This is a cross post from the TechLearning blog.
Keyboarding is an important skill. I reflected a bit on cursive and keyboarding on the TechLearning blog a year ago this month in the post, “The New Cursive.” Perhaps my comparison of cursive writing to keyboarding was not appropriate. The relevance of cursive to successful living was and is arguably much more tenuous than the relevance of keyboarding skills to success in our digitally connected environment. In any event, I continue to think keyboarding is a very important skill and one in which we should encourage students to not only practice but develop outstanding proficiency.
With these ideas in mind, I was delighted to discover the keyboarding game website Typeracer this evening. The website allows web visitors to race other people “live” on the site or set up individualized races with friends with an invitation code. Depending on how many people are online when you choose to start a new race, a number of different people will appear in your browser race window with unique car colors:
Users can choose to show only a single line of text or several lines, and if they choose to register for a free account the website keeps track of best WPM races ever, average WPM statistics, and other numerical indicators of keyboarding proficiency:
Rather than oral spelling tests, which have little relation to the skill set required in the world of work outside of school, I think schools should offer opportunities for public keyboarding contests. The website Typeracer certainly provides an engaging and challenging environment for practicing keyboarding skills. There are some advertisements on the site, but none of the ads I saw appeared to be inappropriate for school contexts.
I maintain a social bookmark list of other keyboarding game websites on delicious.com. Consider showing this website to your students in upcoming weeks, and challenging them to race you head-to-head in a keyboarding contest!
Thanks to Chris Wyatt in his latest TiPS – Technology in Public Schools podcast with Wendy for bringing Typeracer to my attention. 🙂
keyboarding, typing, keyboard, type, game, gaming, online, contest
If you enjoyed this post and found it useful, subscribe to Wes' free newsletter. Check out Wes' video tutorial library, "Playing with Media." Information about more ways to learn with Dr. Wesley Fryer are available on wesfryer.com/after.
On this day..
- iOS Podcast Subscriptions on the Go - 2011
- The Roadmap to Blended Learning and the #playingwithmedia Classroom Challenge - 2011
- Bring on the EVs (electric vehicles,) EV Conversion Kits, ZERO Emissions Cars and Plug-In Hybrids - 2010
- Hi tech Disney demos for A Christmas Carol - 2009
- New Ustream and Qik Apps available for iPhone, but no live-streaming without jailbreak - 2009
- Learning about new iPhone and iTouch Apps (Aug 2009) - 2009
- WikiPedia gives good citation advice - 2008
- Maxtor OneTouch 4 Plus formatting problem solved - 2008
- "Upgrading" by Bob Sprankle - 2007
- Instructive experiences with WinXP and a tablet PC - 2006
Typeracer is fun and does offer some great features as you pointed out. But, a word of caution, when I featured Typeracer on my blog, a few readers said that they had found some “R-rated” quotes being generated.
Goodness, I didn’t run into that and am certainly glad to be aware of it. I wonder if the quotes you type are affected at all by your birth year which you enter. I did find this link on the TypeRacer blog which tells the development story of the website. I’ll try to contact the developer and ask about this.
Hi Wes. I admire the work you do and read much of what you publish. I usually agree with you, but not this time. I think it’s extremely short-sided to emphasize keyboarding skills with young people today. Not only are the touch screen and other types of input devices rapidly evolving, we finally have voice recognition that works very well and will still continue to get better. Everyone is ga-ga about what an iPhone and similar devices can do, but notice that there isn’t a keyboard in sight. I believe that probably five years from now and certainly ten years from now there will be almost no reason to use a keyboard. How much time should we spend teaching an elementary school kid that “skill?”
My daughter had “computer class” (yep, that’s what they called it) in 6th grade last year for first semester. They spent the first three months on keyboarding drills and now she never wants to take another computer class. Turns out that computer class is no fun at all, but doing things on the computer can be lots of fun and creative. Score one for informal learning. In my letter to the principal I am asking whether their curriculum is designed to prepare my daughter for a career as a secretary (not that there’s anything wrong with that). But even secretaries won’t be using keyboards in the future.
All the best, Barry
Ditto from me on the inappropriate content on Typeracer. I keep seeing this being highlighted in blogs and I worry that someone will use it with students and have an unfortunate surprise. When I tested it several months ago, it pulled up lyrics from rap songs and I was shocked. It doesn’t happen all the time, but there seems to be no way to totally protect your students from raw content. I would not risk using this with students, even though it is very fun!
With respect to inappropriate quotations on Typeracer, I contacted the developer on his blog and asked about this specific issue. It certainly is something he could address. No response yet.
Barry, please note I am not advocating that we spend entire classperiods on keyboarding. We had a lot of elementary computer teachers in Lubbock where I taught in the late 1990s do that, and you’re right, it is generally demotivating for most kids. It is very important that students learn about home row and proper typing techniques, however, so they can develop speed.
I agree that different interfaces are being used in some devices and may one day displace our traditional keyboard layout inherited from the typewriter, but to herald that time as having arrived is premature I think. In terms of the iPhone, I use my keyboard on the iPhone almost every day to respond to email, enter addresses into Google maps, and enter my password to download new iPhone applications. That is not home row typing, but the keyboard layout on the iPhone does mirror the traditional keyboard.
I’m saying here that keyboarding is an important skill. How many times do we see kids spending hours keyboarding their essays in a computer lab or even on mobile devices like Alphasmarts? Certainly there are far more important and engaging things to do with computers than just keyboarding, but keyboarding is a gateway skill to higher levels of proficiency and more complex tasks with computers. One of the best ways to encourage students to keyboard is to learn home row, have some games available to play from time to time, but focus on reading and writing. This is a primary reason I am an outspoken advocate of classroom blogging.
I certainly am not advocating that we fill the precious few minutes many students have in the computer lab with tedious keyboarding exercises. Let’s learn the basics and then make games available which can encourage students to improve their skills and speed on their own time.
I wonder if a reason the developer of Typeracer is using rap songs is because he is providing affiliate links for users to buy those songs, and he’s providing lyrics to songs and books he thinks people will want to buy?
The idea of this website is very good, and if the developer of the site is not willing or unable to make the content school-appropriate, I think it would be great to see someone else develop a similar site that is explicitly kid-appropriate.
I came to comment on the inappropriate words on TypeRacer too, but I see that has already been addressed.I would however, like to comment on the response about teaching keyboarding. I am a Middle School computer teacher. Learning how to type well is very important. While there are alternative input sources available, using a keyboard is still the way most people input information into a computer. I can’t see everyone in some business atmosphere somewhere using voice recognition software – it would be a very noisy place : ) Teaching students to keyboard correctly will make them more productive students and adults, and it will help reduce the injuries that are typically seen with bad typing habits. That said, I have my students type for about 15 mins at the beginning of each class period (periods are about an hour) and they love it. Years ago I used to be able to use typing as a punishment (: )) now they don’t want to stop!