February 21, 2018

Teach Your Family How To Type with UltraKey Online Family Subscription {Product Review}

While I am a firm believer in my children learning cursive and handwriting, I can't deny the necessity to also be skilled in typing. There are many different programs out there, and I have tried several of them. I *know* what style works best for my children: a program that is online, has lots of practice, provides encouragement, focuses on actual typing, and doesn't have lots of bells and whistles. Thus far, I haven't found the "perfect" program, but when our family was given the opportunity to review the UltraKey Online Family Subscription from Bytes of Learning, I was hopeful that this one would be what we needed.

About UltraKey Online

UltraKey Online Family Subscription is a typing program designed by Bytes of Learning. The program provides clear voice instructed lessons with animation and videos. The Family subscription lets a parent or mentor oversee the use of the program while family members use the program. This is ideal for homeschoolers, or for just additional practice for schoolchildren in general. The ideal age
is 8+ but if a younger child can do it--let them! The program is compatible with browsers on Windows, Mac, Chromebooks, and iPads. It uses HTML5 and has no plugins. The parent account is free and is priced for 3 ($29.95 per year), 5 ($39.95 per year), and 8 ($49.95 per year) users, allowing you to find the right subscription for your family. Unlike some programs, the subscription will only be renewed upon your request--no automatic payment to worry about. Each family receives a unique login url which enables the program to track your family's progress!

Our Experience using the Product

There is so much I could say about using this product, but I will try to keep it as concise as possible.

I found UltraKey online very easy to navigate. The instructions are clear and there are many videos to watch which provide additional information for using the program. I am someone who learns by just doing—so I just started clicking to see what I could find. That is how I discovered the place to set goals, change screens, change how the program could be used (as in the order it could be done), ect. I learned that through the parent dashboard you can change everyone all at once, or you can customize each person. But in a student dashboard you could adjust goals too. To begin with, you enroll your students through the parent dashboard--clicking "enrollment". Then simply work through the enrollment starting with "enroll one". During this time you can set up their login information. Second step is to determine if you want to set up Family settings (same settings for everyone enrolled), or if you want to set up and check progress for each student. (I will talk about another way you can set this up too). I initially used the Family Management to set up universal settings--but once we started using it, I tweaked it in individual log-ins. The main things to set up are the basic settings and the goals.

There are many different levels of goals. The student is encouraged to choose a goal slightly more difficult than the current level of skill. The EASIEST way to determine a goal for children have a little bit of typing skill, would be to just do a placement test. This is what we did, since each of my son’s have a smidge of typing experience. I also took the test out of curiosity. I love that the goals can be adjusted and are not locked in “forever”. This is a definite pro!
Here are the current goals for each user

Where I initially set my goal--then took an assessment

After practicing, I took a second assessment. I had clearly improved. 

Now let me run through the settings menu:

Background: can let your student pick a background picture preference
Keyboard Display: Choose the type of keyboard, key coloring, and key labeling you want
Hand Display:  Set skin tone and translucency, as well as decide whether to hide or show the hands.
Step-by-Step Learning: This determines how your student can work through the program (see below)
Practice Amount: Each lesson provides practice with letters, pairs, chains, words, and sentences. Choose how much practice should be provided (Light, Medium, Heavy)
Back Spacing: Allow or disallow backspacing during tests

These settings will really help you get the program adjusted for each child.It is possible to change these settings on each individual log in, but you can also change them on the parent dashboard all at once.

Here is a screenshot of the home page each student sees when they log in.
Click to see larger
Now let me mention the step-by-step learning setting in greater detail: It is possible to make your child have to progress IN ORDER, but you can also change a setting in the “my settings” under “step-by-step learning” to allow them to move around. This is definitely something you want to do for students coming into this program with some experience. I adjusted mine to be switched off, but left the boys switched to “partly”. What is the difference? “Off” allows you to move through the modules in any order. “Partly” does not require posture and fingers to be completed, but you must complete each lesson and skill check in order. If you want EVERYTHING done in order, you make sure to click “on”.

Once you have the goals and settings determined, it is great to jump right in. The first step is to watch a video on posture and learn how to position your hands and body properly for the least amount of stress to your back, wrists, and neck. I think this is a good place to start because so many children hunch over doing typing. Once this has been done, your child progresses to learning about how to place their fingers on the keyboard—and does little exercises for it. Once completed, they then move on to lessons and skill checks.

As with most keyboarding programs, you learn the keys in order of use—thus the “home row” is covered first. It is done slowly with a lot of repetition and practice. When the lesson is done, you can do more practice or you can move on to a skill check which assesses how you do with the keys you just learned. You can always go back and forth between the lessons and skill checks—there isn’t a limit to how many times you do them.

What does a lesson look like?
I will run through a quick look at a lesson. I am going to use my own practice as an example. I am working on building my skills using the numbers row since I already have a very high WPM and accuracy on the letters. I will use photos so you can see the process and then I included a video so you can see it in action.
Step 1: Pick a Lesson. My settings allow me to jump around, so I can pick any.
Step 2: Decide where you want to start--I start at the beginning with Warmup
Step 3: Learn how to strike the key

Step 4: practice striking key--for numbers, I practiced doing the number and then the home key

Step 5: Once all new keys are learned they are put in pairs to practice

Step 6: Now the new keys are used in sentences or words (depends on how far you are). You are given stars based on how well you do. Perfect typing=4 stars.

Once a lesson is completed, you move on to a skill check that coordinates with that lesson.

They are labeled identically so you can easily find the skill check to match. There are many ways to tweak the skill check to meet your needs; but basically you pick a passage to write, determine how much to write—either by the length of the text or length of time—and then you do it!

Here is a video where I am taking one of the skill check tests for numbers.

When you are done, it will inform you how you did. If you met your predetermined goal, you get a big congratulations. If you didn’t meet your goal, you can see your skill check report which shows your WPM and accuracy so you can see how you need to improve. The program will always show you your errors too. As I said earlier, you can keep taking these over and over until you are satisfied. You can even change your goal and do them again.

An example of one of my son's Home Row skill check results

This shows how my oldest IMPROVED and beat his goal.

If you get better, but haven't met your goal, you still get encouragement.

When you have met your goal on your skill check, you get a CONGRATULATIONS screne.

When the entire program has been completed, you get a certificate which is pretty cool. We haven’t gotten there yet, but I know that you can from other crew members sharing. There are also certificates given based on typing performance which can be found and printed off from the parent dashboard.

The final two tabs are Typing Forum and Game Zone. The Typing Forum is a place to take some typing tests or just to freely type. The Game Zone uses your typing skills to play games—most of them are grammar or English skill related. You can earn badges in this area which will appear on your home screen. None of the games require you to type things that aren’t already on the page. So it’s great practice for all levels. And the badges are kind of fun.
Game Zone Menu

Shows how you can earn points for badges.

One additional thing, you can turn on or off the voice which reads the directions. The voice annoys me, so I keep it off. The boys prefer to have it on—especially my 7 year old who prefers to be read to.

Finally, I want to add that unlike some programs, UltraKey Online provides you PRINTABLE reports on your student's progress including Goal Reports, Progress Reports, Test Reports, and Game Reports. It will show you when they used it, what lessons they worked on, what skill checks they complete, how they did, what games they played, what the last thing they worked on was--it really is a great resource to have. I printed off a copy for my progress reports for the boys.
My 7 year old practicing. We have to adapt because of his small fingers.
12 year old practicing--need to work on his posture!

Would I Recommend UltraKey Online?

Yes. Absolutely yes. My 7 year old enjoyed it--and I hadn't originally intended for him to even do it. But he was interested and actually does very well even though he has to make adjustments for his smaller hands. I DEFINITELY enjoyed it. I am a very accurate and fast typer, but this program helped me to improve my WPM even more and find small mistakes or bad habits I didn't know I had. And my 12 year old did well--even if he didn't enjoy it. But then he's 12 and likes to say he doesn't enjoy things. LOL. It encouraged progress and gave positive reinforcement, even if mistakes were made. You can repeat as much as you want, and the goals can be adjusted to match the student. There aren't bells and whistles which detract from the basic lessons of just learning how to type! In fact, much of the way the practice and skill check was done reminded me of keyboarding class as a freshman! LOL. I LOVE that it is 100% online which means you can use it from any computer. I appreciate the parent dashboard which lets me check my student's progress as they work independently. The family subscription is available and priced for 3, 5, or 8 users, so it really is a GREAT value for your money. I haven't found any other program which goes in depth as this one does and produces RESULTS.

Want to Know More?

For the last several weeks, our family has been using the UltraKey Online Family Subscription from Bytes of Learning. You have heard about how we are doing with it and what we think about it, but I encourage you to visit others in my crew team to see how THEIR students did with it!
UltraKey {Bytes of Learning Reviews}
I have thoroughly enjoyed strengthening my own skills with this typing program and will continue to challenge myself throughout the rest of our subscription. I think it is one of the best programs out there to ACTUALLY teach you how to type properly! I hope you will give UltraKey Online Family Subscription from Bytes of Learning a try!

1 comment:

Rosalind Croucher said...

Thank you for your thoughtful and comprehensive review. It is much appreciated!