If you teach touch typing for kids, you’ve probably seen or used Dance Mat Typing from the BBC – it’s been around for 20 years and is one of the longest serving touch typing programs. It’s still a great free resource, giving an introduction to the idea of touch typing. The BBC team worked hard on the design, balancing educational value & literacy with entertainment & fun to make a great typing program for kids that won a BAFTA. Englishtype’s designer and Educational Psychologist, Jo Westwood, was the typing expert on that team (see www.englishtype.com/dance-mat-typing/ to meet Dance Mat Typing’s big brother, Englishtype).
But there’s an imposter site that is hijacking the trusted Dance Mat Typing name – don’t be fooled by the fake! Make sure your kids are using the one and only original Dance Mat Typing from BBC Bitesize / BBC Schools. Or for a much more in-depth program that will teach unconscious muscle memory typing by touch, come and meet Englishtype’s Qwerty with lots more different lessons, games & activities, created by Dance Mat Typing’s educational & typing expert.
The website “kidztype” has copied the much-loved Dance Mat Typing name and slapped it on their own program too. It can only be in the hope of fooling people to use it, and this site shows adverts, something you know the BBC would never do! It’s not a common name, so what’s it about?
The name “Dance Mat Typing” can seem strange, people often ask me about it. The idea came from electronic ‘dance mat’ dancing games that were popular with home gaming consoles; the colourful dance mats get children jumping around following dance steps on screen. Dance Mat Typing’s colourful keyboard design was reminiscent of this, and also because fingers dancing on the keyboard is like feet dancing on a dance mat. And so the name was created!
Here’s the one and only real Dance Mat Typing from the BBC website and the copycat…
Dance Mat Typing Level One
Comparing real BBC Dance Mat Typing and ‘fake’ Kidztype, you can immediately see some of the differences at Dance Mat Typing Level One.
Kidztype is a poor copycat, not designed by experts in teaching children to touch type. It’s got adverts and links to other typing sites that don’t offer well-designed software either. The imposter is using a 4 colour system, also known as the “mirror” colour system, where each finger on both hands has the same colour. Not very helpful if you find left and right a little bit confusing as many children with Dyslexia and other SEN do.
BBC Dance Mat Typing uses 8 colours, designed by Englishtype’s Educational Psychologist, Jo, where each of the 8 fingers has its own unique colour. It really boosts learning the link between finger & letters. F and G are the same colour because they are typed with same finger; and J and H are the same colour & finger too.
Dance Mat Typing Level One – the Home row is the foundation for learning the whole keyboard
Also, like so many free typing programs, ‘fake’ Dance Mat Typing has dreadful content for practice: lots of random letter combinations which are pointless to type and useless vocabulary, shown below like “pickling, vineyard, grizzled”. Do you really want your child typing this?!
Vocabulary should be high frequency words “because, where, thought” to program the muscle memory with something useful and any non-words are only helpful if letter patterns train finger movements, eg. FGFRFTFVFB is the left index finger.
For helping your child learn to type, choose a carefully designed program that focuses on detailed skill acquisition to build muscle memory. ‘Fake’ Dance Mat Typing has no cumulative learning structure, allowing the user to jump about between levels; learning to type by touch is a skill that builds from the foundation of the home row and then more keys are added while always relating back. Jumping into a set of letters that you haven’t learned is pointless and a waste of time. Skill acquisition and mastery requires structured learning & practice.
If you’d like to know more about genuine BBC Dance Mat, ‘fake’ Dance Mat and other program to avoid or about touch typing and how to achieve the best results – come to one of BBC Dance Mat Typing’s creators, now running Englishtype. Give us a call, it’s a rare thing to talk to a real human these days when you ring a company or send us an email and we’ll do our best to help you.