Dr. Michael Kindler Talks About The Value of Digital Learning Technology in Mount Stromlo High School

Dr. Michael Kindler

Mount Stromlo High School welcomes both Australian and international students to its Canberra campus, where classes incorporate 21st-century technology with comprehensive education in the timeless skills of mathematics, language, humanities, and the arts. Dr. Michael Kindler, Mount Stromlo’s principal, recognizes the importance of understanding past, present, and future in order to develop a truly effective educational program. We asked him to explain his philosophy.

UT: On the school’s website, you mention that the school received a powerful telescope from the ANU Mt. Stromlo Research Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics, and you speak about the connection between the past and the future. How does that perspective inform the way classes are taught at your school?

The first and obvious answer is that our school is an early adopter of Science in the Australian Curriculum. In this regard, Astronomy lends itself ideally as this science includes physics, chemistry, mathematics, archaeology, even history. What the School has to consider is that by the time students complete year 10, they must have had broad exposure to a balanced science curriculum as prescribed. This they indeed have. Where our school is able to capitalize on the partnership with the ANU Research Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics, is in several ways. One way is because the ANU gave us the Dobsonian telescope. Another way is two years ago, 6 June 2012, we ensured that every student saw the Transit of Venus, a once in a life time event. A third way this year is that through a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), entitled The 10 Greatest Unsolved Mysteries of the Universe, developed by Nobel Laureate Prof Brian Schmidt, 17 students undertook this one semester course, all delivered online. The Assessment was also completed online, and 10 students passed. The course required considerable mathematics, and was quite challenging.

Arguably the best way an astronomical perspective informs the way we teach is by having teachers who are enthusiastic about the last great frontier – space! We are fortunate to have a Science teacher who is an ardent astronomer himself, and his enthusiasm and energy infects students. That, and having several parents who are astronomers because they work for the ANU and live in the area also helps. Astronomy is a growth industry, given that everyone’s GPS is synchronised to a commercial satellite or other. We deliver our curriculum using online textbooks, YouTube clips and teacher generated materials as well as digital learning objects which are accessed through Scootle from Education Resources Australia, a data base of units of work that most Australian educational jurisdictions contribute to. Even textbooks can now be purchased at a fraction of a hard copy price. Pearson is a leading Australian publisher and not the only one in this regard. MacMillan and Oxford and Longman are not far behind.

UT: Rather than focusing solely on core subjects like reading, writing, and science, you actively promote students’ involvement in music, theatre, and visual arts. Doesn’t this mean that you have less time to teach key skills like mathematics and literacy?

This question is predicated on a couple of fallacies. The first is not recognising that students who are proficient in the arts and physical education are not also proficient in literacy and numeracy. The fact is that research shows a correlation between students who are successful in one learning domain are also successful in another. In other words, success breeds success, or success in one area does not preclude success in another. This is the principle that students can be polymaths, skilled in several learning areas. The other fallacy is to believe that one domain gets more time than another. In fact, the current timetable is one that holds parity of esteem, that is, equal time for each learning area without privileging any one over another, or short changing one for the sake of the other learning area.

UT: You’ve gotten rid of your blackboards, and provided all classrooms with interactive whiteboards instead – and the whole school is a wireless network hub. Did you experience any resistance or concern from the teachers or parents about this emphasis on digital learning technology?

The short answer is that holding this approach was a process of self-selection: if teachers did not like this approach, they were free to leave or transfer. In fact, this did not happen. Issuing every teacher with an iPad was well received, because it extended their teaching repertoire. Every teacher further has an Apple Lap top computer issued to them with which they can work in a dual operating system (by selecting Apple OS or Windows). This jurisdiction’s system-wide network further is such that using Enclave, that is a remote access Citrix digitally based secure device, they can log in from home into the school’s network. This gives them access to reports, data bases and provides enormous variety of ways of working anywhere, anytime. In practice, it is true to say that some teachers take to technology faster than others. So train the trainer is an approach we take that gets everyone mobile with this, some sooner, some later. Not going down this path jeopardises a work environment where the kids are digitally more dexterous than the teachers, and we can’t let that happen, can we?! So we are discussing nothing less than a paradigm shift by which we move an entire learning community forward, ensuring a quality education for every child.

UT: Students are generally 12 or 13 years old when they arrive at Mt. Stromlo, and in today’s world that means they’ve had around ten years of experience with computers, keyboards, and digital devices in general. But do they all know how to type properly, or do you still see a lot of thumb-texting and two-finger hunt-and-pecking?

Speaking as a practicing (less than 10 finger) typist of several decades of experience, my (what you might imply to be a) finger dexterity or mobility impediment has not prevented me from doing my job, completing my PhD or living a rewarding and fulfilling life. In fact, I regret back in the 1970s having to teach typing, because that skill has taken care of itself. There are many typing software applications and software versions available on the market for those who want to upskill themselves, and most of these are free. Some do, some type however they best see fit. We do not discriminate for or against a 10 finger typist, or a digitally less successfully adjusted typist. What we are interested in is the quality of what is written. The meaning precedes form, if you like to express this in terms of Platonic philosophy.

UT: You have implemented a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) program in the school, with the goal of improving student outcomes at all grade levels. How does making sure every student has an iPad in the classroom achieve this goal?

There are several reasons.

One is that iPads are very user friendly, appearing to make certain tasks easier than traditional paper and pen. For example, we have a Learning Management System in place which is electronic storage in the cloud. This allows students to keep an online diary, assignment, unit outlines and feedback from teachers all in the one place. To our surprise, we have found that students with learning difficulties have taken to this like a duck to water! So have our Year 7 students, and parents have been most supportive and have come to the party by purchasing the device. Secondly, we have certain learning programs, such as Mathletics and Spelladrome which can be accessed anywhere, anytime and this expands the learning environment for students. Thirdly, an iPad, coupled to a wireless router, makes researching and generating work that much more convenient. Of course students already have access to laptops at school and at home, having an iPad is simply adding another learning tool to their learning satchel. It is our experience that the predominant technology trend if for individuals to prefer personalizing their digital devices (such as by customizing what Apps they do and do not want on their device). I recall a time back in the 1980s when word processors became fashionable that contain spellchecking software. Anything that makes learning easier is to be embraced. In this vein, unlike more traditional schools, we allow students to bring their smart phones to school. Provided they abide by the traffic light system (red, not in this lesson, amber, only with teacher permission, green used for educational purposes allowed – no social networking).

Why are we digital? Because the digital revolution is the sequel to the white goods revolution. It is here to stay, it is user-friendly, enables instant messaging, and generally makes students their parents and teachers more connected with the world. Prof Geoff Blainey coined the phrase the Tyranny of Distance by which he referred to Australia being far from the more settled and developed continents and therefore developmentally and culturally delayed. Well with Skype, email and instant messaging this is no longer the case! Even movies can now get sent around the globe with a touch of a keystroke or mouse. That includes blogs, news, self-generated film, etc. The 21st Century is already here, so we need to meet the learning expectations of the NEXT generation!

Cross-posted on the Ultimate Spelling blog.

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Top 3 Reasons Why Keyboarding Class Should Be Implemented In Schools

Were you taught how to touch type at school? Do you devote part of each class session to keyboarding practice, or do you move quickly to other IT skills with your class, thinking there are more important things to focus on?

There are many reasons why keyboarding classes should be available for students in schools. Let us give you three.

Typing is a basic requirement for scholastic and professional excellence

Touch typing, or keyboarding as it’s known today, is an essential computer skill. Everyone has their own way of typing; some use the hunt and peck method, others develop a unique way of touch typing that’s efficient but not always as accurate as they want to.

Learning to touch type means becoming an efficient typist who can easily perform online research, type assessments, and take online exams. A touch typist succeeds because their typing skills not only aren’t a problem, they actually facilitate the whole process!

When a student learns to touch type like a pro they become more confident and more likely to perform well academically. Touch typing saves time during homework sessions, and allows students to focus more diligently on learning new things, rather than struggling with their keyboards.

It’s fun!

Tech-based skills generally always fun to learn and use. Most people, and especially most younger children, are enthralled by the possibilities technology provides, and touch typing is no exception. Give a student access to compelling, well-structured typing software and they will start practicing like there’s no tomorrow. Technology piques young people’s interest, and personally I’ve never heard anyone complain about having to practice touch typing. Most people do it every day anyway, so every digital task – chatting online, doing research, writing a paper – is practice time!

Doesn’t it make you feel efficient and productive when your hands smoothly clickity-clack on the keys with ease and elegance and accuracy? Students will feel the same way.

While the first few introductory classes will be about learning the basics of how to touch type with accuracy and pressing the right key with the right finger, the rest is all fun. You can choose to practice with a wide range of interesting, interactive activities and, of course, typing games.

Typing games is one popular practice activity for typists because it doesn’t feel like practice at all! Touch typing is one of the few skills you will have fun mastering.

A risk-free investment for the future

Technology is omnipresent, and as we talk more about the ever-growing virtual world of the internet and wearable technology, we all understand that sci-fi movies no longer seem so far-fetched. Technology is changing our lifestyles, our health, our education, and our society.

Touch typing is a widespread requirement in many classrooms already, and it is projected to be an even more crucial IT skill in the future. We will be using devices and keyboard-based gadgets more frequently in the years to come, so it’s only sensible to ensure we have the typing skills essential for keeping up with technology and making the most out of it.

Even if in our lifetime we don’t get to truly command our fridge to recommend a recipe by asking it to scan what’s already in our fridge and pantry, touch typing will be an skill both you and today’s students will be tested on in order to qualify for many jobs.

An argument for teaching keyboarding at schools

Keyboarding should be taught at schools, especially when it’s a skill that is not time-consuming or demanding to learn – if it’s done right. For instance, the developers of the well-known keyboarding software Ultimate Typing™ assert that with less than 10 minutes of practice a day, you will be able to see how much your typing speed and accuracy improve in just two weeks.

There are many more reasons why schools should devote some curriculum time to teach students how to touch type, but helping them improve and secure their employment prospects, and boosting their academic performance, are the two most important reasons.

Ultimate Typing EDU is the latest touch typing class especially made for instructors and teachers. Get the cloud version of touch typing software for your school NOW!

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How Did Keyboarding Classes Start?

Were you formally taught how to touch type in school, or are your typing skills a unique typing strategy that involves mostly your index fingers, while you peer down at the keyboard hunting for the right letters?

Strategies for typing instruction started at the same time the typewriter came on the scene. It was towards the end of the 19th century that the typewriter gained its full status as a reliable tool for communication and writing.

The first ever typing courses were (as you might expect) provided by typewriter experts, according to Yamada (1983). Roughly around 1880, typing courses were provided by typewriter manufacturers like Remington in an effort to establish the typewriter’s status as an essential technological aid in business.

Fast-forward 15 years into the 20th century, and you’ll find that public schools were starting to introduce typing in America’s high schools. Today, keyboarding is considered an occupational skill all students need to master.

Typing is a skill that boosts employment opportunities. However, at one point it was also considered a medium through which reading and writing could be taught. A study by Wood and Freeman (1932) explored how typewriters affect students’ literacy.

They discovered that students using a typewriter to write had a better reading capacity and improved spelling skills. What is more, these students regarded writing on a typewriter to be more enjoyable than their counterparts who weren’t writing and reading on a typewriter. At this time, typewriters were a technology that was experimentally introduced as educators wanted to see how it could positively affect learning.

In 1936, about seventy years ago, Colahan Wayne revealed in a paper that elementary-level typing classes had brilliant results for those being taught how to type — given the teacher was qualified and the class well-organized.

What’s more important is that educators showed a desire to integrate typewriters into other classes, like math and science, as a way of “technologizing” education. It’s something that we see today as well, with the computer and tablet now taking a front and center position in the classroom.

During the 50’s and 60’s typewriting was taught mostly in elementary schools, and there was a widely held conviction that typewriting skills might fast-forward a student’s acquisition of the English language — especially spelling. Through typing, students tend to become more aware of the forms that letter patterns take, especially the beginning and ending of words, as Bartholome W. Lloyd reported in his research, “Keyboarding/Typewriting in Elementary School.”

Studies in the 80s looked into what the most appropriate age is for teaching keyboarding skills to young students. While there was evidence that teaching keyboarding at the 3rd grade is an ideal time, a different study that looked into how responsive and efficient students who were being taught keyboarding skills at the 1st and 2nd grade revealed that these younger students are in fact equally capable of handling keyboarding and mastering the skill as 3rd graders are.

Literature published over the past fifty years points out the beneficial aspect of teaching touch typing in elementary school. In recent years, many students can either opt for a typing class in high school or receive typing instruction through an online course or software. However, while there’s an obvious need for students to master keyboarding, most schools currently focus on other skills and knowledge as their high priority.

Those priorities need to be shifted, given that education is becoming more tech-based than ever before. Keyboarding is a basic computer skill which needs to be taught early on, so that students can easily meet modern marketplace demand.

But apart from securing their future employment prospects, learning to touch type is fast becoming a basic skill for educational purposes – as necessary as being able to read, one could argue. With many classroom assignments and activities being carried out on computers, students are expected to have mastered touch typing. But how many 4th and 5th graders have had formal keyboarding classes at school?

Studies done in the last few decades show how state educational institutions and society as a whole don’t seem to realize the centrality of keyboarding in education, and how important this skill is for young students. 25 years ago it might have been sufficient to have your own hunt and peck touch typing method, but today typing speed and accuracy need to be advanced in order for a person to succeed at school and at work.

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Paul Collins Sets Up Cli Fi Central Facebook Group (Guest Post)

Dan Bloom

As the cli fi genre of literature continues to worldbuild a global community, several online sites now are bringing together people interested in the emerging genre, either as readers or writers, as the Washington Post recently reported in an oped by this reporter in the
Post’s “PostEverything” section.

Among the online sites focusing on the cli fi genre is one set up by aconcerned citizen in London, who feels that the issues facing humankind in the future will be important to solve. One way is to publish cli fi novels.

Meet Paul Collins.

Collins set up his Facebook cli-fi group (”Cli-fi Central”) to encourage a dialogue between anyone with an interest in the emerging genre. Paul is an environmental lawyer who has worked at the heart of the UK government advising on climate change issues and drafting
legislation. He strongly believes cli-fi has enormous potential for engaging a wide and diverse global audience on the many issues around climate change and could help shape the debate.

His FB group now has over 100 members, and while it is a private grow and all posts and comments remain private, anyone is welcome to apply to join the group, Collins says.

His background fits. Paul is an oceanography graduate and has a Masters in environmental
law from University College, London. He currently works for the UK’s main environmental regulators, the Environment Agency, as a legal advisor on climate change issues. Previously, Paul worked as an environmental lawyer in a law firm, advising banks, retailers and manufacturers on environmental matters.

In addition, Paul is in the process of writing a short cli-fi story, tentatively titled
”The Testament of Gaia.”

“It’s a story about the triumph of love, courage and the human spirit when faced with the desolating effects of the fight against climate change,” Collins says from his office in London. “A fight led by a conspiracy of global politics and business.”

Asked to explain the rise of the cli-fi genre term, Collins said: “The term ‘cli-fi’ (short for climate fiction) describes a loose collection of novels, films, plays, works of art and even video games which all touch on, or are concerned with, climate change.”

“I am really interested in the potential of cli-fi to engage a wide and diverse audience on the issues around climate change and influence the debate,” he says. “With this in mind, I set up the Facebook cli-fi group for anyone with an interest in cli-fi to share and discuss their work, ideas and find out more about this exciting genre.”

How Paul became interested in the cli-fi genre is an interesting story.

“I thought I was a newcomer to the cli-fi genre. But in reality, I’ve been unwittingly reading books that fall within that category for a while,” he says. “I’m an environmental lawyer and believe that writers of fiction are missing a trick in fully engaging with people on environmental concerns and influencing the debate on those issues on a global scale . It’s heartening that there are a number of excellent books out there that could be making a difference to the thinking of a wide audience of different age groups. Despite this, I still think there are a number of hurdles that would need to be overcome if we are
to invigorate the genre and make the most of its potential.”

Writers of the genre should share thoughts and ideas of what falls within the scope of the new genre, he believes, and asks: “Should we go beyond the consequences of weather events? Is there too much talk of science which could alienate readers? Where are the political characters in plots? Is there too much pessimism, should we focus our
optimistic eye?”

Collins says he think there’s a huge potential audience for cli-fi out there. And he no longer feels alone.

“Google ‘cli-fi’ and you’ll come across some fantastic articles and interviews on the subject and there is also a great resource at the ‘Nature Fiction’ website in Canada,” Paul says, posing even more questions. “So what do the literary agents and publishers think? Are they prepared to take a risk with new writers from a varied pool of talent that may exist beyond the usual boundaries, for example scientists?”

“Self-publishing isn’t an option for every wannabe author and without the backing of an agent and publisher, what could be a wonderful idea for a book that could really connect with an audience on a global scale, is simply lost,” he adds. “That would be a real shame.”

“Yes, the ideal would be for an author to prepare the usual pitch and draft chapters for an agent but what about those who have the ideas for a game-changing book but need a nod of hope from an agent or publisher before being able to commit a huge amount of time to such a project?” Paul adds. “Yes, there is always the risk that what emerges at the end of the writing is not marketable or indeed any good, but a more willing approach could make all the difference to invigorating the cli-fi genre and making a real difference to how we engage on the environment.

Paul invites people worldwide to come and join the Facebook cli-fi group.

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Why Ultimate Typing Made TopTenReviews.com

Ultimate Typing 2014 offers one of the best ways to learn how to type efficiently and quickly. The software is aimed at individuals who need to increase their typing speed, a skill that employers find invaluable. Using Ultimate Typing is also a great way to increase accuracy and general health for employees that find themselves on their computers for most of the workday.

Ultimate Typing has a wide range of features that help users become more efficient and productive typists. These include exercises that are proven to help improve typing, expert video help, statistical tracking and analysis to show exactly where the most improvements can be made, and a number of simple, easy-to-use typing games and fun activities to make the learning process more enjoyable.

Effective Exercises and Video Assistance

The exercises and video assistance offered by Ultimate Typing are two features that propelled it to win TopTenReviews Silver Award.

Scientific Exercises

The key to any typing software is the implementation of typing exercises that enable the user to gain the necessary experience to become a better typist. Ultimate Typing approaches this concept in a unique way. First, the program introduces the user to a series of introductory typing courses and lessons aimed at familiarizing the user with proper typing posture, hand position and other useful tips. Once the new user has the fundamentals down, the program starts him or her off with a number of exercises that focus on individual sections of the keyboard, such as the home, top or bottom row. These exercises help drill in common movement patterns for the aspiring typist, and ensure that the user has strong mechanics for proper typing.

Ultimate Typing centers its approach on the goal of making typing automatic for the user, and the wide variety of touch-typing exercises are a great way to train the user’s hands and fingers to respond by feel instead of conscious thought.

Video Assistance

Not everyone learns well with text and exercises, and we love Ultimate Typing’s selection of expert typist videos offer users an easy way to sit back and learn from a professional teacher. There are video tutorials included for every section and stage of the learning process, something that new typists will find very useful. Seeing video of the actual proper movement of hands across a keyboard is an effective tool, and Ultimate Typing has a wide range of tutorial videos for even advanced users.

Needs of the User

Ultimate Typing includes a number of features that help to track the user’s progress. These include advanced monitoring analyses that track the specific errors made during lessons and tests, which then lets the program choose the most appropriate exercises, lessons, and tips to give the user.

Moreover, Ultimate Typing allows users to input the approximate words-per-minute they would like to type, and will track these goals as the user progresses throughout the lessons.

Entertainment and Practicality

Ultimate Typing does a fantastic job at making a rather mundane task interesting to the user. The program includes Wikipedia articles, stories, and other types of content that the program will then base the lessons and exams on. This enables the user to read a wide range of fascinating articles, tailored to their particular interests. The program also comes with 500 e-books included as part of the default purchase, which cover topics ranging from business to self-improvement.


Even better than the Wikipedia pages, Ultimate Typing includes 16 fun and entertaining games that help drill in the lessons learned during the program. The games feature a number of catchy graphics and moderately challenging activities, and are truly effective in reinforcing the typing skills that Ultimate Typing teaches so well.


Ultimate Typing is the software of choice for individuals looking to improve their typing skills and productivity. TopTenReviews.com gives it our stamp of approval, as well as our Silver Award, and we encourage anyone interested in this sort of product to pursue Ultimate Typing as the solution for their typing needs.

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Internet Tricks You Might Want To Know and Try for Yourself

1) Handy Browser – Use it as a Notepad!

Click the Link Below:

White Background Notepad


Click the Link Below:

Black Background Notepad


2) Nostalgic Search – Remembering Childhood Days


3) Notable Keyboard Shortcuts


4) Have Fun and Destroy This Website – COOL!

Visit daskeyboard.com. At the bottom part of the page, click the “Destroy This Site” and blow the page to pieces! Just like old video games.


5) Another Nostalgic Effect – Arcade in Google Search Page

Go to Google and search for “zerg rush”. Stop the “o” invasion and enjoy! A Zerg Rush is an overwhelming attack in a video game. (Available only in Chrome/ Firefox/Safari).


6) Kodami Code Effect in Wired.co.uk

Once you entered the website, type in the Kodami Code (using your keyboard): “Up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A”, and keep on tapping “A”. See Nyan Cats and Dinosaur invading the website!


7) It Also Has Its Effect in BuzzFeed!

Type Fast the Kodami Code when BuzzFeed.com loads!

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Spend Money Wisely When You Shop For Your Child’s Back-To-School Items

The start of the new school year can be a stressful time if you’re a child – but also if you’re a parent. As with every purchase decision that concerns your child, you need to strike a perfect balance between giving your children what they want, offering them quality school supplies, and still keeping your budget from going through the roof.

How do you achieve this seemingly impossible balance?

Play it smart

Shopping with and for kids can be a real budget black hole. You plan to only spend $50 on a new dress for your 2-year old, only to end up getting matching shoes and a purse, because your little princess deserves the best.

The trick is to plan for the back-to-school list carefully, calmly, and practically. Expendable school supplies like pens, pencils, and notebooks don’t need to be of the best brand. On the other hand, a backpack and well-fitting shoes, which will last a long time, need to be top quality.

Go all high-tech on your list

There are tons of great apps out there that help you keep track of your spending, curtail your impulse purchases(see princess dress above), and monitor how your budget is evenly and fairly distributed among your many financial responsibilities.

So why not use one to plan your back-to-school shopping too?

SmartyPig. This is a fun to use app that helps you save money for a particular goal – in this case, your child’s new school year supplies.

Download it as early as possible and deposit money in it weekly to ensure you create a side budget (or the entire budget if you start it very early on) for the back-to-school shopping spree. It even lets others contribute to this budget, so grandparents and anyone else can give a helping hand (hurrah)!

Spendee. This is another great app to help you manage your household budget. It’s color-coded so everything is visually appealing — even if the numbers are an eyesore. Use it to create a budget for your child’s new school year shopping needs.

Even if you don’t invest in a financial app, it’s a good idea to create a list in your smartphone to ensure you don’t forget what you must buy on the day you actually do the shopping. Type a list in your phone’s memo feature and create a database with all the back-to-school essentials so that you don’t have to make repeat trips to the stores. This will definitely save you money.

Do your research, do the math

Using an app to plan and monitor your budget is not enough. You need to fine-tune your budget by estimating what the projected cost is for each school supply you’re getting.

It’s wise to add a couple of extra dollars for each purchase. It’s far more pleasant to have money left after your shopping trip than to be desperately looking for a credit card to charge!


Go shopping, but don’t shop at only one place. Your shopping should be spread over a week at least so that you can take advantage of sales. You can even buy some essentials from a discount store online. Get expendable school supplies from a local bookstore with coupons. Get last-minute extras at a back-to-school fair.

Lastly, don’t feel overwhelmed, because buying back-to-school essentials for your children doesn’t need to break your budget. Play it smart by planning ahead and making informed purchase decisions with the help of technology.

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The Idea Behind The Fountain Pen: The Self-Filling Pen

Today’s kids don’t know the pleasure that comes from the creative art of writing with a fountain pen. They prefer more high-tech methods of communication: swipe left then right, spread your index finger and thumb apart, and you’re ready to touch type your next email.

Although many people have forgotten (or never learned), using a fountain pen is an intimate writing method that engages your senses – and it’s a fun way to write. Cursive or longhand writing is not as popular as when the self-filling pen was first introduced, but its magic is still there nonetheless.

Back in 1884, a gentleman named Lewis Waterman created the first patent for a fountain pen. However, this form of writing instrument existed much earlier. It is estimated that a Frenchman named Bion actually designed the very first fountain pen, in 1702. Fast forward 129 years later, and the self-filling fountain pen was introduced to the world by a man named John Jacob Parker, of the well-known brand of pens that can still be purchased today.

The self-filling pen, a magnificent construction of human ingenuity

Many people tried to create a pen that would be practical and spill-free, but somehow the mechanisms they came up with were faulty.

Back then, the competition in the pen industry was fierce. Inventors and engineers were trying to come up with the ideal way to refill a pen’s internal reservoir. The industry saw many ingenious ideas; an eyedropper was used back in the early 1800, and later a small sac made of soft rubber was used to create the fountain pen reservoir for ink. The lever-filling and piston-based fillers also had their glory days.

Button-based self-filling fountain pen. This pen was a market-driven suggestion by Parker. The button-filling mechanism allows the pen user to remove the cap, press the button and then dip the nib into the ink. The button is then released in order for the reservoir to be refilled with ink.

Lever-based fountain pen. This self-filling model works by lifting a lever on the side of the pen in order to exert pressure on the ink sac. The nib is then placed into the ink, as the ink sac gradually reinflates. Once the refilling is complete (approximately 9-10 seconds later), the lever is released.

Piston-based fountain pen. Another ingenious self-filling fountain pen, the piston-filler uses a screw mechanism to manually move the internal barrel, and by doing so absorb the ink. A knob, often hidden underneath a blind cap, needs to be twisted. The nib is then dipped into the ink in order to refill it.

There are forecasts that cursive writing will go extinct eventually. People favor touch typing these days, because it’s faster, neater, and easier than cursive writing – at least if you know touch typing techniques. On the other hand, cursive writing is decidedly personal and respectful, and the best way to communicate in certain situations.

Writing in cursive can be a pleasurable ritual. You can take your time, and enjoy the physical act of guiding the pen to make the curves and strokes of every letter. Certainly, in an era of fast-paced lifestyles, touch typing is preferable. As technology takes over how we work, entertain, and educate ourselves, less efficient ways will give way to tech-based ones, in writing as in every other aspect.

So will the fountain pen go extinct, after all? Not likely.

As with every custom, habit, and cultural artifact that technology has damaged or threatened with extinction and obsolescence, the joys of handwriting are being rediscovered, and using fountain pens is now part of a growing trend. People savor the old times with nostalgia and fondness, and this includes going back to what was once seen as “old-fashioned” forms of communication. The same is already happening with fountain pens. Brands like Montblanc, TrueWriter and Parker release anniversary edition fountain pens, and many people collect these and their vintage original counterparts.

Writing with a fountain pen and texting as a touch typist are entirely different processes that serve different purposes and offer dramatically different experiences. People resort to touch typing for efficiency and the cursive pen for nostalgia and the personal touch. Both have their place in today’s society, and neither should be abandoned.

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7 Twitter Tips To Turn Yourself Into A Pro

Twitter is so ubiquitous and easy to use that no one thinks about it any more, even social media professionals. However, knowing a few more tricks than others do on how to use this communication tool can make all the difference. To improve how your online community interacts with your business or brand, you need to use Twitter in the best possible way to get the highest benefits in terms of engagement and revenue.

Geotag yourself

Why not use Twitter’s often-overlooked option that lets you GPS your tweets when you’re on the go? This option can be found at Settings and Privacy, on the left sidebar. Select the option “Add Location to my Tweets.”
Although seemingly trivial, this little tweak could help promote more engagement with people in the same general area as you are. You can arrange a meeting on the spot or an informal get-together, simply because someone nearby saw your tweet and wanted to engage with you in person. Think business, business, business!

Tweet freely (that is, over 140 characters)

Do you find yourself getting frustrated that you need to reduce and simplify complex ideas to fit the 140-character limit? Did you know that you’re not really limited to that well-known number?
You will need a third-party application to cross the 140-character border, but it’s definitely worth it. All you need to do is sign in with your Twitter details to Twitlonger, and you can tweet your heart away.

Smart email alerts

Go to your Email Notifications under Settings. Here you can fine-tune your email notifications so that you can see what’s going on in the Tweetsphere without having to leave your inbox.

Do you want to receive alerts each time one of your tweets gets retweeted? Check. Do you want to get an email notification when someone starts following you? Check.

Twitter lets you customize over 20 email notification settings to fit your schedule and Twittering strategy. To avoid a packed inbox, use these notifications wisely. You can create filters and other parameters to ensure you don’t get overwhelmed with Twitter email notifications.

Engage with followers – the right way

When is the best time to tweet and engage with your followers? There’s no right and wrong answer. If your followers are from a different time zone, it doesn’t matter if experts say “Tweet on the weekends” or “only on weekdays” if you’re a B2C brand.

Of course, you need to take into account all of these analytics so you don’t end up wasting valuable time and Twitterspace, but you can also do another thing: tailor your Twitter engagement with your followers.
Use a service like Tweriod to see when the majority of your followers is on Twitter. This service essentially pinpoints the best time during each day when it will benefit you most to tweet, which will help drive up engagement.

Improve your typing skills

You might schedule a tweet from your laptop before heading to work and edit it while on the subway. We use multiple devices during the day and being equally competent in all types of touch screens and keyboards is essential.

Level up your Twitter mastery by improving your typing speed and accuracy. Who is going to retweet a tweet full of typos?

Do you unfollow?

Do you need more followers, or get the ones you have to be more engaged? Several web apps allow you to see who’s following you that you’re not following, and who you’re following that ignores you. You can even find inactive users.

For instance, ManageFilter and JustUnfollow help you get a Twitter “spring cleaning” so that your Tweets don’t fall on deaf ears.

The Language Master

Jargon and pretentiously intricate language turn your followers away. Opt for simple vocabulary and sentence structure to make your tweets more appealing.

However, don’t entirely skip industry jargon, if it’s appropriate to use in a specific tweet. When it’s directed to the right audience, you can always put your industry-related vocabulary knowledge into good use.

You’re representing a business or a brand with every tweet, so it’s important to offer tweets that are well constructed and well written, that illustrate your expertise and status in the industry. Word choice is one important way to remind people of your leading status.

These tips will help you make the most out of Twitter and drive up user engagement with your business, ultimately leading to more sales and revenue.

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How Should Keyboarding Be Taught in Elementary School?

Matt Renwick

This post was originally published at ED Tech Magazine.

A teacher offers his take on instruction of a skill that standardized testing has put back at the forefront of education.

When our elementary principal team learned that the new Common Core State Standards-aligned tests would be administered on computers, we had many questions and few answers.

Are there enough computing stations for all third-, fourth- and fifth-graders to take this test? Do our current software and hardware meet the requirements to administer the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC)? How will we ensure that students are able to keyboard?

While our technology department was tasked with addressing the first two questions, our administrative team focused on the third.

Around a decade ago, all intermediate students in our district had keyboarding instruction taught by a certified business teacher. Classroom teachers would walk their students down to the computer lab. Then the keyboarding teacher taught this skill in isolation. After 30 minutes, the students went back to the regular classroom.

Modern Keyboarding

Keyboarding wasn’t applied to work that was relevant or meaningful. It became another prep for teachers (myself included, as I was a fifth-grade teacher). When budget cuts came, elementary keyboarding was one of the first programs to go.
With the introduction of computer-based standardized assessments, keyboarding has come to the forefront in education once again. This year, we tried a different approach so that this skill was not only taught, but also applied across all content areas.

These assessments are not the only call to action. For instance, the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) recommends that students “develop proficiency with the tools of technology.” NCTE and other respected educational organizations view digital skills such as keyboarding as essential for learners to communicate in the 21st century.

So, starting in the fall of 2013, our eight elementary schools were given six weeks each to schedule in keyboarding for our fifth-graders. We started small with one class to ensure a successful trial. This time, instead of just dropping the students off, classroom teachers were expected to observe the high school instructors who were teaching them the skill in action.

Google Turning the Tide

One thing these secondary teachers brought to the elementary level was a strong understanding of how Google Apps for Education could be used in the school setting. The keyboarding teacher visiting our school used Google Docs to have students practice their keystrokes. At the same time, she explained how their documents were automatically saved online as well as how they could be shared with collaborators and would allow other users to revise and edit them at the same time.

As the class progressed, our fifth-grade teachers started to co-teach with their high school colleagues. During instruction, both teacher-teacher and teacher-student conversations that raised interesting questions occurred. How could we use Google Docs to complete assignments? Wouldn’t these tools allow students to complete unfinished work at home? Making connections between the technology and the academics had begun.
Although this initial experience ended after six weeks, it was just the beginning for our students and teachers.

This process of modeling what we want learners to know and be able to do, and then gradually including them into instruction is referred to as the “gradual release of responsibility,” developed by P. David Pearson and Margaret C. Gallagher in 1983. In her upcoming release Read, Write, Lead: Breakthrough Strategies for Schoolwide Literacy Success (ASCD, 2014), educator and author Regie Routman expands on this framework with the Ongoing Cycle of Responsive Instruction.

This process applies to all teachers and to all learners, whether adult or child. Just as the high school teacher was releasing the reins of keyboarding instruction to the classroom teacher, so too was the classroom teacher handing off the responsibility of this skill to his or her students once they were on their own. We know learners are ready for more independence and less support through formative assessments. Our ultimate goal for our learners is to become self-regulating and independent. This clearly occurred through our elementary-secondary teaching partnership.

Case in point: This spring I was doing a walk through in one of the fifth-grade classrooms. The teacher was busy conferring with a reader while other students were working independently — or so I thought. Two boys were busily typing on the computers. Upon closer inspection, I saw that they were actually working on the same Google Doc together. They were composing a fictional story, complete with a title and chapters. I asked them where the comments on the side came from, assuming they were from each other.

“Oh, those are from kids in the other fifth-grade classroom,” I was told.

Based on our collective observations, the elementary administrative team has decided to expand our six weeks of keyboarding instruction to all students in third through fifth grades next school year.

The success of this co-teaching and co-learning experience was very convincing. More importantly, the impact of keyboarding instruction has extended beyond test preparation. Our students are seeing it as a way to communicate and collaborate with peers on work that is important.

That our original intention was to get them ready for a computer-based standardized test is unbeknown to them. Our school would like to keep it that way.

About the Author
Matt Renwick is an elementary school principal in Wisconsin. Prior to becoming an administrator, Matt was a 5th and 6th grade teacher. You can follow him on Twitter at @ReadByExample and read his blog, Reading by Example.

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