I’ve been using my new favorite typing program, UltraKey Online Family Subscription from Bytes of Learning, to teach keyboarding to my 10-year-old. I’m so excited to review the UltraKey Online Family Subscription for you!
I’d briefly tried a different keyboarding program a year ago with my son, and in his words, he “strongly disliked that one.” It could have been due to his age, but he has always had a strong dislike of strictly timed programs. His dislike of timed programs hasn’t changed, but I knew that at 10 years old he really needed to start learning keyboard and typing skills. He knew it, too. His keyboarding skills were of the “hunt and peck” variety.
Beginning to move from hunt and peck to actual typing skills:
It’s almost like watching a sloth type, but I promise he got better in three weeks.
Once he began the UltraKey Online program he got more confident and realized that he could learn to type a lot faster, and that it would actually make life easier. He started to think about all the times that he’s been typing and it was taking too long. UltraKey provides media-rich instruction. He liked watching all of the instruction videos that showed him proper form. They were thorough and similar to what you would start with if you went to an actual in-person typing class. They were effective, too. It was a lot more than what he had tried with free programs, and I think the extra instruction made the difference. The lessons don’t waste time and he didn’t get impatient with them (a major plus!). It made it very easy to homeschool keyboarding and typing skills.
After two weeks with the program, my son felt confident that he knew keystrokes for 28 keys on the keyboard. He also learned the proper way to hold the shift key and strike another key, etc. I watched him carefully and could tell that the program really showed him the proper way to keyboard. The hunting and pecking was gone within two weeks, even for the keys that he wasn’t yet taught. The two-week-mark was when he began to be eager to show me his progress. Using the ranking chart for typing speed, my 10 year old’s typing speed went from “very slow” (non-existent) to “slow.” He watched himself move from hunt-and-peck to a score of 13 WPM. He usually got around 95% accuracy.
Ultrakey is flexible. There is a lot of information for the parent to go through and review to learn the program. After you figure that out, then you can set goals for your child. My ten-year-old is very independent and self-directed, so we shared the main “parent” profile and I let him set his own goals. This goes along very well with our homeschool style, which is to encourage independence and goal-setting for oneself as much as possible. This style works for us in other areas and has led to my children being ahead in most subjects, so it was great to continue that with this program. A lot of the “skill checks” along the way allow the student to choose a topic about a subject that interests them. There were different subjects to choose from. My son really liked being able to choose his topic.
The program allows you to adjust the goals for speed and accuracy. The flexibility worked really well for us. My ten-year-old has always been unhappy with timed programs – they make him anxious and miserable about making a mistake. At first, explained to me that he was happy with the 80% accuracy goal because he can always meet that goal. He quickly increased that goal on his own as he saw that he could get better. His internal motivation is to become a faster typist, but he sure doesn’t want a computer telling him that he didn’t go fast enough. That external pressure has the opposite effect for him – with the last program we tried, it just made him anxious and want to avoid the program. But, he said he really liked Ultrakey.
I let my son work through learning the letters as fast as he wanted. As I mentioned, for him that worked out to about 28 keys in two weeks. He finished with the introductory 12 lessons during the third week. The program encourages the student to increase their goal and continue. He was still glancing down at the keys during long paragraphs, but not while practicing limited strings of letters, which is normal after only a month of typing practice. He had fun with it and worked at his own self-directed and internally motivated pace. I reminded him daily that he had the opportunity to practice typing, and he ended up typing almost daily. He spent a long time typing at each stretch, about 30 minutes each time.
Success! All skill checks completed! He knows all his keys, now he just needs to use the skills and get faster.
We made a profile for my 7-year-old daughter and let her try it out, and she did ok. She couldn’t get through the lessons very quickly – it was a lot of information for her to process. I will continue to gently encourage her and I think she will be more motivated as she sees her older brother using it and getting better. She’ll turn 8 soon, which is a good age to start keyboarding skills. The flexibility of the program made it a positive experience for my 7-year-old even if she takes longer to get through learning the skills.