Review by Jenny Bristol, Common Sense Education | Updated March 2018

QwertyTown

Fabulous keyboarding lessons entice kids with social rewards

Subjects & skills
Subjects
  • English Language Arts

Skills
  • Communication & Collaboration
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
1–8
Great for:
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (7 Reviews)

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Pros: A thorough keyboarding curriculum with social communication and competitive features keeps students' interest.

Cons: The color system makes it difficult to tell when students make a typing mistake, and there's little flexibility for individualized instruction.

Bottom Line: Fun, charming typing lessons get keyboarding students started on the right foot and keep them developing their skills.

Use QwertyTown to teach students good typing habits and email etiquette. They're likely already using keyboards at home, but they may be hunting and pecking or using the wrong fingers. If so, it's good to retrain them to use standard hand positions. You could give them QwertyTown lessons once a week during a computer literacy section, or you can just let them move at their own speed through the lessons. The social rewards are a great incentive, so students may be excited to return to QwertyTown frequently.

Monitor your students' progress through the teacher dashboard, and use the Qmail and Head2Head social options as rewards for completing levels. You can set gold, silver, and bronze medal levels there as well, and access teacher resources such as video tutorials, teacher and administrator guides, lesson starters, and more. You can also set the range of friends allowed on students' friend lists, and see full transcripts of their Qmail messages. 

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QwertyTown is a subscription-based website that teaches kids keyboarding skills. Navigate to leveled lessons from a student dashboard, where you can also customize your avatar, access Qmail for sending messages to friends, and challenge others in Head2Head matchups. These social options can be unlocked when certain levels are complete, or teachers can modify those settings. Parents or teachers have access to all Qmail transcripts.

Abby, a purple-haired guide, introduces you to QwertyTown (you can either read her instructions or listen as she tells you what to do). Scaffolded lessons have three parts: Demo, Guided Practice 1 and 2, and Independent. Hand outlines within the lessons show which fingers to use with which keys. In Demo, students are introduced to new keys, and can try pressing them themselves. In the two levels of Guided Practice, students type letter patterns with only the new keys, and are given help if they type incorrect keys. In Independent, students type patterns with both new and previously learned keys. They are assessed on their WPM speed and accuracy and awarded medals for reaching certain thresholds, along with QwertyCoins, in-game currency that can be used to purchase items for their avatar. The lessons cover the letters of the alphabet, the digits 0-9, commonly used punctuation and symbols, and other keys, such as Tab, Enter, and so forth.

QwertyTown provides a full curriculum for students to learn keyboarding, digital literacy, and safe online communication skills. Its three-part lesson format introduces each element, gives students a chance to practice, and then tests them on the new information in combination with previously learned skills. The design is cute and the voice-overs are excellent. The Head2Head challenges promote fluency in students' typing, since they're racing their opponent to complete a typing challenge as accurately as possible. Qmail gives students an opportunity to use their typing skills to communicate with others in their own words, at their own speed.

Though the site has real value, it could be improved with a few updates. The site contains some misspellings, such as "eyeware" instead of "eyewear" in the avatar customization screen. Also, each key on the keyboard is given a color, and when students type letters, the letters are then displayed in that key's color. Because of this, it's very difficult for students to see when they've mistyped a letter, since it only flashes red for an instant. Perhaps in higher levels, the rainbow colors could be replaced by a single color, with red showing up (and staying) for mistyped letters. Flexibility for skipping levels, using the Backspace key, and typing more sentences and paragraphs would also be helpful for more experienced students.

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Design is intuitive and charming, with lovely illustrations and colorful, kid-friendly, customizable avatars. Warm instruction keeps kids on track. Qmail and Head2Head maintain the engagement.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

The three-part learning process lets kids work up to typing by themselves, and the social rewards are an interesting approach. Keyboarding skills will definitely contribute to future computer literacy.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

Help for kids is in the form of a guide, voiced by a child, who offers instruction and advice both visually and through a cute audio track. A detailed FAQ, tutorial videos, and teacher and admin guides are also available.


Teacher Reviews

(See all 7 reviews) (7 reviews) Write a review
Featured review by
Alexander F. , Technology coordinator
Technology coordinator
Campbell Hall Episcopal
Studio City, United States
A colorful typing trainer packed with gamification that falls short on support and differentiation.
The typing practice itself is great, though the engineering has some obvious flaws like losing focus on the window by accidentally touching the trackpad. The typing tutors provide voice feedback which is helpful to students. The visuals are colorful and attention grabbing. The coins and tokens add motivation to the student experience. In my opinion, they go to far with the social components. There is simply no need for an internal chat and email program. In addition, the only way to spend the coins is on customizing your avatar - a task with no learning value. This thin use of gamification distracts the students from the inherent value of the skills they are learning and the lack of diverse bodies and looks in the avatar creation has drawn complaints from my students. (the bodies are meant to be gender neutral, but they default to a 'boy'). While lack of diversity in avatars is just a nuisance, lack of ability to differentiate student instruction or start students at different levels is concerning and frustrating considering other typing apps offer these features.
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