My children have been slowly learning to type over the past couple of years, and they’ve been continuing their progression this year with the UltraKey Online Family Subscription by Bytes of Learning. Today we’re sharing our review of this typing program with you as it is just newly available to the homeschooling community. This program offers lots of choice as well as providing motivation to learn and to continue.
What is included
Everything we needed was included. Getting set up wasn’t difficult, although it did take a little time to go through each of the many options available for each student and making the best choices for them. There are many videos that you can watch to help you get things set up uniquely for each student’s abilities and preference.
- opaque, transparent, or no animated hands (there is even a choice of skin tone!) showing on the instruction videos
- will use of the backspace key be permitted or not?
- choose your own goals or let Ultrakey choose them for you:
- speed goal
- accuracy goal
- set the keyboard to light or dark, or have it show the letters or just blank keys
- choose the practice amount (light, medium, or heavy)
- how long should the tests be; by time and by paragraphs
The Family Subscription of UltraKey Online is a new offering which has just been released this month. The Homeschool Review Crew were set up under the online version with the North American keyboard. If you would prefer to align with a United Kingdom, or Australian/New Zealand keyboard layouts then the Downloadable Family Licence will be for you. We’re in the UK but were set up before the other options were available, but so far my children have been okay as they haven’t had to use the character keys much yet.
The first lesson takes the most time by far as you learn about good posture, stretching, how to place your hands, and what is expected of you. Once you get through each of the videos and interactive pieces (learning where problems can occur throughout your body from bad posture, etc.), then you can start the typing lessons themselves. You can return to these instructions again at any time for refreshing.
If you’re a beginner, you can start right from the beginning. If you have some knowledge already, you can set your own goals and concentrate on ‘simply’ increasing speed and accuracy.
I set my children up as beginners as Kallista (7) hasn’t taken a typing lesson for several months and Tristan (10) likes to learn to type but isn’t very good about doing it when not in typing class. He needs some more confidence in himself as to where his fingers are on the keys.
The first lesson starts conveniently with the ‘home row’ and shows you where to place your hands and that you should strike the keys rather than just press them. I hadn’t come across that instruction before, and I like it-it gives more urgency and quickness to each key.
After you have learned the keys through a lesson, then you can take a skill check that corresponds to what you have just learned. You must do a lesson before a skill check becomes available to you. Then you must pass the check before a new lesson opens and you continue with the next set of keys to learn. After each check you’ll find out how well you did; how many errors, how many missed keys, and how many extra keys were pressed in error. It also gives the gross and net speed of words per minute.
Once all of the lessons have passed and the skill checks passed, the children were very pleased to see that they received a printable certificate! This simple touch really gives them great motivation! Kallista received hers a day before Tristan because his goal was a little higher than hers and that last skill check was giving him some trouble. But he persisted and was so happy to get his certificate!
What’s next after you finish the lessons and get your certificate? Is 10wpm the end? Not at all. Ultrakey will then choose a new goal for you (or you can choose your own), and you begin again from the start with the aim of increasing your speed and accuracy.
My children spent about 20 minutes a day on Ultrakey Online and they completed their first goal in 4 weeks. There are some classes they groan about and don’t look forward to. Ultrakey Online was one that they would go do on their own without me having to prompt them. They could see their progress and how they were improving.
Ultrakey Online also has a game zone, as you can see in the image above. I was a little sneaky and didn’t introduce my children to this until after they had completed their first certificate as I didn’t want them spending all of their time here. However, they do find it fun and it will be used as an incentive; finish your math and you can spend some time playing ‘games’ on the PC. Yes, I’m going to sneak in a little extra typing practice in this way.
What we love about Ultrakey Online:
- The kids enjoy it!
- There’s steady progress that can be seen.
- Good posture is encouraged and it’s noted that many parts of the body can hurt if you don’t abide by it.
- Stretching exercises are included within the lessons.
- The certificates give a sense of achievement.
- The games are fun and not strictly about typing, although bonus points are earned if the shift key is used for correct punctuation, capitalisation, etc.
Our family members are big fans of Ultrakey Online as we can really see the progress that has been made. The children are motivated by seeing how they are working through the keyboard and earning a certificate when they meet a goal. The lessons aren’t so long as to become boring or uncomfortable. I’ve even used this program a few times to work on my own typing skills. It’s different than transcribing because I do not need to think about how to spell words, which is much more relaxing, and in fact, I found out that I do type faster than I thought I did! I will continue to use this on perhaps a weekly basis to build up my own confidence and set myself a challenge. Both of my children also want to continue a few times a week, which makes me happy, too! Typing is a skill that is needed even more now than it was back in the 80s when I learned and I see far too many people hen-pecking around and wasting their time (not to mention their employers’) when it could all be done so much more easily.
We’ve tried a few other keyboarding programs in the past, and I must say that for the typing skills themselves, I’m the most impressed with Ultrakey Online and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to others of any age.
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