Understanding Mavis Beacon

Behind the magic of the graphics, text, and sound, Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing for Schools employs a proven theory and powerful engine that effectively teaches millions of students how to type. It is not necessary for your students to understand the technical workings of the program, but they may want to know how Mavis Beacon makes her decisions and imparts suggestions to them during their lessons.

While typing seems simple, it is a complex skill that combines both motor and cognitive functions. The best typing teachers know this, and work individually with their students. As students progress, you watch for characteristic error patterns or significant increases or decreases in their speed, and then you adjust the lessons accordingly. Mavis Beacon does this for you. She is your teaching aid, your students’ private tutor— she watches over their shoulder, tailoring the program to fit their needs, so you can instruct the entire class. She incorporates human knowledge with the latest technology and presents a fun-filled typing course tailored to your students’ specific needs.

NOTE: If you would like to change the pre-determined program settings at any time, you can access edit class and student settings from the Class Management screen in the Teacher’s Area. Refer to the User Guide for more information on changing settings.

Script Files

When your students first enter the program, Mavis Beacon draws her responses, tests, quizzes, and lesson from pre-stored data. Once she reviews and analyzes a sample of your students’ typing, she places them in the lesson designed specifically for their skill level.

From that point onward, Mavis Beacon analyzes the results of all your students’ lessons for speed and accuracy per key and then customizes lessons to meet their ever-changing typing needs. To achieve this, she uses a special formula that determines hot keys. This calculation examines each key, and gives extra weight to those keys that occur in the current lesson. Mavis Beacon also calculates weight based on the frequency of keys used in lessons previously prepared for your students.

She uses this compilation for a few reasons.

Mavis Beacon wants to emphasize the current lesson keys. She begins each session with a goal related to your students’ historical progress in the course. Since there is no current session data, the starting lesson focuses on certain keys and patterns. By emphasizing the current session, these keys are emphasized for the remainder of the session and your students recognize that they are working toward a goal. Mavis Beacon also wants to weigh keys in proportion to their frequency in common English usage. If your students type the letter Z half as fast as the letter S, but S occurs three times more frequently than Z, then your student needs do complete more work with the letter S than Z. Too often typing programs do not factor in English usage and quiz letters out of proportion to their importance in actual daily typing tasks.

While these two criteria may come across as contradictory, the rules used to mediate among them balance out. This contrast works because the program tracks and records each of your students’ keystrokes, noting split-second differences in the keystroke interval times for all the keys typed.

The Analysis Phase

After Mavis Beacon determines the keys on which to focus, she builds a lesson that corrects your students typing problems and builds their skills. She analyzes the results of their previous lessons for many types of errors and statistics, including the following:

  • Speed and accuracy per key

  • Number of keys needed before catching an error and backing up

  • Transition rate to and from a given key

  • Dropped keys

  • Repeated keys

  • Transpositions

  • Right column on the wrong key

  • Overlapping errors (typing between two keys instead of on one)

  • Mirror image (correct row and finger but wrong hand)

  • Shift key problems

  • Any consistent problems with incorrectly hitting keys

Mavis Beacon reviews several beginning categories, and then generates new, individually required categories with her sophisticated pattern recognition capabilities. Once reviewed, Mavis Beacon records the resulting statistics for each key and groups them into several compositional categories. They include the statistic’s relation to any finger, row, column, hand, or key type. These results update the historical information that the program tracks on your students’ performance for each lesson, session, and all lessons combined.

Hot Keys

After the program completes the basic analysis for your students, it scans to locate letters with the highest “hot key” rating. The program identifies faulty keys using a standard statistical analysis that rates the importance of any key by its overall contribution to the speed-error matrix.

Next, the program totals across the rows for errors in those columns that match the designated hot keys. These totals are adjusted by the frequency with which the category has been used as a contributing factor in determining previous lessons and by a preference weighting based on research into the causes, and importance, of each kind of error. A comparison of the totals determines if there are any obvious error types. If there is a standout type of error, it is set aside.

Compositional Errors

If no statistically important error types occur, the program identifies “descriptive” errors and categorizes them by finger, row, hand, or character type (for example, punctuation, numeric values, alphas, and so on). Significant variances in these categories generate the construction of an appropriate lesson. If the program cannot locate a particular category, then it creates a “no category” lesson.

Other Justifications for a Lesson

In addition to this two-phase analysis, other factors affect lesson choice. Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing for Schools works hard to avoid lesson repetition. The program is always against doing a primary lesson type at too closely spaced an interval. If the factors weighing in favor of repeating a lesson type are very strong, the program probably will not allow it to repeat. Instead, it might predict that unless the your student improves, he or she will likely see this type of lesson again soon.

The program is also concerned about the frustration factor. Sometimes your students give up (escapes out of the lesson only partway through), fidgets (pauses a lot for breaks or does not accept the offered lesson), or gets upset (the program tracks lots of keystrokes coming through very fast, none of which are correct).

Lesson Templates

Each error type has one or more associated general lesson “templates,” which are lists of rules specifying an appropriate response in general terms. Outside factors that moderate this lesson pattern occur with the insertion of age-appropriate content. For example, the program may call for a lesson built of phrases for a child, teen, or adult, and then draw the content from the appropriate database.

Each template also includes a list of Mavis Beacon lesson descriptions associated with it. These descriptions provide the words that Mavis Beacon uses to rationalize her lesson choices.

Lesson Components

The program has enormous lesson creating components. It can prepare lessons from an extensive database of words provides for lesson after lesson focused on those words that containing certain characters, patterns, or both. Alternatively, the program can draw from databases of interesting sayings, facts, and other resources. It can also access numerous prepared lessons to test special skills like 10-Key typing, business correspondence, and more. Lessons that focus on the left hand, right hand, and “typing hurdles” are possible with the Common Words and 500 Most Common Words in the English language databases.

Building the Lesson

After choosing the lesson type and format, the program generates the actual lesson next. As discussed earlier, each error type has an associated set of remedies and each remedy has a set of responses. Lessons are created from the information contained there. Depending on the typing situation, the program might use a prepared lesson presented in an appropriate way, create a lesson based on the phrase database at its disposal, or create a lesson based on words and common letter patterns.