Type to Learn Jr. New Keys for Kids
Posted Jul 1, 2006

REPORT CARD
Overall Rating:5 Stars
Installation:A
Content/Features:A
Ease of Use:A
Product Support:A

Company: Sunburst Technology, 1550 Executive Drive, Elgin, IL 60123; Phone: 888/492-8817; Internet: http://store.sunburst.com/.

Price: $29.95—home version; $69.95—school edition, single copy; $799.95—network or unlimited site license. Additional licensing options are available.

Audience: K-2nd grade students, in school or at home.

Format: Mac/Win CD-ROM or online download: animation and sound.

Minimum System Requirements:

Windows systems: PC with a 486 processor, Windows 95, 8 MB RAM, sound card, and  CD-ROM drive.

Macintosh systems: 78040 processor, Mac 8.6, 8 MB RAM, sound card, and CD-ROM drive. OS X compatible.

Description: Type to Learn Jr. New Keys for Kids is intended to introduce children to keyboarding by teaching them some of the basics, including correct posture, home row keys, numbers, and so on. The interactive sessions feature pleasant character animations and sound. The program contains a record-keeping component for teachers.

Reviewer Comments:

Installation: Installation of a downloaded version of the program was easy with clear directions. Installation Rating: A

Content/Features: Keyboarding is an essential computer literacy skill that research indicates can be taught formally with some success to 3rd grade and older students.  However, many useful tasks for students younger than grade 3 require keyboard familiarity, which can take some time to develop. Some knowledge of letters, numbers, symbols, and special keys can make simple word processing tasks much easier for young students.

Increasingly, early elementary teachers in our district want their students to type simple sentences and paragraphs. Some of them have unrealistic expectations of the students, thinking they should be able to keyboard much faster than most can, use clip art, or type a perfectly spelled paragraph, etc.

Some students do learn to keyboard fairly rapidly by 2nd grade but, for most, the task is painfully slow and adds a level of difficulty to any writing task. Teachers who display paragraphs written by students on computers often end up doing more of the work than the students or end up doing it with the help of an aide.

Basically, the less time students take looking for a letter key or trying to figure out how to make a capital letter, the faster they can do age-appropriate tasks like type a few sentences in 1st grade, or a short paragraph in 2nd grade.

Type to Learn Jr. New Keys for Kids offers well-chosen skills for student practice. The activities help students learn correct posture, the home row keys, and how to type words with capital letters and short sentences with punctuation.

Students learn to locate letters of the alphabet and numbers on the keyboard. They learn to use the Shift key to type upper case letters; they learn to type short words and sentences. The words and sentences have been selected with the small size of many K-2 students in mind. The students also learn to type simple punctuation and use the space bar and the Return/Enter key.

Learning to keyboard involves a lot of repetition, which can be boring. New Keys for Kids helps keep students on task with pleasant animated characters (Sunbuddies) and sounds, as well as very clear instructions and demonstrations, including color-coded keyboards.

Basically, skills are taught through three on-screen activities located in three different buildings on a cartoon street. The activities begin with a very brief explanation of proper posture and hand placement when keyboarding. Afterward, students can choose an activity and begin with some preliminary practice or go to the actual activity.

In Tiny's Multiplex, students practice home row keys by typing the missing letters of matinee movie titles on the theatre's marquee. Here, students practice using the Shift key to make capital letters.

This brings me to one of the few criticisms I have of the program. The explanation of what the Shift key is and how to use it is brief enough that nearly half of the 100 first graders I had try this program missed it. Once shown the information by an instructor, however, their practice was excellent.

In Cassie's Grocery Store, students practice typing number keys. They help Cassie at her checkout register by supplying the numbers in grocery item prices.

The third activity is located in the Sunbuddy Cyber Cafe. Here, students type Internet and e-mail addresses, becoming familiar with some of the symbols. They also practice typing short e-mail messages.

New Keys for Kids has teacher management tools, including an automatic record-keeping feature that tracks student progress. Teachers can create and modify classroom lists or print student progress reports.

The keyboard display style can be modified; teachers can select practice or play modes for students. Among several other features is the ability to pre-select student practice time and activity sets.

These days, a variety of equipment—new and older—can be found in our schools. New Keys for Kids is very robust and works well on cranky older computers, as well as on newer ones.

A demo version of Type to Learn Jr. New Keys for Kids is available for online download. Content/Features Rating: A

Ease of Use: This program is extremely easy to use. It is intuitive and has excellent instructions and directions. Even my 1st graders experienced very few problems using it. Ease of Use Rating: A

Product Support:  A small number of technical support questions can be searched on the company's Web site. Support is also available using a toll-free telephone number. The program is so easy and trouble-free to use that I doubt many users will need assistance. Product Support Rating: A

Recommendation: Type to Learn Jr. New Keys for Kids is an excellent program. I highly recommend it for anyone, for school or home use, who wants to help K-2 students learn to keyboard a bit faster until they are ready to begin more formal keyboard training. Highly recommended.

Reviewer: Charles Doe, Media Specialist, Hastings Area Schools, Central Elementary School, Hastings, MI; charliegd[at]iserv.net.