How did you learn how to type? I’d like to credit most of my speedy keyboard skills to playing old-school Sierra games. And while typing “jump”, “run”, “kiss the frog” or “activate thermal detonator” aren’t necessarily useful phrases, how fast I can put the words on screen is. After all, today’s tech environment is all about type. (Not too long ago, Finland actually scrapped cursive writing altogether, sparking a worldwide debate over the future of handwriting in classrooms.)
There is no question that tablets are an essential part of today’s curriculum and that they have the ability to make learning fun. And I don’t know about you, but sometimes when my toddler gets overly-whiney, I happily close the toilet and window (do you have to ask?) and hand him my phone pre-loaded with an educational app to get him through the moment.
To get your kid acquainted with the ABC of Qwerty, here are some of my favourite websites, apps and more.
Dance Mat Typing
Hosted on the BBC Schools website, Bitesize’s Dance Mat Typing is bright and colourful and promises to teach key keyboard skills in only a few lessons. There are four levels to play, and each is divided into three stages. You start by learning the home row keys – ASDFJJKL; – and work to include close vowels like E, I , and U. To start, there’s a quirky and encouraging goat named Gary who has an Irish accent and will guide you through. But to mix things up, you’ll also meet an Italian octopus named Calamarie, a rooster named Ray… it’s all a lot of good fun and perfect for primary school and beyond. Find it online here.
Never mind Pac-Man, rather try this cute (but sometimes confusing) Key Man clone. It looks just like the arcade game you know and love, complete with monsters and dots, but instead of moving the main character around with arrow keys, he is surrounded by letters of the alphabet and you’ll have to use the right one to get him going. What makes it even more tough, is that these letters keep changing so you’ll have to work fast and know where everything is on your keyboard to win. You can also adjust the difficult of the game by choosing to include numbers… or make it easy and start with the home row. Go to typingtest.com to try it out.
Clockwords: Act 1
If there is something your child likes, there’s a good chance you’ll find a free typing game of the same theme on funtotype.com. From balloons to moneys, dinosaurs, zombies, fire engines and ghosts, there is something that will live up to every child’s imagination in this selection. I particularly like Clockwords: Act 1, a tower defense type of game that reminds me of Professor Layton with its gloomy Victorian London setting and enchanting soundtrack. More importantly, it’s a lot of fun. Your job is to type as many words you can to blast an assortment of mechanical bugs to smithereens. The better your vocab, the longer you’ll survive. Try it out here. (Feel free to skip the very dramatic intro.)
Clever Keyboard: Free ABC Learning Game For Kids (iOS and Android)
If you’re already teaching your child phonics and showing them flashcards, this app is a great transition tool that will get them typing (or at least somewhat familiar with a keyboard and pre-reading skills). It may not be as polished or interactive as Dance Mat Typing, but it is quite sweet. There’s an elephant and snake at the top of the screen that offer helpful hints and as you progress, you’ll win stickers that can be placed on a chalkboard of sorts and come to life. Find it on the iTunes and the Google Play Store.
SpongeBob SquarePants Typing (Mac App Store)
Who lives in a pineapple at the bottom of the sea and knows how to type? Spongebob Squarepants! Everyone’s favourite cartoon sponge hero, of course. If your primary school child loves this particular Nickolodeon character and you’re willing to spend some money, then this particular download is something special. The entire Bikini Bottom cast is involved in a typing tutorial that offers both a full game and free (fun – not free in price) mode. Expect different activities and quizzes that are available in three different difficulty levels as well as guides that teach everything from correct posture – erganomics and whatnot – to finger placement. So if nautical nonsense be something you wish… SpongeBob SquarePants Typing will make you smile, laugh and and type away. It’s the full package. Find it on the Mac App Store for R249.99 or cheaper through BigFishGames here. You can also play a free, one hour trial of the game first.