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JumpStart Typing transports the user to Sparks Stadium, for an intergalactic keyboard contest. Professor Sparks has hired the best coach in the galaxy, Coach Qwerty, to lead the home team to victory. Unfortunately, Prof. Sparks' young daughter Polly has locked the coach behind bars, because he accused her of inadequate practice! With the help of Polly and a robot named Botley, the user must demonstrate improved typing proficency in a series of seven timed typing tests, to set him free.
The program has two main screens. The first is the Keyboard Training Center. Here the user will find the Technique-O-Tron, where video lessons are available, the Test-O-Matic for typing practice and test taking, and the access port to the Stadium -- the other main screen. This second screen is the center for various arcade-style typing games. More on those later.
After the introduction sets the scene, all new users take a diagnostic test. This timed typing test sets the goals for future performance. Users then go into a series of lessons, at any point from which they can elect to take timed tests to earn strength for their team. This reservoir of strength is then drawn down during game play.
JumpStart Typing is a solid learn-to-type program, hidden by a fun user interface, and an attractive collection of typing drill games. The program features some amount of adaptive learning -- that is it tracks performance strengths and weaknesses, and focuses more attention on the weaker areas. The only clear spot where we were certain we saw this during our testing, was in the performance goal setting; good typists scored higher on the diagnostic test and were therefore given more difficult goals to reach in working to set Coach Qwerty free. Regardless, the program does a good job of teaching and drilling.
The program also offers a nice set of printable progress reports. These can be generated for the current session, or for all sessions for that user. They cover speed and accuracy by letter, (also for numbers/symbols) by hand and by finger!
Learning to type is a matter of technique and LOTS of practice. JumpStart Typing combined an interesting mix of drills and testing (necessary to get the strength to play the games) with a variety of arcade-style games that also exercised touch typing skills. Our 10 year-old tester's initial reaction, "Gee, the voices aren't well synched with the lips," was soon forgotten in favor of, "Let me try that again!"
Games ranged from relatively easy, to challenging enough to get our young tester pretty revved up. One of the simpler games involved typing the letters shown on a series of obstacles, to allow a skater to finish a race. At the other end of the spectrum was a foosball-like game, where each of the rods controlling soccer players was activated by typing a letter combination that constantly changed!
Each of the games focused on touch typing practice, and required both speed and accuracy.
JumpStart Typing was easy to install in our test Windows Me computer. We were up and running less than a minute after inserting the CD.
Program navigation is reasonably intuitive. At no time did any of our testers report even opening the skinny CD-case manual.
JumpStart Typing is a fun and effective learn-to-type program. It is best suited for children who like sports arcade games, and competition.
PC: Windows 95/98, 486 DX/2 66 or faster cpu, 5 MB hard drive space, 16 MB RAM, 640x480x256 color SVGA graphics display, 2X or faster CD-ROM, 16 bit sound card sound card, mouse.return to top of page
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