Touch Typing Test

I know this may make me a nerd [insert joke here], but I love typing tests!

There are umpteen-million online typing tests available, but I've found a few I really like. Your students will like them too, so be sure to check them out!

10 Fast Fingers Speedtest - This site uses the most used words in the English language to test how fast a person types. It's a very simple interface - free of any distracting dancing monkeys or silliness. Another real attraction of this site is the ability to test your speed in nearly 50 different languages. (FYI - I type WAY slower in German than I do in English!)

Typing Online - 
This simple site provides a paragraph (with lots of punctuation!). You do have to click the Start Timer and Stop Timer button on your own (which I'm sure shaves off hundredths of a second of my time), but the result is easy and clear to read - it tells you your words per minute, then shows any mistakes that were made. When you're ready to try again, just click the New Speed Test button. This site offers good general keyboarding information and a variety of lessons that would be great to use with students.

Learning Games for Kids : Typing Speed Test
- Kids seem to like this site - it's colorful, each keystroke makes a sound (yay for headphones!!!), and it definitely looks more game-like. If your students aren't actually ready for the speed test yet, scroll down - there are lots of fun keyboarding lessons. Call them "games" instead of "lessons" and your kids will love them!
The one thing I really didn't like about this was that if you made a mistake, you could not back up and fix it. You just had to keep going from there. Although kids would probably be fine with that, it caused me to make multiple mistakes all at once before finally getting back on track. 
Although the main topic of this post has been about Typing TESTS, there are a lot of excellent keyboarding sites available to students that introduce and reinforce good keyboarding skills. Some of my favorites are:

Dance Mat Typing
Typing Defense: Defend the Earth with your Keyboard!
Keyman - Similar to Pacman, but WAY harder! 
Super Hyper Spider Typer! - definitely a favorite of our younger students!


More Japan Resources

There are all kinds of resources available right now that explain how earthquakes and tsunamis happen. Some are written for experts, some are written for "regular people" and many are written specifically for children. I included a few of these resources on a previous post. 

Here are a few more sites you might want to visit:

Satellite Photos of Japan, Before and After the Quake and Tsunami - excellent site from The New York Times. Be sure to click on the "slider" and move it back and forth to reveal the before and after pictures. 

Japan Earthquake/Tsunami Infographic - this infographic does a nice job of giving details about the power of the earthquake and tsunami, as well as information on casualties, damages and effects, and ways we can help.

Japan Quake Map - Did you know there were actually 78 earthquakes that happened in and around Japan on Friday, March 11, 2011? (and as of today, there have been 734 quakes since March 11???) This map does a great job of showing exactly when, where, and how big each quake actually was. Use the drop-down menu to select a specific day and then watch. The size of the ring indicates the magnitude and the color indicates how deep in the ocean the quake occurred. 

How Earthquakes Trigger Tsunamis - this is an excellent video from BBC News that demonstrates how earthquakes caused the tsunamis. It's in simple enough terms that our elementary students will be able to understand it. 


CNN Student News

If you are a secondary teacher or even upper elementary, you may want to check out CNN Student News. It's a FREE, commercial-free, daily news program for middle and high school students. (I still strongly recommend that you view the newscast before showing your students each day, just to make sure it's appropriate - especially for our elementary student!)

You may not have time to show this every day (and who am I kidding? Time is precious!) but this is a good site to keep in mind when discussing current events. If you are studying a specific topic, you could even search for it on the site and see if they've talked about it during a past newscast.

The site provides show transcripts as well as Daily discussion suggestions, News Quizzes, Downloadable PDF maps, and other useful information.

If you're interested, check out the broadcast from Monday, March 21:

If you want to know more about how this works and what CNN STudent News is all about, head over to What is CNN Student News?

Are you using CNN Student News in your classroom? If so, how do the kids like it? Find out more it here.


Japan Earthquake & Tsunami Resources

The reports, pictures, and videos out of Japan have really been amazing. I've included some links below that may be helpful to you in your classroom. I have also embedded some news videos.

The New York Times has put together a great list of resources for teaching kids about the earthquake and tsunami ... Teaching Ideas: The Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan

From one of my favorite go-to-blogs (Free Technology for Teachers) ... 3 Good Earthquake & Tsunami Lesson Resources

And from another of my favorite blogs (Larry Ferlazzo's Websites of the Day) ... The Best Sites for Learning About the Japan Earthquake & Tsunami

My heart aches for the people of Japan who have lost so much. Personally, I am thrilled that my dear friend Michelle Glenn (we taught 3rd grade together at Bryson!) and her family are safe.

If you know of other Earthquake or Tsunami resources that you would like to share, please do.

A Parents' Guide to Facebook

If you are a parent, you will definitely want to check out ConnectSafely.org. You will find safety tips and advice, current news stories related to children and social media sites, and lots of other great resources. There is even a forum where you can post questions and get answers from other parents and Social Media "experts". 

The section that really caught my eye was A Parents' Guide to Facebook. This 34 page PDF document will help you understand what Facebook is and how to use it safely. 

Be sure to take a look at the Recommended Facebook Privacy Settings for Teens. It gives specific suggestions on profile settings, contact information, how to block or invite other users, as well as other information. Although I'm well past the teenage years myself, I'm going to be updating my Facebook settings tonight using these guidelines! 

You will also want to check out the Safety Tips and Advice - they offer topics about how to keep kids safe while playing online videogames, using cellphones, using devices with GPS Location-Sharing, as well as many others.

I hope these resources can be helpful to you at home as well as in the classroom. What other online safety sites do you like? Be sure to leave them in a comment.


Tech Tip Tuesday ... Protecting Yourself Online!

Disclaimer: The views expressed on this blog and specifically this post are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the my department or school district.

I will be honest - I have waffled back and forth about sharing today's post with you for a few reasons. First, I'm not an expert in social media. Second, I don't have the authority to make rules or policy for anyone. Thirdly, I don't want to scare people from using these great tools - I completely support teachers who want to use blogs, podcasts, professional Facebook pages, Twitter, etc. to better communicate with their students, parents, and co-teachers.

I don't know about you, but I'm pretty much a "rule follower." In my perfect world, there would be a simple, but direct list of Do's and Don'ts regarding Social Media. Unfortunately, there really is no such thing. Daniel Schwartz (from Connecticut Employment Law Blog) recently told a group of high school and middle school teachers, "No guideline can be a substitute for using good judgement and common sense." 
As much as some teachers and public school employees would like to believe that what they do "on their own time" doesn't affect their professional lives, it just isn't reality. 

In this oh-so-social world, one of the things we teach our students is to "be careful what you post". This is a lesson that adults need to learn too. Stop and think before you post about a rough day with your students. Stop and think before posting about a co-worker that's getting on your last nerve! Stop and think before posting complaints about parents. Remember the comments can be taken out of context and can come back to haunt you. You should also know that once it's out there, it can never be taken back. Even if you delete it off of your page, there is a cached version somewhere.

Again, I'm not an expert, but I do want to warn everyone to use good judgement and common sense about what you post or what you allow to be posted/published online.

At the beginning of this school year, our district (and countless others) published Social Media Guidelines and a very helpful Policy Changes document in an effort to help our teachers and staff as they use different Social Media tools in their public and professional lives. I reviewed them today while preparing this post. I suggest all school district employees (especially EM-S ISD peeps) take a fresh look. If you work for another district, please contact your Communications Department or Instructional Technology Department to see if they have published suggestions or guidelines regarding Social Media.

I'm not trying to scare you, but here are a couple of recent newsmakers...
Natalie Munroe (high school teacher in Pennsylvania) created and maintained a personal casual blog about her life and occasionally about her job. It was not meant to be a professional blog, in fact she only used her first name and last initial to identify herself and she only had 9 followers (two of whom were her husband and herself!) She claims that the students she did occasionally mention were not specific students, but instead they were "caricatures of students that she'd had over the years." Mrs. Munroe was suspended from her teaching position after referring to her students on her blog as  "rude, lazy, disengaged whiners," among other things. 
Another recent newsmaker is Ashley Payne, a 24 year old teacher who lost her job after an anonymous email to the school complaining about vacation pictures she had posted on her (private) Facebook page of her holding alcoholic drinks as well as a post that included inappropriate language.  Ms. Payne actually resigned after she claims she was pressured by her principal to either resign immediately or face suspension.
I am not condemning nor condoning the actions of either of these teachers. However, I do believe these stories can be a wake-up call for many of us who use Social Media tools in our private lives. The bottom line is that we just need to think about the things we post online.

 As always, comments are welcome! If you have a specific question about Social Media use, please let me know. If I don't know the answer, I will find out!

Resources for this week's post:

Tech Tip Today ... Bembo's Zoo

Wow, Tuesday totally passed me by this week without time to blog! Did anyone else look at the calendar and wonder how it the world it could already be Wednesday???

For this week's Tech Tip, I wanted to share a simple little site that would be fun for our younger students who are learning and reviewing their letters. This site "builds" adorable animals using just the letters in its name.

Check out Bembo's Zoo today!

Want to see how creative your students are? Let them explore this site and then see what they can do with the letters in their own names!

What's your favorite animal from the site?
I think mine might be P for Peacock or X for the x-ray of a Wolf - pretty creative!


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