Tuesday, March 13, 2012

7 Resources for Developing Typing Skills

This morning my friend Ken Shelton asked me via Twitter if I had any resources for online keyboards. Of course I do, I just need to find them. So for Ken and everyone else looking for online typing practice sites, here's a short list to get you started.

Typing Web is an online typing tutorial that provides instant feedback after every free typing lesson. Typing Web offers beginner through advanced typing lessons for free. You can register to track your progress or you can use Typing Web without registering.

Word Games offers a large collection of online word games and typing games. The word games range from simple word searches and crosswords to games that require players to complete sentences and phrases. The typing games are a mix of simple sentence typing for speed and games that require accuracy to "defend" a character or move a character through a scene. Some of the games featured on Word Games can be either downloaded to your computer, see Typing Defense, others can be embedded into your blog or website.

Listen and Write is a great way for students to improve their typing skills and hear about the news. Listen and Write plays short audio clips of news stories and users type what they hear. The audio clips are relatively short, come in a few different levels, and registered users can track their progress.

Power Typing hosts a small collection of five typing games that students can use to develop their typing skills. Power Typing also offers typing lessons for Qwerty and Dvorak keyboards. The two games that I found easiest to access are Alphabetic Rain and See Don't.

Good Typing is a free online typing skill development program. Good Typing provides 27 graduated lessons designed to help students learn to use their entire keyboards correctly. Unlike some free online typing programs, Good Typing offers support twenty different keyboard styles including US style, Japanese style, and several European languages.

Dance Mat Typing is a nice little resource from the BBC. Young students (four to eight years old) can receive clear, informative typing instruction through Dance Mat Typing. There are four levels for students to work through. Within each level there are multiple lessons and practice activities. The very first lesson that students receive is placement of their hands on the keyboard. Each lesson and practice activity offers instant feedback in visual and audio form.

Typing Adventure is a nice little game that young students can use to practice their typing skills. To play the game students just have to visit the game site, read the directions, and press start. The game scenario presented to students is a character leaping from stepping stone to stepping stone. To move along the path students have to type the letters of the stones they want to jump to. Students earn points based on speed and accuracy.

Bonus Just for Fun Item!
I Do Dog Tricks is a fun little typing activity from Heart Gard (that's what my dog takes). Simply type a command and the dog in the picture will do the trick that you type. Try "bark" and "roll over" to get started.

Thanks to Kevin Jarrett through whom I found a few of these typing resources over the years. 

The Science of Gardening - Interactives and Videos

The Science of Gardening is a superb collection of interactive graphics and videos about gardening that I learned about from Mark Dunk on Twitter. Produced by Exploratorium, Science of Gardening has three basic categories; Feed, Control, and Bloom. In each category there are multiple videos and interactive graphics for students to explore.

In the Feed category students learn about dirt, compost, and seeds. The "garden variety" interactive reveals to student the origins of some common plants like corn, squash, onions, and carrots. Students can also take a video tour of a garden and learn what it takes to create good soil.

In the Control category of Science of Gardening students learn about like hybridizing plants, biodiversity, growing plants in a greenhouse, and take a look at a giant pumpkin competition.

Finally, in the Bloom category students explore pollination, the attraction of flowers, and see that a garden can grow just about anywhere when it is cared properly cared for.

Applications for Education
As spring approaches in the Northern Hemisphere (just a week away now) I'm sure many of us will be thinking about the blooming plants around us. Some of us may even have students planting gardens at home or at school (the alternative ed school in my district does that). The Science of Gardening could be a good resource to build a science lesson around that students can relate to outside of the classroom.

Create Study Materials from Evernote Notes

Ever since Google Bookmarks stopped supporting lists last fall, I have used Evernote almost exclusively for all of my bookmarks and notes. Recently, while exploring some the many features of Evernote, I discovered that you can create flashcards from the contents of an Evernote notebook.

StudyBlue, a flashcard service that I covered last week, allows you to pull your notes from Evernote into its service to create flashcards. You can pull in just one notebook from Evernote or pull in multiple notebooks. One you've imported your notebooks you can copy and paste from your any of your notes to create flashcards. If you have images and links you can include those in your flashcards too. Click here or here to get started importing Evernote content into StudyBlue.

Applications for Education
I've said it before and I'll say it again, flashcards are a very basic study method for very basic information. Yet flipping through flashcards remains a popular way for students to review information. By using StudyBlue students can access their review materials from any Internet-connected device. And by using Evernote to record notes, students can access those notes and create flashcards from any Internet-connected device.

Words of the World - The Origins of Words

Words of the World is another great series of videos from the University of Nottingham (they also brought us the Periodic Table of Videos and Foodskey - The Science of Food). Words of the World is a collection of videos featuring historians and linguists explaining the origins of and history of the use of words in the English language. The videos attempt to put the words into a somewhat modern context. For example this video about the word guerrilla makes reference to Che Guevara. The sample I've embedded below explains the history of the word California.

Applications for Education
Words of the World could be an instructive model for your own lesson combining history and language arts. Have your students pick a word or two that they think is common and research it. Then have them create their own short videos in which they explain the history of those words. You might even have them research the dialect of the areas in which they live. For example, where I live we have Streaked Mountain. Most people would pronounce that as streaked yet everyone around here pronounces it as streak - ed. I'm not sure why that is the case, but I would love to find out.

What Would You Have Me Say to Discovery About Textbooks?

Five days from now I will be at Discovery's headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland for a forum titled Beyond the Textbook. This event pulls together 20 or so educators to talk about the future of textbooks or the future of reference materials. To be honest, I'm not totally sure what the whole thing is about, but I'm going to find out. Anyway, I'm hoping to lend share more than just my voice in the two day conversation. So what would you have me say to Discovery about textbooks? Please leave a comment below.

Just as I was about to publish this post, I noticed that David Warlick wrote a similar post in which he included a short survey. If you're so inclined, I encourage you to share your thoughts there too

Create Multimedia Reference Stories with Qwiki Creator

Last week in North Carolina I gave my popular Best of the Web presentation. In that presentation I included the multimedia reference site Qwiki. In case you haven't seen it before, Qwiki publishes narrated, illustrated, interactive reference entries. To use Qwiki, enter a topic in the search box or select a topic from the featured topics on the homepage. Then watch, listen, and read the Qwiki entry for that topic. Below your chosen Qwiki you will see a selection of related Qwiki entries. You can also find related materials by clicking the "Q" symbol that appears at the end of the Qwiki play bar.

Yesterday, through Steve Dembo I learned that Qwiki is now offering Qwiki Creator. Qwiki Creator (still only available by invitation) will allow users to create their own multimedia reference stories. Using Qwiki Creator you will be able to develop your story using videos, images, maps, and text. To lend your personality to the presentation, you can narrate the story. And like the already existing Qwiki entries, you will be able to make the story interactive. Qwiki Creator is also promising to be optimized for iPads.

A sample Qwiki is embedded below.

View Gaza Strip and over 3,000,000 other topics on Qwiki.

Applications for Education
Qwiki Creator has the potential to be a great way for students to organize and share information that they create on their own or information that they discover through research. I would love to see Qwiki Creator used as an alternative to the traditional book report assignment. Students could narrate a summary of the book and also add visuals that they think illustrate key points or characters in the stories that they read.

Mathnet on YouTube

I Tweeted this last night and it got reTweeted a bunch of times so I thought I should share it here for people who missed it. When I was in elementary school I really enjoyed watching Mathnet on PBS. For those that aren't familiar with it, Mathnet was part of Square One which was a show designed to teach math lessons in a fun way. I did a quick search on YouTube for Mathnet and sure enough many of the stories are available in their entirety on YouTube. I don't know what kind of copyright restrictions are or are not being broken by the people who uploaded the videos, so I can't say if the videos will be up forever. In the meantime if you want to show an episode to your students or just want to feel a bit of elementary school nostalgia, I've embedded a few episodes below.

And who can forget Mathman?!