Not a terribly inspirational or reflective post today, but a few tools that might prove worthwhile to those computer lab and/or typing instructors looking to find some places where students can practice their typing without having to pay for some horribly over-priced typing software (which is probably why our building is still using 7 year old software). I came about them while trying to find some resources for my quick typists; the ones that are already done with two different typing programs and need an extra challenge and/or a tool they can work with at home as well as at school. Many of the tools would probably work just as well for struggling typists and those students that need an online tool that they can use at home to give them the extra motivation (or at least the extra resources) to practice their typing.
Learn 2 Type for Schools
This is a rather interesting service (FREE to boot) that is provided by the Type 2 Learn people. Apparently, through the use of adverts, they can afford to give any school almost 1,000 free accounts for students to practice their typing in an administrator-controlled environment. I’ve just set up an account, which takes a few days as they verify your teaching status and get your account in order, and so far have realized that it’s not so much an instructional tool as it is a tool for practicing. Learn 2 Type doesn’t provide the step by step instruction of learning home row typing, but it does provide very nice, completely randomized, typing challenges. This way clicking on the same exact challenge level will produce different challenges at the same difficulty level (punctuation, capitalization, etc), rather than just providing the same line over and over for students. There are a few distracting games, but overall it would be a good resource for students that are already self-motivated to improve their typing.
Typing Pal Online
I haven’t ever had the chance to use the software version of Typing Pal, but many parents have told me that they have online accounts for their children at the Typing Pal website. The benefit is having access to both instructional AND practice exercises to work on at any computer with Internet access. What I enjoyed most about flipping through the Typing Pal site, is that the practice tab actually has “real text exercises”, and not just random letters and drill lines. My students do far too much random drill lines, and would benefit from actually typing sentences and words that make sense when placed together. There’s even a nice demo that you can request in order to see how it works, something I couldn’t do until getting an account on Learn 2 Type.
I had one of the fifth graders try this site out today and she loved it! It’s designed for older users, and geared towards professionals looking to increase their typing efficiency, but the free typing test they have on the site is a blast. You can choose between a 1,2, or 3 minutes test, and then pick which of the four texts you’d like to tackle. While one of the choices is a rather wordy business-type paragraph, there’s also an excerpt from the Wizard of Oz, a paragraph about Tigers, or “Fishing in Finland” (it’s just fun to say). The engaging part of the test came while the students was actually typing. During the test, a nice little blue line highlights each of the words on the original text as you’re typing them, so you don’t lose your place. There’s also a real-time Words Per Minutes calculator on the right hand side of the page, telling you exactly how quickly you’re typing at the moment. Think of it as a speedometer for your fingers. Most typing exercises I’ve seen simply tell you how quickly you typed AFTER the exercise is over, but it was fun for me, and the student typing, to watch the number increase, then quickly decrease as she stopped to backspace a few mistakes, then get typing again. Definitely worth a look, but only for the most advanced typists as the passages are lengthy, contain lots of punctuation, and would easily discourage beginners.