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Type to Learn 4: Agents of Information

By Susan W. Hixson - Posted Jan 1, 2009
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Company: Sunburst Technology, 1550 Executive Drive, Elgin, IL 60123. Phone: (800) 312-7511. Internet:  

Report Card

Installation: A

Content/Features: A

Ease of Use: A

Product Support: A

Price: $79.95—single user, CD-ROM version. $89.95—single user, web subscription. $199.95—five-user lab set. Site license pricing is based on the size of the student population and program type (web version, school-based network installation, single edition). A free 30-day trial version is available online.

Audience: K–12 students.

Format: CD-ROM, network, and online editions

Minimum System Requirements:

For Windows systems: Pentium 3 processor, 1GHz, 512MB RAM, Windows 2000 SP4, and U.S. English keyboard.

For Macintosh systems : Power PC G4, 800MHz, 512MB RAM, OS X 10.3.9 and U.S. English keyboard.

For both systems: A CD-ROM or DVD drive is needed for disc-based installation.

Description: Type to Learn 4: Agents of Information is a program designed to teach keyboarding, beginning at an early age. The program follows the teaching model of demonstration, practice, and assessment with a wide range of lessons and activities to meet the needs and abilities of K–12 students at a variety of skill levels.

Reviewer Comments:

Installation: Type to Learn 4 installed easily from two CD-ROMs. Installation instructions are included in the guide that accompanies the discs. A network installation should be handled by a network administrator with the appropriate access.

Once the program is installed, teachers can easily set up a class list and assign usernames and passwords to each student. Installation Rating: A

Content/Features: Type to Learn 4: Agents of Information is a comprehensive instructional keyboarding program that covers skills ranging from beginning to advanced. The program is compliant with learn­-
ing standards in all 50 states and the International Society for Technology in Education’s NETS (National Educational Technology Standards) program.

Students are assigned a username and password. When working with the program for the first time, students are given a pretest designed to start them off with work at the appropriate level.

Initially, an on-screen agent tells students that the world of information is at risk and they must work to save it by learning to type. Students select the Begin prompt to start working with the program’s exercises. After completing a first lesson, students are able to choose among an array of activities appearing on the screen.

The lessons are designed to reinforce the goals of sitting up straight, keeping the hands curved and relaxed, and working from the "home" key positions. Program directions can be read aloud for students; sounds occur to signal errors.

Each lesson begins with home row reinforcement, warm up, and review. The lessons are scaffolded to build skills and speed. Words and letter clusters have been matched with student reading capabilities. Teachers can add subject material content for student typing; this content can be evaluated for speed and accuracy.

At the end of each activity, the student’s accuracy rate and typing speed appears on the screen. These scores are recorded by date in reports for teachers and parents.
Five activities are offered (Big Ideas, Dig This, Drone Control, Message Master, and Reconnect); each activity is designed to motivate the practice of newly learned skills.

The Big Ideas activity is designed to improve left- and right-hand coordination. For this exercise, letters appear in "bubbles" on the screen. As the letters are typed correctly, the bubbles burst and a fact pops up on-screen. This activity can be played many times; new facts will appear each time.

The Dig This activity also lets students choose letters to type but, this time, the students break through ice to find a fact. This exercise focuses on rhythm to support typing cadence. Once the ice is cleared, a historical fact appears.

Drone Control encourages students to type quickly to improve their typing speed. The exercise is a little distracting in that a car races around while the student is typ-
ing, but this activity may appeal to some learners.

Message Master leads students to type letters correctly so that an important message is sent. The Reconnect activity focuses on the shift keys, symbols, and punctuation.

When students become comfortable with the skills contained in a lesson, a final assessment can be taken. If the score is high enough, the student is then sent on to the next level of lessons and activities.

Although all typing is done in English, ESL (English as a second language) support is available. The font size, font color, and volume can be changed to improve the program for visual- or hearing-impaired students.

The administrator can select options to set up the colors of the screen, turn on and off music and sound, set volumes, and create passwords for class lists. Teachers have access to keyboarding research and a number of blogs on technology and education. Content/Features Rating: A

Ease of Use: Type to Learn 4 will require some practice for student use; the students will need an introduction to the pretest and initial activities. Since it is easy for teachers to check on student progress, individual help can be managed seamlessly. The setup process is quite simple for the teacher. Ease of Use Rating: A

Product Support: Sunburst Technologies has a reputation for extensive teacher support. Toll-free telephone product support and email support is offered. A downloadable teacher’s guide is available online that provides information on program installation, scope and sequence skills, standards alignments, activities, and setting up student accounts and progress reports. Product Support Rating: A

Recommendation: It is imperative that today’s students learn to type; starting this instruction at an early age helps students avoid developing bad habits. Type to Learn 4 fills a need in this area with exercises that motivate student practice.

The program is easy to install and follow. I believe that students will enjoy these activities designed to make typing practice fun. I highly recommend Type to Learn 4: Agents of Information, an all-inclusive program for K–12 typing instruction.

Reviewer: Susan W. Hixson, educational consultant.

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