Six Steps to Organizing a Keyboarding Competition
by Christine Mueller
These days, even our youngest students are required to type quickly and accurately to complete online assignments and district-wide assessments. And if they can’t type well, they’re at a distinct disadvantage. As I visited campuses across the Oklahoma City Public School (OKCPS) district at the start of the school year, teachers and students spoke to me at length about this challenge. While I was brainstorming about how to help, I remembered that my favorite part of freshman typing class was the fierce competition I had with my classmates. So, I combined my nerdy love of the spelling bee with a typing competition and the OKCPS Key Bee was born! Here are six steps to organizing a district-wide keyboarding competition:
1. Explain the Why
When discussing future-ready skills for students, keyboarding is a must. Not only is keyboarding an essential skill for most career fields, it has also become a required skill in today’s digital learning environment. Moreover, our state tests are administered online so students who aren’t able to type efficiently and accurately often struggle. I lead with this information on our district’s Key Bee website and emphasize the critical importance of keyboarding when speaking to principals, district officials, teachers, students and sponsors.
2. Pick a Program
As soon as I had the district’s support for a keyboarding competition, I began searching for a typing program that would provide meaningful instruction in a fun and engaging manner. I soon discovered that Typing.com, a free online typing tutor, checks all the boxes and syncs with our single sign-on system and online gradebook. Typing.com starts out with a focus on hand placement and the home row keys and its adaptive learning technology ensures students get individualized lessons that focus on their specific trouble spots. Importantly, students love the program’s gamified approach to learning.
3. Make it Easy
To encourage participation, we kept the rules of the Key Bee fairly simple and made it easy to participate. To that end, I created a website where principals or lead teachers could enter their school into the contest and find everything they would need. We also kept our focus on teaching proper use of all fingers and made it clear we would reward accuracy over speed at the final competition.
4. Generate Buzz
For our Key Bee, we created the #OKCPSKeyBee hashtag and advertised on a number of platforms, such as our district website, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Workplace, in person during school visits, and via email campaigns. Our Education Technology Services team served as the point of contact for each participating school and met with them as needed. Once teachers began using Typing.com, we encouraged them to explore some of the great features such as the lesson- and test-creator tools where teachers can use vocabulary and definitions from their classroom curriculum. As we visited schools each week, we captured video and pictures of students typing or competing and posted challenges to other schools while bragging about the progress we were seeing. These efforts helped to generate a buzz across the district.
5. Plan for the Finals
To begin, decide which grades would benefit the most from a Key Bee competition; in our case, we chose third through eighth grade. Establish a clear vision of why you are doing this in the first place. Next, determine your goals for the finals to help outline your needs and logistics. In our district, schools were encouraged to hold their own bee to determine school champions. Once they completed that step, they entered the finals via a Google Form. We also enrolled each school champion into our own Typing.com championship class so all the finalists would be grouped together in the finals.
6. Make it Fun!
I had a blast coming up with the “Mission Possible” theme to provide a framework for the competition. We had this theme in mind for everything we did, from every greeting, such as, “Welcome, Agent,” to the kickoff video we made for each school, and even our final prizes. We wanted to make the finals fun and exciting, so we pumped up the lights and the music and kept the party going! We recruited our local Oklahoma City Thunder mascot, Rumble the Bison, to make a special appearance, and we announced each finalist’s name and invited them all to walk on stage like true champions.
Our district-wide competition and the excitement of the finals generated widespread enthusiasm and contributed to a significant improvement in students’ keyboarding skills. Of course, like any big project, you will have to make tweaks and edits as you grow but that is all part of the fun! I knew it was all worth it when a sweet little third grader leaned over to me during the finals and said, “No one has ever called my name like this.” At that moment, I knew this Key Bee was here to stay.