With the popularity of the Internet and personal computer, typing has moved from status as a specialized skill to a necessary one. Whether kids are typing up an email or a report for school, the ability to type quickly and accurately is a valuable timesaving skill.
This latest deluxe version of Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing features a classroom setting in which users, ages 8 to adult, can learn, improve, and refine keyboarding skills with Mavis Beacon, a virtual teacher. Users with or without formal typing training will benefit from the program's combination of typing lessons, practice exercises, and games.
What sets this title apart is its personalized lessons. The program not only assesses and places a user by means of a typing test, it continues to adjust lessons as users progress. For example, if a student frequently transposes the letters er, lessons will be tailored to include extra practice with this combination. The result is an individualized course with helpful feedback that fuels the desire to improve.
Beginners need not take the diagnostic test. Instead, they can move directly to the lessons that emphasize correct finger positioning, provide tips, and include loads of practice. Those with some typing experience can take the test and begin lessons and games at the point where the program places them. Transparent "guide hands" type along with users, demonstrating correct finger placement on the virtual keyboard. Frequent updates on words per minute (wpm) are given as users progress.
The program's eight games focus on drills that develop speed, accuracy, and rhythm. For example, Space Junk drills common word patterns (such as ess, er, ly). By quickly and accurately typing these letter combinations as they scroll across the screen, players protect their spaceship from space junk. In another, players build goofy "creatures" by typing complete words that appear on screen.
Users can easily check their current wpm and view their progress to date. Both of these options are powerful motivators. In fact, these can be more motivating for kids than any animated rewards or certificates they may earn in "edutainment" typing titles.
In the Media Center (available only in the Deluxe version), students will find opportunities for further practice as well as information about ergonomics, a video viewer, and a custom lesson designer. In the practice area found here, users can select articles from a range of interesting topics—from Astronomy to Historical Documents—or import their own text documents with which to practice typing.
The program includes a unique Personal Coach option. Without the need to run the CD-ROM, students can have the Personal Coach track their speed as well as refer to the finger positioning guide as they type up documents in a word processor application or emails.
New to this 12th edition is Spanish-language instruction. It is important to note, however, that this option provides voiceovers in Spanish—users still work with both English-language text and keyboards. Other additions include an expanded Personal Coach and an onscreen manual for the One Hand Typing Method.
Two bonus programs are included on the CD-ROM: Address Book 7.0 and Screen Shot Deluxe 3.0.
Using the program is rather straightforward, though there is some initial awkwardness in a few of the lesson's drills. If a student types an extra character for a word, the program will recognize all subsequent keystrokes as incorrect unless the user re-aligns their text. This takes a little time to get used to.
All in all, this impressive program makes struggling with the keyboard unnecessary. Its lessons are effective and not very time-consuming.