Review by Polly Conway, Common Sense Education | Updated November 2013

QwertyTown

Fabulous keyboarding lessons entice kids with social rewards

Common Sense Says:
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Grades
1-5 This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
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Pros: QwertyTown is a delightful place for kids to explore, and gentle guidance from parents or teachers will help kids develop good habits.

Cons: The program is only available to schools; individuals and teachers can't purchase their own accounts.

Bottom Line: Fun, charming typing lessons get kids started on the right foot.

Use QwertyTown to make sure students learn good typing habits. 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 during school. You could give them QwertyTown lessons once a week during a computer literacy section, or you can just let them move quickly through the lessons. The social rewards are a great incentive, so students may be excited to return to QwertyTown frequently.

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QwertyTown is a subscription-based website that teaches kids keyboarding skills. Abby, a bespectacled, purple-haired guide, introduces you to QwertyTown (you can either read her instructions or turn on audio) and even offers ergonomic tips for sitting at the keyboard. You'll navigate from a main dashboard, where you'll customize an avatar. You begin with having access to Qmail, a mail service, but you must complete lessons to get more social options.

Scaffolded lessons have three parts: Modeling, Guided Practice, and Independent. As students work through the lessons, they'll receive new privileges. For example, passing the Level 5 Challenge unlocks an option to chat with friends. Parents or teachers have access to all Qmail and chat transcripts. Kids also get QwertyCoins, currency they can use to purchase items for their avatar.

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QwertyTown is a delightful land that students will love exploring. The design is outstanding, games are reasonably fun, and even the kid actors who voice QwertyTown characters are excellent. It's so good, it would be great if it taught further subjects beyond just keyboarding, which is becoming more of a natural skill for kids.

Students will navigate the town as an avatar they've chosen and customized (many diverse options are available). They will work through typing lessons, unlocking social opportunities that allow them to communicate with other QwertyTown users. It's safe and pretty delightful. Right now, the QwertyTown package is available only to schools and groups; they're working on making it available for individuals.

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Overall Rating
4

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?
4

Design is intuitive and extremely charming, with lovely animations and colorful, kid-friendly avatars. Warm instruction keeps kids on track; they'll have fun personalizing the experience.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?
4

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 (and regular) 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?
4

Help for kids is in the form of a guide, Abby, who offers instruction and advice both visually and through a cute audio track. A detailed FAQ for adults addresses safety issues and more.


Common Sense Reviewer
Polly Conway Classroom teacher