Keyboarding Without Tears Review

Keyboarding Without Tears (KWT) is a six-level curriculum for kindergarten through fifth grade.  The program features typing games and exercises, as well as class work to teach keyboarding basics, and safe digital habits.  The computer work is all accessed through a web browser and features teacher’s resources to monitor student progress.  Licenses include a digital teacher’s guide with lesson plans and information on the games and activities, as well as a dashboard to view the performance of each student.  The curriculum is geared toward a classroom, but can easily be adapted for homeschool use.  Licenses cost 10$ per student, per year.

We first tried KWT at launch and were not impressed.  The program had bugs and lacked many helpful features, so we moved on to something else.  When we had trouble with our alternate program, we returned to find many of the problems addressed.  My opinion of KWT improved greatly on the second go.

KWT does fun typing games very well.  There is no boring row after row of ‘a sad lass’ over and over again like other typing programs.  Instead, students work through a few games or activities a day, mixing it up to keep things slightly more interesting.  One game, called Painted Finger Clues, shows a finger and a key to hit with that finger.  The game displays the keyboard on the screen the whole time (as do many of the games).  This helps to build the habit of looking at the screen instead of the board, a design feature I really appreciate.  The exercises may vary in enjoyment level, but so far, all seem to be useful and well thought out.

Another great feature of KWT is the cross-platform support.  KWT can be used on a computer, but it can also be used on a tablet.  This has never really come in handy for us (as the program does not support our USB keyboard for the tablet), but I can imagine it could be useful for some families.

Progress is monitored through occasional tests assigned by the program.  These tests measure anything from letters per minute through paragraphs per minute for older students and everything in between.  They can all be viewed through the dashboard, by student or class.  These reports give you a good look at how your students are progressing.

The program does seem to be well designed.  I appreciate the classroom lessons as a way to round out the curriculum, though I don’t use all of them, but they really do add something to the computer work.  The exercises and games build off of each other and progress at a good pace.  My children enjoy most of the work, and KWT even sneaks in a few games to build mouse skills for the younger students – a happy bonus.

Like any other curriculum, KWT is not without a few problems though.  By far, the biggest problem would be the lack of an offline mode.  To use KWT, you must be connected to the internet at all times.  Spotty internet and travel are huge problems if you want to use this program.  Offline support would be greatly appreciated.  Netflix does it – they can too.

I would also love to see more customization for students.  If a student struggles with a particular exercise, I’d love to be able to go in and add it to their roster a few more times, or even have a practice mode where students can repeat exercises without progressing through the program.  Some students just need a little extra work.  Now there is a continuation mode for students who finish the program, but it’s not targeted, and not accessible until the whole program is finished.

Another sticking point is the price.  At 10$ a license, it’s not totally unreasonable, however, if you compare it to many other typing programs, it starts to look like less of a value.  Most programs charge a one-time fee, and can be used for multiple students.  KWT charges per student, per year.  A larger family would end up paying quite a lot over the years.  This price does get you a good program, so it’s hard to complain, but if you run the numbers, it could do better.  I understand the business model, but an offline, purchasable program would be much better for our wallet.

This is a solid program.  If you can swing the cost, you will get something for your money.  The games are solid offerings and so much more enjoyable than conventional programs.  Teacher support is good for reporting, but less than great for customizing to student need.  Offline support is non-existent, so do not bother with KWT if you don’t have rock solid internet.  KWT is fairly young, so hopefully they’ll add some of these needed features in the years to come.  I see great potential for this program, but it still does need a bit of polishing.  I’m not sure it’s worth the price or not – it’s a close call.  I think it really depends on circumstance.

 

Overall –

Pros: Great activities, great reporting for teachers, tablet mode

Cons: Pricey in the long run, no offline mode, no customization

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