Free Software Series, Part 1: Keyboarding

Oh budget cuts, how I loathe thee. We recently learned that our district would not be getting as much money from the state this year as expected, and so, our budgets have been slashed. Any money left in our classroom budgets is gone (and I had plenty!). Any outstanding receipts will most likely not be reimbursed (there goes $200!!) We have been given 3 reams, yes a measly 1500 pieces of paper, for copies, which is expected to last us until the end of the year. God forbid the copier jam! Thank goodness I have the lowest copy count in the school, thanks to the nature of my job, though I pity our poor language arts teachers--1500 pieces of paper/170 students a day = very few assignments will be printed out anymore. Hope those kids can hand-copy at a reasonable pace! So for those of us in the same boat, or with limited budgets to begin with, I thought I'd focus on free software available online, either as downloads, or Web2.0.

This week, I'll be taking a look at keyboarding software. If you've ever shopped for keyboarding software, you know that the well-known programs are not cheap. And while it would be nice to be able to spend several thousand $$ on networked, kid-friendly typing software, that's not always possible. So below is a list of some of the better typing practice resources I've found online, from keyboarding tutorials to typing games.

Dance Mat Typing
This British site provides free online typing tutorials geared towards younger kids. Lessons are divided into four levels, and fun, animated cartoon animals with goofy voices and British accents explain what the user needs to do. Our district actually uses this program with the elementary students, but I have it available as a free time activity for my 6th grade keyboarding class and have found that middle school students seem to enjoy it as well.
I use this website with my middle school students quite a bit. We use the typing test feature weekly, which I have found to be quite accurate (unlike some free typing tests that clock my average 85 wpm as 105!). The kids also enjoy the typing games this site provides, such as KeyMan (i.e. PacMan).
The website provides free typing lessons, games, and speed tests. We use the site only for its typing games. The lessons are pretty dull and repetitive (more so than other keyboarding tutorials) and the test overestimates your speed a lot, but my kids love the typing games on this site!

AuntLee is a site that one of my students found and within one class period, over half the kids were on this site. There's a variety of typing games (as well as other educational games) that students can choose, including variants on popular old arcade games like Space Invaders and Asteroids. The typing games are fun, just ignore the burping puppy on the typing game page!

There are lots of other online tutorial and game sites, but I have found these to be the best. Let me know if I left out your favorite! Happy keyboarding!


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