As I sit here watching a group of 3rd graders eagerly typing away at their keyboards, I find myself aghast that I haven’t written about Dance Mat Typing before. A quick search through my archives reveals that I haven’t shared the “silver bullet” of touch typing that is Dance Mat Typing. No single website that I’ve found offers the same level of engagement, security, and dangerously high levels of cuteness. 2nd, 3rd, and 4th graders eat it up, with its colorful scenery, heavily accented characters, and simplicity.
Of course, you expect nothing less from BBC Schools, the website that hosts Dance Mat. Time and again, the British Broadcasting Corporation’s delivers with high quality content for schools, and I have yet to hear one of my 3rd graders complain about the site (and we’ve been using it for three years at school now!). Of course, it does have it’s downsides; you can’t save your progress, it runs in Flash, so there are some quirky issues if you have a click-happy child using it, and sometimes it can be difficult to make out what the heavily-accented voice actors are trying to say.
Thankfully, the simplicity of the tool means that you can use it even without sound (although you wouldn’t really want to). The voices are cute, and will often times poke fun at the kids to encourage them to try harder; they all get a kick out of the first level when the cartoon goat that’s showing them the home row calls them a “fat sissy”. After every third stage they’re treated to a humorous song, sung in a different style (county, rock and roll, folk Italian, flamenco, etc.), and after each of the four larger levels they get to print a colorful, cartoon-filled certificate, which is the ultimate in extrinsic rewards.
While I don’t like to create “Best of…” lists, because websites are always evolving, changing, and dying out, Dance Mat Typing is definitely one of those sites that stopped my search for an effective and engaging home row typing tool. The best evidence for this? This week a majority of the kids have been coming in to tell me how much fun they had using the website to practice their typing…at home!