"Extreme keyboarding" is the theme of this game designed to boost children's typing skills. Accuracy and speed are important keyboarding skills that are espcially relevant for today's children. This program helps them improve typing skills through arcade-style games, timed typing sessions, and lessons.
The goal of the game is to help ready the Sparks Dream Team for competition. This requires coaching the team because Coach Qwerty is locked in the Trophy Room! Children need to recharge Power Cards in order to free the coach, and they do this by practicing typing. Training begins with a placement test. This diagnostic test is timed and it defines the goals that need to be met for recharging the Power Cards.
Once the initial test is complete, children "build strength" through their participation in lessons and tests, after which they can play the five arcade-style games. In Roller Racing, for example, players help their skateboarding teammate make it to the finish line while avoiding obstacles. The skateboarder will dodge obstacles only if players type in the requested letters on their keyboard. Kids play tabletop foosball in Keyboard Kicks where controlling their players' moves and kicks requires attention to letter patterns and accurate typing. Pictured above is the Trail Blazer activity in which children quickly and accurately type the letters shown in the bubbles above each team member in order to successfully lead them down the ski slopes.
Children earn medals for their efforts in some of the activities. In keeping with the Olympics theme, these medals are bronze, silver, and gold.
Building team strength requires taking typing lessons and timed tests in the Keyboard Training Center. The program's 30+ lessons consist of short introductions to key locations using a color-coded onscreen keyboard, some practice with the letters learned in the introduction, and timed tests. The timed tests incorporate the keys taught in the lesson. Because the tests place emphasis on particular keys and key combinations, many of the sentences children type are nonsensical. However, they provide targeted practice with specific keys and key combinations. Players' words per minute and number of mistakes are displayed at the end of the tests.
We wish the lessons were integrated into the game in a more entertaining manner. As it stands, the lessons can be easily bypassed. Our testers were anxious to get to (or back to) the fun games. They quickly learned that they could bypass the lessons and go straight to the timed tests. That said, the program presents truly fun ways to practice a rather uninteresting subject.