An overview of typing tutors that are particularly suitable for use with children and adults who have dyslexia.
Anyone who regularly uses a computer understands the need to be able to type quickly and accurately. Computers are a great tool for both dyslexic adults and children and it is important to become familiar and confident with using the computer as quickly as possible. Researchers have also shown that learning to type early on, in the first few years of schooling, can benefit students’ reading, comprehension, vocabulary and spelling skills.
A good typing tutor will enable the user to learn their way around the keyboard quickly without losing interest in using the computer. For dyslexics this is particularly important as the quicker they learn to type, the quicker they can fully appreciate the tools available to them through using a computer. But typing tutors by their nature are repetitive and time consuming with little to show for it at the outcome. Therefore it is important that any typing program is effective, fun to use and quick to progress through. We’ve tried to pick what we feel are the most fun and effective typing tutors. Here we’ll give a run down of why we’ve chosen them and who they are suitable for.
It is important for any software aimed at dyslexics to use a multisensory approach. For typing tutors this means having both text and audio instructions, with a picture of the keyboard on screen at all times. If there are no audio options then it is useful to be able to use text-to-speech programs to read out the instructions. Other features we look out for in a dyslexia-friendly typing tutor are:
No one typing program suits all dyslexic users. The most appropriate program depends on the individual user. The issues that need to be thought about include:
In this section we will give a short summary of each program, including its positive and negative aspects. The links through the software package name take you to the individual product page which give more details including prices and minimum specifications. If you interested in typing tutors for adults then read below.
Age: 7-14 years Setting: School or home Teacher’s settings: Yes Number of lessons: 5 Average length of lesson: 3 - 10 minutes Number of games: 9
Nessy Fingers has been developed from the popular Nessy Learning Programme and includes many features making it particularly suitable for dyslexic students. Nessy Fingers concentrates on teaching the layout of the keyboard via the alphabet in 5 short lessons. This unique approach allows rapid learning and keeps students motivated. Using the alphabet provides a logical and familiar learning structure and reinforces the alphabet sequence, while the carefully selected fonts and wide range of display options enable the program to be personalised to individual student’s needs.
Once the lessons are completed, students can access 9 enjoyable and colourful games to practise their skills. The “Skillometer” and Hall of Fame tracks progress and awards prizes encouraging and motivating the students. Nessy Fingers contains 233 word lists, including those from the Nessy Learning Programme. Words become progressively harder to improve both spelling and basic punctuation. New word lists and sentences can be created while students can add their own music to get into the rhythm of typing as they play the games. Overall, Nessy Fingers provides a fun and motivating environment to develop typing skills while reinforcing spelling skills.
Age: 7-14 years Setting: School or home Teacher’s settings: Yes. Choose the level of vocabulary used in the lessons, which lesson the student is on and monitor progress. Number of lessons: 8 Average length of lesson: 15 minutes Number of games: 5
EnglishType Junior uses a mixture of lessons and games to harness your brain’s ability to memorise movements without looking at the keyboard. Instructions are given in writing but also spoken. The material used in the lessons is tied to the National Curriculum with similar sounding words being used in each activity. Fun to use and easy to set-up, EnglishType Junior is suitable for both home and school and can be highly motivating for children.
Age: 12-16 years Setting: School or home School or home Teacher’s settings: Yes. Choose the level of vocabulary used in the lessons, which lesson the student is on and monitor progress. Number of lessons: 12 strong>Average length of lesson: 15 minutes Number of games: 3
EnglishType Senior uses a mixture of lessons and games to harness your brain’s ability to memorise movements without looking at the keyboard. Instructions are given in writing but also spoken and colour is used to help learning. The material used in the lessons is based on 300 most commonly used words in adult vocabulary and includes quotations and proverbs. Different speed options make it excellent for mixed ability groups; challenging the brightest and providing extra help for those that need a slower pace of learning.
Age: 7-14 years Setting: School or home Teacher’s settings: Limited - can set goal typing speed. Number of lessons: 10. Eight teach the layout of the keyboard, one improves speed and one improves accuracy. This is followed by the “Royal Challenge” for improving speed and accuracy. Average length of lesson: 20-30 minutes
Number of games: Challenges and activities throughout the lessons.
TypeQuick is a typing program from Australia for children. Based around a character called Kewala it teaches typing while you and Kewala tour the Australian Outback. Lessons can be tailored to individual students with frequent reports and graphs on the student’s progress. There are 10 lessons taking you through all the keys then testing your speed and accuracy. The graphics and story-based activities in this program make it highly enjoyable for children. However each lesson takes between 20 and 30 minutes and if the program is stopped before a lesson is completed then the student’s progress will not be recorded. This can make it unsuitable for children who find it difficult to concentrate for this length of time.
Age: 7 years + Setting: Home. Can be used in a school environment but limited control functions Teacher’s settings: None and no settings for making a user follow a particular lesson pattern. Number of lessons: 15 lesson plans Average length of lesson: 10 minutes Number of games: 10, plus over 300 articles for practicing typing skills.
Typing Instructor Deluxe uses a combination of lessons and games to teach typing. It is suitable for all levels of typist with a skills test available to identify the best level to use. There is no structured route through this program so the user can chose which element they want to use - whether it is practice articles or games for improving skills or by going to a lesson for a particular key they have problems with. This makes it ideal for all the family whatever the level of typing skills they have. It is less suitable in a teaching environment as there is no way of directing the user to a certain level or activity. For adults is provides an excellent program for first improving and then returning to practise their typing skills through the games or practice articles.
Age: 7 years + Setting: Home. Can be used in a school environment but limited control functions Teacher’s settings: None and no settings for making a user follow a particular lesson pattern. Number of lessons: 5 steps to learning the keyboard, followed by an accuracy section and speed building section. Average length of lesson: 90 minutes to learn the layout of the keyboard (can be broken into 5 lessons of 20 minutes each), then followed by sections for improving accuracy and speed. Number of games: none
KAZ typing tutor is a popular British keyboard-training product that uses a simple, three-step approach to learn touch-typing. In the first step KAZ quickly familiarises you with the keyboard using five clever phrases. After this the user progresses on to an accuracy stage where the user practices typing first on individual words, then sentences, then paragraphs. Finally there is a speed building section where the user’s speed and accuracy is tested using sentences appropriate to their reading level.
Unlike other typing tutors KAZ only uses real words for teaching typing which makes it very dyslexic friendly. The instructions are available either as text on the screen or as speech but this must be chosen on installation. As the user can progress through the program quickly and jump from section to section, it is particularly good for users who already have some basic keyboarding skills. Although Kaz does not contain any games or challenges for practising typing skills, this is seen as a benefit to many adult users who find them a distraction from developing their skills.