Bev's adventures in ICT

Archive for the ‘Touch Typing’ Category

A New Direction

Well, hello. It’s been quite a while since my last blog post, and with good reason. Last year I changed my job; no longer am I school based. These days I work at TES, devoting time to finding and creating quality resources that support pupils with SEN. I still, however, like to keep up to date on what is happening in education and spend time exploring lots of web based ideas I think might be interesting and I thought, what with today being the 29th February and therefore a little special, I’d share a few new finds an old favourites. All these sites have some link to inclusion (even when it’s not obvious – I will explain) and all of them are free to use. So here we go – a special top ten for a special day! Hopefully there’s something for everyone here.

1. Doorway Online: I love this site. I cannot stress how useful it is for so many reasons! All the activities on here have been created with inclusion in mind and would be useful across a number of different settings. All the activities have a clear font and an uncluttered layout. It’s just lovely 🙂

2. Poisson Rouge: If you haven’t indulged it the joy of the Red Fish you really need to check it out! No instructions and some areas are undeniable French (it is a French website after all) but within the madness there are some great activities The ‘School of English‘ (the castle) is quite handy for learning vocab and other languages are supported too – making it great for MFL. In the bugs section (flower on the windowsill) there are lovely basic mouse skills activities and matching games that would be useful to use with pupils in EY or SEN settings. Everything is brightly coloured and engaging. Some items might be a little annoying (the choir is distinctly odd) but there is a wealth of usefulness within the site – both ICT skills wise and across other curriculum areas.

3. Literactive: This is one of those websites you will either love or hate. It’s free to register and you can ask to register with UK English (the site is American). I just found that the Road to Reading  section had some really useful sequencing and memory based activities that some pupils with SEN found both engaging and enjoyable. It is pitched at a young audience but the animated content in the sequencing activities and some of the more cartoony elements mean that you could use it with some slightly older pupils if you needed to.

4. Help Kidz Learn: Another website that has been created with inclusion in mind (after all – it is from the bod at Inclusive Technology), this one has lots of beautifully presented and helpful activities across a number of areas. As you would expect, the activities are switch accessible and are all aimed at a basic skill level. This doesn’t take away from the beautiful design of them and I particularly like the creative section.

5. Bembo’s Zoo: I have a real soft spot for this website. It inspired one of my first blog posts and is truly beautiful. You would need to be creative to find lots of ways to include it in your teaching (although animal and alphabet focused sessions are a given) but it’s worth exploring. Even if it is just for fun.

6. TESiboard: I was a big fan of TESiboard long before I went to work at the TES. I’m still a fan. A plethora of great interactives from, EY to KS2, that can be used in a number of ways. And, from read aloud story books to creative activities (taking in lots of great curriculum topics along the way), there is so much here that’s available to support pupils with SEN. I remember suggesting this one to a 1 to 1 TA when the class were writing about their families – she needed something quick and accessible for her charge and this did the job brilliantly!

7. ARKive: A fabulous website with so much information included it’s mind boggling. It even has a layer you can use when accessing Google Earth! Loads of video and photo content, which is fabulous quality, and supporting teaching resources and games too. I think it’s just an amazing site that you (and the children) will want to explore time and time again.

8. Qwiki: It’s not perfect but any website that allows you to search for a topic then watch a slideshow about that topic while listening to audio content (a little fast but still useful) has to be a winner. Yes, the automated voice is a little annoying (but you can control the volume and pause the slideshow/go back over things) and the images are sometimes not the most accurate (check something before you let the children loose) but the pros still outweigh the cons as far as I am concerned. It even has read along captions with the slideshow which you can turn off if you want to.

9. Dabbleboard: There always seem to be new tools appearing that can be used to support collaborative learning and thinking skills within the classroom. Dabbleboard takes elements of both and fuses them together seamlessly. You can draw. You can type. You can add shapes, arrows and lines. You can share. You can chat. You can insert pictures and documents. Truly fab.

10. Teacher LED: Lots of nice, clear activities for your IWB. Many are maths based but other areas are covered too. I really like the new Word Circle activity, mainly as it reminds me of a similar idea I had using PowerPoint. I’m also a fan of the Map Maker. Some of the maths based interactives are the best I’ve seen – just take a look for yourselves.

Reverting to Type

When I was in school (many years ago) there wasn’t any need to learn how to touch type unless you were going into secretarial work (in fact, when picking your options in Year 9, you could choose a course that included shorthand and touch typing if you were that way inclined). How times have changed. With more and more people using a computer for all sorts of things in their everyday lives touch typing is now a skill everyone can benefit from. Yes – we all know lots of people who manage perfectly well on a computer keyboard using the one or two fingered method (wow – both hands!!!) but to overlook touch typing as a skill that we need to get children using is quite remiss. More people will need to type – so let’s make it easy for them.

There are a number of great games about that encourage keyboard skills, one of which is Keyboard Climber. It’s just a bit of fun but children seem to like it and it’s free. Also slightly addictive – I know of some grown ups who like to have a go!

Another nice activity for younger ones, this time working on structured touch typing skills, is the BBC’s Dance Mat Typing. This is set up in 4 levels, working on keyboard skills in a progressive manner. Again this is freely available and obviously aimed at children. On the downside the characters narrating certain parts can be a little annoying and the layout can be a little too busy for pupils who need a clearer layout. I’ve also noticed, when using it with pupils, that they tend to start at the beginning every time because they like the funny introductions and want to see silly bits they enjoyed seeing last time around. So, all in all. it makes typing fun but can be a little too distracting (and is a little too childish for older pupils).

If it’s a free activity you’re after and you need it to be structured a good choice with available via Doorway Online. This fantastically accessible site has options for the visually impaired, is well structured (giving percentage scores for each level so you can track progress)  and has lots of options so you can choose how keys/fingers etc. are highlighted or appear on screen. Pupils can see how much progress they are making and activities aren’t timed,giving children time to respond to instructions. The other excellent activities on this site (all designed by Philip Whittaker and directly targeting those with SEN) are worth trying out too. Although they are designed for pupils with SEN they are also useful for general class use. Definitely worth a look.

If you have got a little money to spend why not visit the ever excellent 2Simple site and get your hands on 2Type. The program has a number of excellent activities – starting from very basic keyboard skills upwards – and has editable options (change the speed/timing etc). As with all 2Simple stuff this is a visual treat (yet still clearly laid out) and pupils pick up the skills quickly.

Of course there are loads more options to choose from when looking at touch typing.  There are a number of great pieces of kit that require dipping into pockets. I have first hand experience of First Keys (screen shots of the latest version shown above) as I’ve used it with a number of pupils with SEN using a Big Keys LX keyboard. It’s a fabulous product and, because it’s from the people at Widgit, you’ve got PCS and Widgit Symbols if you need them. The newest version even links to Jolly Phonics and you can easily add custom word lists to encourage spelling/development of topic based vocabulary. But it’s definitely not for all – it’s accessible software aimed at use by pupils with SEN and is priced accordingly. Luckily, on the flip side, other free applications are available for you to try out: Alex Colket has kindly led me to his site The Keyboard Playground which looks extremely helpful. You should also check out Free Typing Games and 10 Finger Breakout (I find this addictive but that’s because it totally brings me back to my youth rather than focusing on typing skills). Why not try a few and see which solution suits you?