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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.
What makes a typing tutor ‘dyslexic friendly’?
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:
- Use real words as much as possible. By their nature typing programs are repetitive and, particularly at the early stages, limit the number of letters that are typed. This means that many programs make users type nonsense words. This should be avoided with dyslexic users as it will, if anything, have a negative impact on their spelling. Some of the typing programs we sell make users type similar sounding words together. This reinforces spelling patterns and can have a positive effect.
- Don’t overload the user by trying to teach them too many skills at once. There are three skills involved in touch typing – knowing the keyboard layout, typing accurately and being able to type quickly. Some programs try to get the user to develop all 3 skills at once, in a small period of time. Overloading the user with instructions and commands in this manner is not helpful to dyslexic users.
- Interactive but short lessons keep the user interested. Many dyslexic children and adults find it difficult to concentrate for long periods of time. Learning to type requires a lot of concentration so we try to point out how long users will need to stay focused for. If lessons are interactive and fun, they are likely the hold the attention of younger users for longer.
- An uncluttered screen layout has a picture of the keyboard clearly visible at all times. If there are too many distractions on the screen, such as moving objects or buttons to press, users will find it difficult to concentrate on the task in hand. Having a keyboard visible on screen helps with learning to type. Many dyslexic children and adults will take longer to develop keyboarding skills because the number of skills they have to implement at once overloads their working memory so skills must be transferred to long term memory before they can be successfully used.
The Software Packages
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:
- What is the age of the user? It is important to make sure that the interface, lessons and vocabulary used are appropriate to the age and ability of the user. It is also important to consider whether there are reward games in the programs. These are useful when working with children and teenagers but may just be a distraction to adult users.
- Where is the program is going to be used? If the typing program is going to be used by children it is important to decide whether the program is going to be used at home or at school. If it is for use at school think about how much time is going to be available to use the program. If the typing program is going to be used for 10 minutes at the end of a session in the computer lab then the student must be able to get through one lesson in that time. If it is going to be used in an after-school club then time may not be such an issue. Many of the typing programs we sell here have been developed with schools in mind and enable teachers to track the progress of the student, limit what lessons or games they have access to and manage multiple users. While useful in a schools setting the functions can be distracting if the program is being used at home or by an adult.
- What are the strengths and weaknesses of the individual user? It is important to consider the user’s thinking style and their cognitive strengths and weaknesses when looking at these packages. Consider whether the application will overtake the concentration, visual, auditory or memory skills of the user.
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 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.
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.