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Qwertytown is a new browser-based app that has a unique take on a seemingly boring task: teaching students how to type. While many of the same elements are present from the typical skill-and-drill approach, this app implements a customizable Sims-style avatar system along with some healthy competition in order to make keyboarding fun.
Anyone near a classroom knows that digital literacy, including solid keyboarding skills, is an essential component of a complete 21st century education, but few students are likely to enthusiastically pursue typing drills and discussions of the home row without major complaint. Much of that resistance likely stems from the fact that today’s students already feel comfortable at a keyboard—but they may not have the proper skills. In fact, they may be experts at the hunt and peck method of typing, a much less efficient way of approaching keyboarding. Enter Qwertytown, which tries to meet students where they live, so to speak, by incorporating drills into what is essentially a video game format.
Qwertytown works brilliantly for students and teachers. When a student logs in, he or she is assigned an avatar that can be customized using Qwerty coins, earned through performance. Each student goes step-by-step through lessons, learning a brief lesson (that is modeled by a sample set of hands and keyboard that lights up and moves to demonstrate good form for students) and then practicing.
Students are then taken through keyboarding drills that challenge their understanding of the lesson they were just taught. The drills are short, but comprehensive and not easy, even for someone who is an accomplished keyboarder. Student performance is assessed and rewarded using a series of measurements, including accuracy percentage, words per minute speed, a Qwertytown medal (gold, silver, or bronze), and Qwertytown coins. If a drill does not go well, students can repeat them as often as they’d like, to earn a better medal or additional coins.
The Qwertytown teacher dashboard is simple to use and offers several important instructional functions. Teachers can send “Qmail” to students, encouraging them to keep working or recognizing good effort. At a glance, each student’s progress is available, including the number of attempts each student made to reach his or her current medal level. Teachers can add entire classes and create the medal threshold for each of those classes, determining what level of accuracy and words-per-minute speed should merit gold, silver, or bronze.
This online app would work beautifully for a wide range of ages and grade levels, since Qwertytown has at least three levels of keyboarding lessons and mastery drills. Younger students may be very motivated by earning Qwerty coins, which they can then use to customize their avatar in a host of creative ways, but older students are more likely to be motivated by the inherent sense of competition to get a faster, more accurate time than their friends. Either way, Qwertytown works to engage students in what might otherwise be a dull activity, offering to teachers an easy-to-manage independent activity for students that also increases digital literacy.
Qwertytown is available through their website and can be used via any web browser. Contact Qwertytown directly for pricing. They also offer handy volume discounts for schools.