One neat feature in the dd utility is the ability to send it SIGUSR1 and it will dump out the current I/O statistics. This is useful when one is dd'ing a large amount of data and one would like to know how much data has been transferred or you want to see the current I/O rate. Below is an example where I'm filling a raw disc with zeros:
$ sudo -i
# dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/sdb bs=1M & ddpid=$!
# kill -USR1 $ddpid
320+0 records in
320+0 records out
335544320 bytes (336 MB) copied, 18.5097 s, 18.1 MB/s