by: DeMarque, go
to the web site
200MHz or higher, Windows 95/98, Me, NT4, 2000, XP; 32MB
RAM, sound card, CD-ROM drive
best (or at least the most useful) course I took
in high school was Grade 10 typing. Really. I
mean learning to touch-type helped me get into
computing, writing, research and a half-dozen
other major interests. The thing is - and I am
NOT open to debate here - if you can't touch-type
effectively, you can't communicate effectively
in personal correspondence, business documents,
e-mail and so on. As a matter of fact, even a
plain old 40 word per minute touch typist is
capable of ordering and communicating thoughts
and ideas faster and more effectively than a
hunt-n-peck typist. In any event, learning how
to touch-type can be taught easily to most Grade
two students (kids 7 years of age and up). Typing
Pal Junior is a touch typing training program
designed for 7-14 year olds.
order to properly test Typing Pal Junior (I'm way past the
target age range!), I dragooned my 9 year old niece into a
bit of an experiment. My niece is an active young girl, busy
with friends, ballet, gymnastics and school (Grade 4). She's
also wrapped up in her computer, MSN Messenger and ICQ. She
can't type worth beans however. Since Typing Pal Junior professes
to be a pleasant and amusing way for kids to learn keyboard
typing, I wanted to find out if the typing games and challenges
built into the software are truly appealing to a typical elementary
school student. I also wanted to find out if Typing Pal is
a true typing teacher, as opposed to a typing game.
any other considerations, everything in Typing Pal Junior
seems designed to be constructive and typing oriented. The
main part of the software is structured around lessons for
each keyboard character. There are a large number of key practice
combinations, a full set of practice sessions for the numeric
keypad (very important!) and even a Spy which can be set to
track typing accuracy and progress in other word processors
and text editors. The two games - Space Cleaners, an Asteroids
clone which requires that you correctly type specific words
in order to blow up target asteroids; Cosmik Ball, a Breakout
clone which requires correct keying in order to bounce a ball
to keep it in play - are strictly oriented toward teaching
and improving typing skills. Cosmik Ball can be surprisingly
difficult. The serious typing practice, transcription and
dictation sessions are well organized and progressively sequenced.
Typing Pal Junior alongside my niece revealed a few, um, flaws
in my own touch typing technique. Needless to say, I'm working
on correcting the bad habits. My niece was delighted to see
me make mistakes and laughed uproariously every time the error
gong sounded from the speakers.
The statistics module provides a running progress report which
is useful to young kids only after a careful explanation.
The Space Cleaners game conked out - it stopped responding
to typed words during the game session. There are a couple
of typos in the otherwise thorough online help system.
The statistics module is a good progress meter for parents
who are not able to directly supervise the Typing Pal sessions.
Good sound effects which are also configurable (you can use
your own WAV files). My niece and a couple of her friends
spent much more time trying to beat each other's letter practice
speed than they did diverting attention to the typing games.
After two weeks of 30-45 minutes of daily practice, my niece
was up to 25 words per minute, speeding up every day and maintaining
a low error rate. Her mother is delighted and so am I. Typing
Pal Junior is highly recommended.
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