Ever since Handwriting Without Tears launched their new keyboarding program, Keyboarding Without Tears, I’ve been asked my thoughts about it by colleagues and parents alike. As a certified Handwriting Without Tears specialist, I was excited to learn more about their new program. I recently attended their workshop, From Pencils to Keyboards: Teaching Written Production in the Digital Classroom.
Keyboarding Without Tears is the only keyboarding program that is developmentally based and offers individual curricula for kindergarten to 5th grade. I really appreciate that the more advanced lessons in the program tie into the common core curriculum taught in each grade to support and supplement student learning.
The graphics in Keyboarding Without Tears are simple and correspond to the Handwriting Without Tears program. This can be particularly useful for kindergarten and 1st-grade students to reinforce letter recognition. In addition, many of the pre-keyboarding lessons integrate visual scanning and figure-ground activities while developing fine motor and mouse skills.
Keyboarding Without Tears is unique in that it also teaches digital citizenship. Lessons teach students about digital information, protection, consideration, and communication. These are all critical skills for students to learn.
Another distinctive feature of the program is that it uses color-coded rows to teach proper finger key associations versus using column learning. It also has students learn keys using one hand at a time. It does not incorporate bilateral typing until students progress through an array of single-handed drills. However, during these single-handed “Target Practice” drills, students are required to hold down the ‘f’ key while typing with their right hand or the ‘j’ key while typing with their left hand. This helps students keep their non-typing hand engaged and promotes bilaterality.
Individual licenses are required for each student and correspond with the student’s grade level. Once a license is purchased, the student has access to the program both at school and home. Licenses are $6.50 per student.
While Keyboarding Without Tears offers a well thought out and extensive program, it also has several drawbacks. I spent 90 minutes progressing through the 3rd-grade typing program to assess it firsthand. I found many of the lessons overly simplistic and repetitive for 3rd graders, and I did not like that proper finger-key associations were not introduced until the fifth lesson. The “Target Practice” instruction designed to teach proper finger placement did not help me link finger-key associations since it displayed what finger to use on the top half of the screen and what key to type on the bottom. I found it difficult to visually attend to both areas simultaneously, and I did not like that the letters on the keys to depress were replaced by target symbols, which made the finger-key associations even murkier. (I do have visual impairments that may have made this more difficult for me than it would be for others.) Nevertheless, even in more advanced lessons, the link between proper finger-key associations was not as clear as in many other typing programs I have assessed and used.
Another series of lessons designed to teach key locations called “Zoom In Zoom Out” made me dizzy by having an object move closer and then farther away with each keystroke. I had to close my eyes and wait for the image to stabilize before typing the letter a second time. Again, this may be because of my visual impairments, but regardless, I really wished I could skip over these lessons. The program does not allow one to skip lessons or enter the program where more advanced lessons begin. So if a student already has basic keyboarding skills, he would painstakingly have to repeat at least an hour’s worth of basic, repetitive drill lessons. Boring!
When I stopped typing for two minutes after becoming dizzy, I had to log into the program again. This was annoying and happened three times during my test of the program. It would be nice if one could adjust the time before the program logs the user out.
Currently, the program only offers an extremely basic progress report, which I was unable to view because the link did not work when I tried it. The program does not track typing speed or accuracy, nor does it show which keys the user is having difficulty with. For a therapist, all of these things are useful data.
Overall, the program has some great features and could be a wonderful way of introducing pre-keyboarding skills to kindergartners and 1st graders. I cannot say I would recommend the program in its current form for 2nd to 5th graders due to the overly simplistic, repetitive series of initial lessons. If I could determine where in the program a student should begin based on their current skill level, I think Keyboarding Without Tears would be a terrific program. In its current form, most of my 3rd-grade students would be in tears if they had to go through the initial stages of the program. Sorry Handwriting Without Tears, I am a big fan of your handwriting program and other products, but I think this one still needs some work.
About Skills 4 Life:
Skills 4 Life Pediatric Occupational Therapy offers a broad range of pediatric occupational therapy services to help your child master age-appropriate developmental skills, become more independent, increase academic success & develop confidence. The experts at Skills 4 Life specialize in handwriting, keyboarding & executive function coaching, but also work with children on social & emotional learning, motor skills, self-regulation strategies & activities of daily living. Skills 4 Life Pediatric Occupational Therapy offers your child a safe, compassionate environment to learn the critical skills they need to be successful. Learn more about our team & services at www.skills4lifeot.com, or you can contact our office by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 303.351.1828 for a free consultation.