use both visual and audio cues to guide students in proper hand placement, correct them in their errors, and use appropriate word choices for the age group. As a reward for completing a level or stage, there is a jam session that my students absolutely loved rocking out with.

To provide some continuity and accountability, I created this basic bookmark to allow for easy tracking, you can view it here.

My students were old enough to hold on to their Dance Mat Typing bookmark themselves and enjoyed picking out the good-old-fashioned sticker to mark the completion of each level.