As Editor -in- Chief of a children’s publishing company, I’m always looking for educational computer games to keep my kids busy and have them learn something at the same time. Most programs are very disappointing, and my children lose interest quickly. After reading the rave reviews, I decided to go to Keyboard Town PALS web site to find out more about the program. To say the least, I was intrigued that the program promises to teach elementary school age kids the proper way to type on a computer keyboard using memory techniques instead of drills and no harping on mistakes. And to do so in an hour! After all, I spent two years in high school trying to figure this out. I am sure that my experience with typing is not unusual. It was horrible. The teacher was worse than a drill sargeant and we were constantly pitted against one another trying to type as quickly as we possibly could. For two years we practiced. The unspoken message was that everyone in the class was a loser except for that day’s winner. Some of my friends gave up, and some cheated. None of us became professional typists where speed and accuracy real do count.
In the end the torture was worthwhile, since as an editor I am on the computer every day for many hours. It was one of the most valuable courses I ever took. I use that skill more regularly than any other bit of information that I learned in high school. But the thought of my kids having to go through the same drudgery was just plain depressing.
Turns out, Keyboard Town PALS is so much more than a way to keep kids busy. I’m even thinking that being able to type properly will give them a leg up all the way through school! Today, every little advantage helps and diligent parents are constantly on the look-out for those products that are worth the money. Plus, the world is only getting more and more technical. They’re going to have to type anyway, so why not with their fingers firmly placed on the correct keys?
What’s great about the PALS system is the fun that’s built in… corny tunes and silly puppets. I really appreciate the values taught as well. The company really wanted this to be entertaining so they made many of the puppets’ “voices” recognizable. From Groucho Marx, Larry David and William F. Buckley to Jack Kennedy. I think the Woody Allen puppet gets sick and throws-up (what great casting) and Cary Grant, Jimmy Durante and Walter Chronkite are perfect. One of the puppets whose name is Slash has a heavy New Jersey accent and could be on the Sopranos. He asks, “You lookin at me?” and then proceeds to firmly suggest keeping your eyes on the screen or else! But my favorite puppet is Dora. She has so much personality. Her accent is 100% Brooklyn and every time she appears on camera she introduces herself to the audience all over again. “Hi, I’m Dora.”
Then there are the punctuation puppets like period, question mark, slash and the comma. My kids got a big kick out of these because they had never seen puppets like that. On a more serious topic, Keyboard Town PALS deftly addresses the current issue in schools of bullying. There is a complete turn-around by girls who are clearly going to exclude another from the team. They are being clicky and don’t want to choose the new girl. How current of Keyboard Town PALS to tackle this difficult subject! But before long the girls regret their comments and are so upset that they begin to cry hysterically and say those precious words, “We are sorry.” As you can see, not only have my kids watched the Keyboard Town video several times, but all of us have absorbed the meaningful lessons (and) solid values as well. The kids continue to watch it just for the fun of it, and my toddler is even learning his A B C’s by hanging out with them.
I actually called the company recently, to ask if they make any other products. To my surprise, there are a whole array of Play Products that are to be used after viewing the show. I bought the coloring book, the playmat, the stickers that have pictures of the puppets and all the letters of the alphabet and punctuation marks taught in the show, and the matching card game. These Play Products occupied my kids for many more hours of play/learning and we have even reordered a few items! As we were about to hang up, Donna Katz, the president of Keyboard Town PALS, told me that I should keep my eyes open for several new products coming in the fall ’09. Donna told me that the entire program’s instructions are being translated into Spanish. She mentioned another program that is ready to go called, ” Little hands Can Type”, which sounded amazing. I guess my toddler will just have to wait for the fall to try this program that prepares preschoolers by introducing basic computer keyboard concepts. I have got to see this!
Something totally unexpected but very appreciated was finding the Virtual Journal page on the drop down file bar in the video. This feature gives my kids the option to email their favorite puppet. They enjoy this pen pal relationship and send each other, on this secure site, jokes and riddles. This is really clever of Keyboard Town PALS as it gets the kids typing without thinkng about it. I bet that is why they did it. Every time an email arrives from a puppet, everything stops in our house. We all want to hear the latest joke or riddle. One of my kids asked the puppet for a poem and as a writer, I must say that it was very well written and thought provoking. We discussed that poem and its message for days. Then just as I had hoped, my daughter sat down at the computer and composed her own original poem. She was so please with herself and sent it back to her puppet pen pal, anxious to get an email in return.
I recommended the software to several friends and I am now the go-to person for innovative, cutting edge products. One of these friends even tried the program with one her kids who has special needs. She strongly believed that learning to type would give this child confidence. He would be able to express his feelings but best of all, others would be able to read his work. She has a shelf full of discarded typing programs that did not do the job. He learned to type using Keyboard Town PALS software just as his siblings did and it has changed things for him dramatically.
Keyboard Town PALS was a great purchase for the summer. Now, I don’t mind seeing my children spending time on the computer, even on a nice day.
Dina Rosenfeld, Editor-in-Chief,