With our computer-driven society, we all know that it’s essential for today’s children to learn to type – and the younger they learn, the easier so many other tasks become.
My daughter, Cheyenne (9), has been using computer since she was 2 or 3, but only in the last year or so has her typing moved from a slow hunt and peck to something a bit more efficient.
Cheyenne recently had the opportunity to try out Keyboard Town Pals, software with a straightforward, yet far-reaching concept: teach kids to type, make it memorable, and do it quickly and stress-free.
Designed to appeal to ages 6-12, Keyboard Town Pals consists of interactive video with friendly puppets, plus a custom typing interface with the delete and backspace keys disabled.
Kids are guided through the keyboard – illustrated by the town the puppets live in – by a character named Sunny, who introduces all the residents. Sunny is represented in two separate ways – as a walking, talking, human-puppet with a mask during puppet scenes, and as a sun graphic during typing scenes. (Sunny scores high points for achieving a uniquely memorable look in human form – the flip side, it’s a slightly creepy memory. Neither Cheyenne nor I cared much for the mask. Reminds me too much of the whole “evil clown” look.)
Each resident (letter or punctuation symbol) is presented with a story that explains their position on the keyboard, and their relationship with other nearby keys. Keyboard Town Pals uses this to create a linking memory, which will aid in retention at a later time.
After the student has met the character, it’s time for practice. Rather than seeing on the screen the letters that they are to type, students are guided through practice with the audio. Practice consists of letter repitions and some short, simple words (and a few letter patterns) that utilize the newly acquired skills.
There eight sections to the video, covering approximately an hour of time. I believe this is where the “learn to type in an hour” claim comes from. Speaking from Cheyenne’s experience, where she is already familiar with the keyboard, I don’t think a complete keyboard beginner is going to fully learn and be able to type in “just” an hour.
However, I *do* feel that this material, repeated over time, would be quite effective in bringing primary age students to a reasonable level of skill on the keyboard.
While a older student could stay focused and use the complete program in each sitting, for most students it will be more effective if used in shorter lessons over a longer timespan. I’d recommend instead that students do just one or two lessons a day, repeating the sequence until desired competancy is achieved.
Cheyenne felt that Keyboard Town Pals could be used by kids as young as 4, provided they are already familiar with the alphabet. We also discovered that it was a bit too “young” for my 11-year-old. Being primarily video-based with just short typing sessions, it doesn’t present enough of a challenge to keep him interested. Chey was reluctant to repeat it by day 5, it had become “too easy” already – older kids will definitely pick up on the material more quickly. Once the material is internalized, it would be more apt to move on to something with more practice and less entertainment.
Keyboard Town Pals is an appropriate add-on to any educational style – there is something to appeal to every type of learner, visual, audio, and kinetic. Kids already familiar with using the computer should find Keyboard Town Pals easy to use without adult help.
I recommended headphones with Keyboard Town Pals! This is one of those products that the target age group will love, and everyone else in the household will be sick of hearing. Save your sanity, provide headphones, and everyone will be happy.
Compatible with both PC and Mac, there are currently three versions of Keyboard Town Pals: English, Spanish, and French.
Keyboard Town Pals is may be purchased on CD-Rom or as web-based software. Bundles are also available that include the CD-Rom or web software, plus a Concentration card game, a physical or ebook Coloring Book, and 140 Keyboard Town PALS stickers.
To see what other crew members had to say, check out the TOS Homeschool Crew blog post, Keyboard Town Pals.
**I received this product for free as a member of the 2011-12 The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew so that I could provide you with an honest review of it by our family.**