When my son was young, he had a learning disability called dysgraphia—a problem that affects handwriting. Students who have dysgraphia can have problems in school. Fortunately, my son learned to type like the wind. Even now he touch-types so fast his fingers are a blur on the keyboard. Fast, accurate typing helped him succeed in school. And video games helped him get good at it.
Typing is all about practice. And one thing video games excel at is keeping kids engaged in a task long enough to practice. As one of my favorite studies says, “Game designers are wizards of engagement. They have mastered the art of [getting people to] …persevere in the face of multiple failures, and celebrate the rare moments of triumph after successfully completing challenging tasks.”
Here are a few games—some are free downloads and some are online PC games—that can help get kids engaged in practicing their typing skills.
I can’t help it—I find the sassy British animal characters in this game from the BBC hilarious. They coach you along, reminding you to sit up straight and keep your “peepers” off the keyboard. The characters kept me coming back for more practice, and the levels made me want to improve my performance. Since it’s from the BBC, it doesn’t come with ads. A nice bonus. I type every day and I’m proud of my typing skills, but it felt good to practice proper technique for typing question marks, semicolons, and quote marks.
Abcya.com has lots of games to choose from—and lots of ads. I tried a few of the games, and they’re kind of fun. I didn’t love the sound effects, though. And the ads are pretty annoying.
Okay, this simple game is fun. As you type the words that are falling from the top of the screen, a spaceship at the bottom of the screen shoots them and vaporizes them. Extremely satisfying. This game is all about improving your typing speed. There are no game levels that take you through the slow process of learning the QWERTY keyboard—although I guess if you played this game enough you’d naturally learn the keys in order to improve your score and shoot those words dead before they hit the ground.
5. iPad Typing Games
It seems like a big old trend right now: kids are using iPads for school.
It follows that typing on an iPad would be a good skill to build. Type Type Train gets pretty good reviews and it only costs 99 cents. The difficulty ramps up pretty quickly, so it may not be right for younger kids or those of us who tend to be on the impatient side. There are also tons of free typing games on the App Store, like Letterorites. If I was a lucky kid with an iPad, I might try downloading some free typing games to see if I could find a free one I liked.
6. Any Massively Mulitplayer Online Game (MMO)
When you play online with a bunch of people, sometimes you can use a text box to communicate rather than a headset. And when you do that, you end up typing a lot. And when you type a lot, you naturally get better at it. With multitasking being the norm in an MMO, it’s not really practical to hunt and peck. Typing to communicate in an MMO can be a fantastic way to improve keyboarding skills. However, proper technique will not be part of this experience, and some bad habits, like misspellings and typos (and abbreviations), are likely to happen in the heat of the game.
Keep in mind that this list includes only a minuscule sampling of typing games that are available on websites, as apps, and as downloads. Google searches for typing games will turn up a long list of options. But some of the sites are, frankly, junked up with lots of ads and some don’t have very good games. If you’re looking around for something new, I recommend visiting an education website like Edutopia.org or an educational technology blog like Edtechideas for guidance.