Best new instructional resources on the internet

“Normandy 1944”–an invasion on the senses

“We’ve just passed over the coast of France,” announces the voice of a British reporter as you log onto this remarkable site from Encyclopedia Britannica, and so begins your journey back to the D-Day invasion of Normandy during World War II. Through text, photos, video, and sound clips, the site tells the story of the invasion through the eyes of those involved and gives the landing a historical perspective. Students can listen to a radio broadcast of Gen. Montgomery addressing his troops, for example, or they can watch a newsreel covering Charles de Gaulle’s triumphant entry into Paris. A special segment titled “Imagining D-Day” offers a glimpse behind the making of the film Saving Private Ryan.

“Sci4Kids” opens a window on the work of scientists

“Science is everywhere you look” is the premise of this fascinating new site from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS), and that premise is evident in the site’s home page, a collage of images that link to topics like animals, cities, the environment, farming, high-tech, insects, nutrition, plants, satellites, small towns, soil, transportation, and water. Through stories and articles, the site aims to show children ages 8 to 13 what scientists do and how the work of ARS affects them. Stories include a Florida chemist who is making ethanol (a natural fuel) from orange peels and pulp and an Arizona scientist who uses satellite technology to track bee colonies in remote areas. There’s also a feature called “”Dr. Watts,” which allows kids to eMail their questions to one of the ARS scientists.

No question is too tough for “Ask Dr. Math”

Now in its fifth year, this internet Q&A service sponsored by Swarthmore College’s Math Forum remains one of the best online sources for math help. The site lists frequently asked elementary, middle, and high school math questions and contains a full archive of past questions. If you can’t find the answer to the question you’re looking for, you can submit your own question online or via eMail by following the link provided. Answers are sent back by eMail within 24 hours and are posted in the archives for future reference. You can even post your own responses to the archived questions, creating an ongoing dialog. The site is particularly useful for finding explanations or real-life illustrations of why a particular math rule works, for example, why the product of two negative numbers is positive.

“The New York Times Learning Network”: News you can use in the classroom

This new site from the New York Times brings the news into classrooms in engaging ways. A daily feature story from the Times is accompanied by lesson plans developed in conjunction with New York’s Bank Street College of Education. One story highlights the conflict between modern cowboys and environmentalists, for example, and it is followed by an exercise in conflict resolution for the social studies classroom. Vocabulary words from the stories are linked to definitions from Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary and other terms are linked to maps and geographic information from Microsoft Encarta. A feature called “On This Day” reveals the headlines from the front page of the Times a year ago and an “Ask the Reporter” feature lets students eMail their questions to a Times reporter.

A fable-ous site on Aesop

This site would make former Education Secretary William Bennett proud. It’s an online collection of more than 600 Aesop’s fables, cataloged in alphabetical order, and many are accompanied by RealAudio narrations or classical illustrations. There are also more than 100 Hans Christian Andersen stories, plus fables by Ambrose Bierce, stories by L. Frank Baum, and Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”

“Science of Baseball” scores big with kids

If your students are still riding high from the epic Sosa/McGwire home-run chase that energized baseball fans of all generations, then check out this site from the Exploratorium, a San Francisco-based hands-on science museum. Designed to look like a 1950s’ comic book, the site teaches kids the science behind America’s pastime using RealAudio and video clips of scientists and major leaguers, such as the Oakland Athletics’ Tom Candiotti and Ricky Henderson. Clips of physicist Paul Doherty explain why it stings if you hit the ball off the end of the bat and why a knuckleball dances the way it does, while a hands-on exhibit measures students’ reaction times to demonstrate what it’s like to hit a 90-mile per hour fastball.

A site to see (and smell and hear)

This site, from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, features current research to help you make sense of the senses. It contains articles and graphics to illustrate such concepts as how we see color, how we sense things move, how we recognize odors, and why we have two ears. Java applets demonstrate optical illusions and color diagrams illustrate how the senses work.


Research and management resources for the K-12 decision maker

“Keep Schools Safe” is a safe bet for educators

In the wake of several school shootings last year, the No. 1 concern facing administrators this fall is school safety. In response to educators’ concerns, the National School Boards Association and National Association of Attorneys General have teamed up to create this clearinghouse of school safety information. Here you’ll find case studies of safe schools, school safety news, and links to top resources, including the National Crime Prevention Council, National School Safety Center, the U.S. Department of Education’s “A Guide to Safe Schools,” and the National Education Service’s “Handbook for Violence Prevention.” You’ll also find information on crisis management, law enforcement participation, drug and alcohol prevention, crime reporting and tracking, and options for school security.

This site is a Y2K-O

A joint venture of Petrus & Associates Inc. and Year 2000 Information Center Inc., this site provides a comprehensive forum for disseminating information about year 2000 (Y2K) problems. The site includes articles such as “Assessing the Risk Associated with a Y2K project,” links to more than 100 vendors that specialize in Y2K solutions, late-breaking news of Y2K issues, information about hardware and software compliance, an archive of press clippings (updated daily), a Law Center that focuses on legal, accounting, and insurance issues to help you avoid liability and maximize recovery, and links to user groups to exchange Y2K information and ideas.

“The Millennium Project”: One for the ages

Sponsored by the Academy for Educational Development, this project offers “a sustained forum in which participants can discuss, respond to, debate, and synthesize a wide range of opinions, research, and expertise” on educational technology. The project, which launched in July, is an international, ongoing, mediated online discussion. Every three months, there’s a new focus on a set of key issues in educational technology, such as “How does technology change the role of the teacher” or “How is technology changing the role played by communities in education,” followed by a summary of some of the key points. At the end of each three-month period, the topics move to an “Ongoing Dialog” area, where you can continue to read and post responses. Special guest experts, like George Mason University’s Chris Dede and Northwestern’s Louis Gomez, weigh in with their opinions as well.

Voices from the National Teacher Forum

This U.S. Department of Education report demonstrates how teachers can promote change in their schools and communities and how schools and communities can support teacher leadership. The report is based on suggestions from more than 100 outstanding teachers who attended the fourth annual National Teacher Forum and from teachers across the United States who posted their ideas on the Teacher Leadership Forum web site.

Free web hosting for schools

This free online service from Data Sense Inc. of Alpharetta, Ga., allows educators to share information with students and parents via the internet. After registering for a free account, teachers and administrators can post homework assignments, announcements, and favorite links simply by entering information into a box on the site, using their web browser. No knowledge of HTML is necessary. Teachers can register for more than one account, so they can create distinct web pages for each class, and parents can sign up to be notified by eMail whenever a web page is updated. At present, you can’t add any graphics to the text, but it’s a useful (and cost-effective) tool for communicating via the internet if you don’t have online publishing experience.


Special internet events you won’t want to miss

“The Shapes of Flight” gets set to soar

Nov. 1998

This free, interactive, 30-minute instructional program from NASA Connect will be broadcast on cable and satellite channels in most locations around the country Nov. 10. A guest researcher from NASA will introduce middle school students to the wind tunnel and the computer, two of the tools used by aeronautical engineers to measure design characteristics of aircraft. An accompanying web-based lesson and classroom experiment will engage students in measuring, organizing, comparing, and interpreting data. For more information, including broadcast times and channels in your area, visit the NASA Connect web site.

eSchool News Staff

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