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Ultrakey 5.0

  1. Bytes of Learning

  2. KS2 (Years 3-6)

  3. Cross-curricular

KS2 Content Evaluation by Angela Jones

UltraKey is a keyboarding tutor program. It aims to support the user to become an efficient word processor through the use of progressive and systematic exercises. These use a variety of approaches that are recognised as good practice including 3D animation, computer graphics and video support. This variety helps to ensure that each learner is able to access easily and make progress, whatever their preferred learning style. Developing from isolated key strokes to letter combinations, words, sentences and paragraphs the user is encouraged to develop fluency.Instead of imposing one approach on all users, numerous options have been implemented so the software can adapt to local and individual needs. For instance, teachers can elect controlled sequencing, change pass levels, or tell the program how to calculate speed amongst others. Users can change skin tone, select a preferred voice and set their own challenge levels. They can even select a preferred desktop and colour theme.The program and the available information are contained on a CD-ROM. The written material is held as Acrobat files and divided into a Read Me section, an UltraKey Guide, a licence and an icon that enables access to online help. There is also an icon to start the program that I dragged from the UltraKey box to the desktop to allow ease of access.Whilst installing the program, which started automatically when the CD-ROM was inserted, I was given the option of loading an uninstall option and also a SAPI5 voice link. Both of these options loaded quickly and with the minimum of fuss. The uninstall option also uninstalled the program easily.Quicktime 4 or later, is essential for the running of this software and the program will search for it on the machine when installed. If Quicktime is not found it will offer the user the oportunity to install it from the CD-ROM.When I first started the program I was presented with three icons. Two of these led to a screen where I could select a host. The other option was to hear a voice telling me when the licence expired and how to purchase other licences.
Supporting Documentation
The UltraKey guide that is presented as an Acrobat file is a comprehensive and well presented work. It takes the user through each stage clearly and with acknowledgement that there may be many different age groups and abilities working with this program.Full information is given about the use of the program together with the management issues that teaching with it may raise. There is information about skills checks, classroom management, creating class managers and working with the program without a network server amongst many others. There is information in the guide relating to the use of an online data server. The UltraKey 5.0 CD contains installers for UltraKey 5.0 and the UltraKey 5.0 Data Server. According to the Read Me file UltraKey 5 is engineered for network use. I used this program on a stand alone machine so did not have the facility to try this option. The CD is hybrid, which means it also contains installers for the Macintosh OS X format of UltraKey.

The website holds further information and has a page on which a video can be purchased that shows live demonstrations of keyboarding instruction inmany different class situations. Having logged onto the title I was offered the option of watching a video that shows the correct posture when typing.

Also held on the CD-ROM are a set of 'More Information' modules, which are installed with the software. These cover esssential skills and provide in-depth information on a wide variety of applicable items. These include: Posture, Fingers, Lessons,and Skill Check and Typing Forum.These take the form of brief paragraphs that highlight the surrounding issues and would be helpful to an adult or teacher. At the bottom of the module notes is a reminder that further help can be found at the online help site and the icon to link to it is shown.

Curriculum Relevance
The title can be used in a cross-curricular fashion whenever typing is identified as the appropriate means to record something. The accompanying information that is held on CD-ROM shows the extent to which the title can support the learner. It is far reaching and would certainly help the learner typist to gain confidence and develop skills in a wide range of situations wherever the need to develop the ability to type accurately is required. The way in which the program is structured with its progessive development helps to ensure that the student is able to work at their own pace and to progress from the work that they have completed into new work effectively.

Analysis of Contents
As the work is pitched at an appropriate level for the individual it helps to ensure that they are not being asked to complete a task that is inappropriate. When a passage has been typed by the user UltraKey checks the work to try to establish whether there is a pattern of errors. From this analysis the program will suggest ways in which these can be overcome and practice will be offered.Due to the ability of the program to work at the users level it will cover a wide range of ages and abilities. The speak facility helps to ensure that those who are unsure of written instructions can access them through speech.

The copy of the UltraKey title that I evaluated was a British copy with the Guide formatted to print on A4 paper although some spellings were spelt containing a 'z' for example, authorization and maximize. I do not think that this would cause great concern as these spellings are now commonly met.The links to the Internet were quick and easy to access.

UltraKey is a comprehensive program that will benefit many students. The way in which the program responds to students of differing abilities would help it to be relevant to many users. It is possible to alter the font and font size for printed test copy. UltraKey 5.0 allows the user to select a desktop picture and colour theme to suit their taste and needs. UltraKey themes also control the display font size and the keyboard display. For those who require additional practice this may be possible at home if the machine that runs the program and the data server machine are both connected to the Internet.

UltraKey is a very comprehensive program that offers students the ability to develop their keyboarding skills with a progressive and structured approach. The program ensures that the student is correctly placed through the administration of an onscreen skills check and then works in a variety of ways to support development. The user is encouraged through individual challenge levels that enable them to progress at their own speed. Additional support is automatically provided when needed through the constant monitoring of the results obtained by the individual as work can be monitored at home or at school via the Internet.This would prove to be a useful aide when developing keyboarding skills as it provides a high degree of support throughout the use of the title.