Best new instructional resources on the internet

Teachers come first at TeachersFirst

Created by the Network for Instructional TV Inc., TeachersFirst is a free, one-stop site created especially for teachers. The site contains high-quality web resources for the classroom, sorted by subject and grade level; discussion groups; professional resources; and a “Hot Topics” section to keep you abreast of current issues. Under “Hot Topics,” you’ll find the “Latest & Greatest” on the web–new sites and curriculum resources, updated weekly. A tour of this section during the week of Nov. 23, for example, revealed a site from the Latin American News and Information Center with reports on the devastation caused by Hurricane Mitch. There’s also a “Toolbox” section, which offers plug-ins and other free downloads, and a web tutorial for new internet users.

An illustrative site: Children’s Literature and Language Arts Resources

Compiled by James Madison University’s Inez Ramsey for the Internet School Library Media Center, this comprehensive clearinghouse of language arts resources includes links to general children’s literature sites, listservs, discussion groups, book and media reviews, author and illustrator pages, and curriculum resources such as themes, lesson plans, and suggested readings. From storytelling advice to “bibliotherapy” information, this site has everything librarians and teachers will need to illuminate children’s lit.

The multicultural art of Native American Math

Developed by teacher and archaeologist Chris Hardaker of Window Rock, Ariz., this site draws upon the multicultural art of Native Americans to teach math to students in grades 4-9. Hardaker provides online tools to support a hands-on unit espousing a new approach to learning geometry: Using two sticks and a piece of string, students create geometric art while exploring such abstract concepts as spatial reasoning, square roots, proportional constants, and irrational numbers. As Hardaker says, “When you do the art, math happens!”

Virtual tours of the Tech Museum of Innovation

With more than 240 hands-on, interactive exhibits to inspire interest in science and technology, the Tech Museum of Innovation opened its doors in San Jose, Calif., Oct. 31. If you can’t make it there in person, you can pay a virtual visit the museum through its web site. Though the site doesn’t boast nearly as many exhibits as the real thing, it offers visitors the chance to make a satellite, climb Mt. Everest through a Shockwave tour, experience how animals see color, and learn how lasers are being used. Each month, the museum also reviews its ten favorite science and technology web sites online.

An old favorite online:

PBS TeacherSource

This site from one of America’s best-loved teacher resources features a constantly growing inventory of more than 1,000 free lesson plans, teacher guides, and online activities; most are designed to complement PBS programming. You’ll find curriculum resources grouped by subject area; monthly articles on educational research and best classroom practices; links to educational resources offered on the web sites of PBS member stations; a planning calendar with program schedules and taping guidelines for PBS broadcasts; and monthly technology columns by education expert David Thornburg, who examines effective uses of technology in the classroom.

Geographic Learning Site takes students on educational world tour

This site from the U.S. State Department’s Office of the Geographer and Global Issues is designed to assist teaching of geography and foreign affairs to students in grades K-12. It requires Shockwave’s “Flash” plug-in, which is available from the site. Through topics such as flooding, drought, human rights, sovereignty changes, sustainable development, and economic stability, the site demonstrates how geography can help us better understand the forces that shape foreign affairs. Students can learn about U.S. foreign posts, view maps of countries of interest because of boundary disputes and other issues, follow the Secretary of State on recent trips, and tackle problems identified as critical to the national interests of the United States.

The ultimate in Extreme Science

Webmaster Elizabeth Keller is a former NASA scientist who created this site to spark an interest in science among elementary and middle school students. The site profiles extremes in the natural and animal worlds–from the lowest elevation (the Dead Sea, where the water is so salty you can float as if you’re suspended on a half-submerged raft) to the deepest cave (Lechuguilla, near the Carlsbad Caverns, where a network of underground tunnels reaches 1,600 feet below the surface); from the oldest living thing (Methuselah, an ancient bristlecone pine in California’s White Mountains, is over 4,700 years old) to the deadliest creature (this one we’ll leave a secret–visit the site to find out!). In the “Gallery of Scientists,” Keller also profiles the scientists who study such phenomena.


Research and management resources for the K-12 decision maker

A model site: GreatSchools

Billed as “the comprehensive online guide to Silicon Valley K-12 public schools,” GreatSchools is the work of a California nonprofit organization by the same name. The site’s stated mission is to post free, unbiased, in-depth information about the region’s schools, and it’s an example of how the power of the web can be used to spur education reform. Perusing the pages for San Mateo County’s Hillsborough City Elementary School District, for example, revealed the district’s math and reading achievement scores in comparison to national averages; each school’s top goals, along with an account of the progress each has made; average class sizes, by grade level; overviews of school technology, safety, school-home connections, diversity, and community involvement; and links to school web pages. The GreatSchools site could serve as a model for other school systems to follow if they wish to use their own web pages to communicate vital information to stakeholders.

Putting “Technology @ Your Fingertips”

This online guide to implementing technology in schools is courtesy of the U.S. Department of Education (ED). Seven chapters outline the steps you should take to get the best possible technology solution for your schools, and the guide offers case studies to help you assess what technology resources you already have, identify your needs, consider your options, acquire new technology, train users, and support and maintain your investment. A 100-page print copy is also available by calling ED’s publications distribution center at (877) 433-7827.

Take a trip to Planet K-12

Philips Electronics has made significant upgrades to its free online resource for educators, Planet K-12. The site offers a convenient way to access a wealth of educational information and share resources with colleagues. An expanded grants and funding page called “Finance Matters” provides links to corporate and government-sponsored programs, such as Apple’s Education Grants and the U.S. Department of Education’s 21st Century Community Learning Center program, while a “Technology Resources” page provides information on technology planning, troubleshooting, using the internet in the classroom, technology standards, and other administrative issues. The site also includes lesson plans, reference materials, career planning, distance learning, and much more.

Learning Through the Library: What better place?

This site from the American Association of School Librarians is meant to help school library media specialists and other administrators as they move to a 21st-century concept of the school library as “media center.” A “Best Practices” section identifies successful teaching and learning practices involving school library media centers and the internet; the “Research in a Nutshell” section provides summaries of research papers and studies related to improving information literacy; and a “Hot Links to Learning” section offers links to web sites covering such topics as technology and school reform, acceptable use policies, internet filtering, and staff development.

MindReadr: the Education Internet Index

MindReadr Inc., an independent educational research company based in Palo Alto, Calif., has launched a unique education portal for students, parents, teachers, librarians, and administrators. MindReadr continually evaluates and presents a carefully selected set of exceptional research materials, online curriculum, lesson plans, and other resources to make the internet a safe, simple, and useful source of educational information. Students can find study help, information about colleges and careers, and sources of enrichment such as museums around the world; teachers can find links to standards, curriculum, educational research, and associations; and administrators can find information about grants, associations, education policy, and links to government sites of interest. Organized by file folders, the site is extremely easy to navigate.

Explore rural education issues at Better Public Schools for Rural America . . .

Organizations Concerned about Rural Education, a coalition of more than two dozen education, farm, rural, technology, and utility organizations, has created this web site devoted to rural education issues. A “News Update” section highlights new developments in rural education, while “In the Spotlight” focuses on hot topics, such as whether a census undercount is hurting rural areas. “Take Action” is a toolkit for getting involved in the community, and a “Resources” page includes reports, data, and other information of interest to rural school administrators.

. . . and those of city schools at the National Institute for Urban School Improvement

You didn’t think we’d leave out urban schools, did you? Funded by the Office of Special Education Programs in the U.S. Department of Education, the National Institute for Urban School Reform has a new web site to support successful urban education. The site includes a discussion forum linking individuals committed to improving urban education; a searchable resource database of more than 240 book and journal articles, videos, position papers, reports, and program descriptions; a calendar of upcoming conferences, workshops, seminars, courses, and calls for papers; and an electronic newsletter delivered via eMail to keep you informed of new developments in urban education.

‘Journey inside’ this Intel site for free educational resources

In 1994, Intel Corp. launched a national education program to increase technology literacy among students and inspire them to learn more about the science behind computer technology. Now the company has launched a web site to promote its free resources to educators. The “Intel in Education” site offers a wealth of information, including lesson plans, eRate information, and a section for students called “I Can Do That,” in which more than 40 Intel employees describe their jobs and tell what students can do to prepare for high-tech careers. The site also reveals how to order a free copy of “The Journey Inside: The Computer,” a classroom video, teacher’s guide, and hands-on chip kit for teaching students how computers work.