BusyFingers - a typing tutor for all ages
BusyFingers has been designed specifically for young children but it can still be used by teenagers and adults. The novel user interface really does appeal to users of all ages and once they’ve started, they want to keep on practising!
Novel User Interface
The novel user interface makes children want to learn and is designed so that even the youngest child can use it unsupervised. All the characters that are used during a lesson are displayed clearly on or next to the finger that is used when typing, keeping the interface clear and easy to use.
The character to be typed is highlighted so the user can see which finger to use. When a capital letter or special character is to be typed, the appropriate shift key is also highlighted.
National Literacy Strategy
The words used in the lessons are split into those suitable for Key Stage 1 & 2 and for Key Stage 3. The words used in the Key Stage 1 & 2 lessons are based on those specified in the National Literacy Strategy. BusyFingers is suitable for users of all abilities, including those with visual impairment, because BusyFingers has five screen sizes and a choice of font and font size.
Using BusyFingers with the youngest of users
Introducing children to a computer keyboard can be difficult. BusyFingers helps to make this easier by displaying a picture and getting the user to type the words associated with that picture. This combination of image and words, helps the user to learn to associate words with objects and how to spell those words at the same time as introducing them to the keyboard.
The images and the words associated with the images used by BusyFingers are completely customisable by the administrator.
Feedback to the User
BusyFingers can also provide visual and audio feedback throughout the lesson and statistics can be displayed at the end of each lesson to help the user identify their strengths and weaknesses. The green bars show the average speed; i.e. how quickly or slowly, each character was typed. This allows the user or supervisor to identify any characters that the user is having difficulty in reaching. The red bars show which characters were pressed incorrectly and again helps to identify any potential difficulties.
When the same lesson has been completed at least twice, a line graph is displayed showing the users progress; i.e. their word per minute rate (solid green line) and their error rate (solid red line). If the user has to achieve a certain criteria before they can progress to the next lesson, the line graph will also show the criteria that they have to achieve as a dotted green or red line.
The BusyFingers exam
BusyFingers now includes an exam that users can take at anytime.
When the user passes the exam they are presented with a gold, silver or bronze certificate, dependent on the grade that they achieved. To obtain a bronze pass, a user must have an accuracy of at least 90% and a speed of 20 words per minute or better. The reason for such an apparently high level of accuracy is because even when a typist is 90% accurate, they will type one wrong character in 10, which equates to a spelling mistake approximately every second word!
Even with an accuracy of 99%, which by anyone's standard is excellent, the typist will be making one mistake every 100 characters, which is about one spelling mistake every sentence, which is not really very good! That is why, in the exam, as throughout all of BusyFingers, accuracy has a greater bias than speed.
The Jungle Game
The user can practice the characters they have learnt in the lessons at any time, using the Jungle game. The game is challenging but ease to use and only uses words from the lessons that the user has completed. During the game the words to be typed appear on the screen, along with some animals and the user has to type the words to stop the volcano from erupting. The faster the words are typed the more points that the user scores.
BusyFingers now allows a user to configure how they want the application to look when they use it and to set the criteria that must be achieved before being allowed to progress to the next lesson. These settings are saved to the database and are retrieved each time the user opens the BusyFingers application. In the settings dialog the user can select the size of the application's window, the size of the font used by the application, whether to play the audio associated with certain actions and dialogs, which database to use to select the lessons from and many others options. Note, that all of these settings are only available if the administrator has set the appropriate permission level for the user in the user's preferences in the Teacher application.
Using BusyFingers on a Network
The site licence version of BusyFingers can be configured to be used on a network making it easier for the administrator to manage the databases and keep up to date on the progress of the users. BusyFingers can also be used on a single computer. In either configuration, there is no limit to the number of groups or users that can be entered in the database.
What's new in Version 5
- BusyFingers now allows users to take an exam to prove how good their touch typing really is. Users who pass the exam are awarded a certificate that they can print out and frame.
- It is now possible to display pictures within BusyFingers to help younger users become familiar with the keyboard by associating images and words.
- The criteria that must be achieved before progressing to the next lesson can now be set on a lesson by lesson basis; previously all the lessons used the same criteria.
- The statistics shown at the end of a lesson show the criteria (as a dotted line) that a user must achieve before they can progress to the next lesson.
- BusyFingers now offers the choice of two font styles giving the ability to display certain characters, for instance the "a" character, as children recognise it; i.e. as "a".
- When modifying the phrases used in the lessons that teach the QWERTY keyboard, the character set for each of the lessons can now be specified. It is also possible to check that the phrases in the lessons conform to the character set for the lesson.
- It is now possible to resize the BusyFingers window so it can be adapted for computers with large screen resolutions.
- The Speed Test practice area has a greater selection of phrases.
- There is now a user setting to control whether the text that the user types is displayed or hidden.
- The menu structure has been modified slightly with the introduction of a Practice menu option.
- There has been a change to the way that the words per minute calculation is made to make it more accurate.
- The exam certificates, for those users that have passed the exam, can be viewed and printed from within the Teacher application.
- When the Users database has a large number of users, the Teacher application is now much more responsive when viewing the statistics or manipulating the users in the groups.
System requirements for BusyFingers v5
BusyFingers runs on Apple Mac or Windows operating systems.
macOS 10.10 or later
100 MB of free disc space
100 MB of free disc space