Best new instructional resources on the internet

Explore history in the making with “The Impeachment Vote”

In December, William Jefferson Clinton became just the second U.S. president to be impeached. This PBS site offers analysis of the historic House vote and the resignation of Rep. Bob Livingston, R-La., that preceded it. RealAudio clips include reactions from presidential historians and the American public, a comparison of President Clinton’s character to that of President Nixon, and a discussion of how the impeachment represents a cultural divide. Four foreign journalists tell how news of the president’s impeachment was received abroad, and a list of who voted for and against each article of impeachment is given. A “Teacher Resources” section suggests ideas for using the site in the classroom.

Finding precedent: The impeachment of Andrew Johnson

If you’re looking for a historical context to the president’s situation, here’s a great place to start. The only other impeachment in U.S. history, the 1868 impeachment of Andrew Johnson, is documented here through its coverage in Harper’s Weekly. The most important periodical of its time, Harper’s Weekly both shaped and reflected public opinion. With original news articles, editorials, and political cartoons, the site illustrates how Johnson’s contemporaries viewed his impeachment. An “Impeachment Simulation Game” created by retired history teacher Eric Rothschild further brings to life the circumstances and arguments under which Johnson was impeached, tried, and acquitted.

Let students’ imaginations soar with “Flights of Inspiration”

Taking flight from the sordid political landscape, this site from the Franklin Institute and the Science Museum of London tells the remarkable story of aviation. Spiced with contemporary accounts and photographs, it details the history of flight–from the Wright Brothers (“Wilbur Wright and his younger brother Orville were ordinary boys with ordinary toys. Somehow, they became extraordinary men with extraordinary machines”) to the first nonstop transatlantic flight. A section called “Your Own Flight” challenges students to learn about the forces of flight by designing, testing, and improving on their own model aircraft, and a “Teacher’s Zone” section offers tips for using the site in science classes.

Astronomy lessons that are out of this world

Through funding from NASA, faculty at Montana State University and K-12 teachers nationwide have developed an extensive library of interactive science education materials. These web-based lessons incorporate data, images, and resources culled from Voyager missions to explore NASA themes like “Sun-Earth Connections” and “The Search for Origins.” The classroom-ready lessons consist of “Student Inquiries,” through which students use data to construct first-hand knowledge about the universe, and “SpaceQuests,” collaborative group projects in which the class divides into research teams to tackle scientific problems. Information about each NASA theme–its goals, discoveries, missions, and further research–also is available.

The Modern Library’s “100 Best Novels” for discussion

When The Modern Library published its list of the 100 best novels of the twentieth century last summer, it sparked a flurry of debate among modern literature enthusiasts. This site includes the original list–selected by such luminaries as Maya Angelou and Gore Vidal and topped by James Joyce’s Ulysses–as well as the results of a reader’s poll (capped by Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged and Fountainhead), Radcliffe Publishing Course’s list of 100 best novels, a discussion forum, and a section called “Talking Points”: questions to lead a more structured discussion, as in a literature class. Questions include “What makes a novel ‘great’?”; “What makes a novel ‘American’?”; “Which other women novelists might have been included?”; and “Are literary and commercial success incompatible?”

Real-world applications distinguish “Apply Lesson Ideas”

Learning math in the context of a career gives meaning to abstract concepts and answers the inevitable question, “When are we ever going to use this?” This site from the Center for Applied Academics’ Apply Learning Network contains 16 lesson plans designed to introduce ninth and tenth graders to math applications in careers such as golf pro, house painter, electrical engineer, and computer game designer. Each lesson plan includes information on a particular career and a discussion of the math it involves. In one lesson, for example, students study angles using a protractor, string, and carpenter’s square as they design an amusement park elevator; in another, they learn to manipulate formulas as they analyze trends in the stock market.


Research and management resources for the K-12 decision maker

This guide to evaluating technology meets our criteria

In this era of limited resources, people want to know whether the money they are spending is producing results–and they want answers quickly. Most grants for school technology now require you to submit an assessment of your project in return for funding. But who has time for evaluation? You’re still trying to coordinate the purchase of the new equipment and make sure it’s running properly. You’re also trying to make sure that teachers are getting the training they need so the technology will be used appropriately. This guide, written for the U.S. Department of Education by the American Institutes for Research and released in December 1998, is designed to help you through the evaluation process and to make it as painless as possible. Topics include “What Questions Should I Ask?”, “What’s the Best Way to Collect Information?”, and “How Do I Communicate My Results?”

Here’s your one-stop shop for “HTML Goodies”

Published by Susquehanna University Assistant Professor Joe Burns, this site is a cornucopia of web-publishing tools–from Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) tutorials to style sheets and free downloads. Tutorials cover everything from the basics of web page design to complex JavaScripting and everything in between: banners, tables, backgrounds, forms, frames, colors, buttons, and Java applets. You can also download free programs, like a web development tool that proofreads HTML documents or a tool to create interactive forms for viewer feedback. Whether you’re just getting your “webbed” feet wet or you’re a seasoned pro with HTML, you’re sure to find something here of use.

Tune up your home page at the “Web Site Garage”

At this site from AtWeb Inc., an internet-based web site maintenance and promotion service, you can get a free evaluation of a page from your web site just by typing in its URL. The evaluation includes how compatible your web page is with different browsers; whether it is set up to be indexed correctly by search engines and directories; how long it takes to load through various connection types, from 14.4K to T-1 (1.44 Mbps) speeds; whether your page has any dead links; how many other sites have links to your page from around the internet; whether any words are spelled incorrectly; and how well-designed it is. Evaluations include suggestions for improvement in each area. AtWeb also provides more extensive services for a fee, such as a monthly tune-up of your entire site or a snapshot of your site as viewed through 18 different browsers, platforms, and screen sizes to ensure compatibility.

Everyone could use a little “Free Advice”

Created by Advice & Counsel, a joint venture between a publishing company and a top-rated law firm, this site professes to be “the leading legal site for consumers and small businesses.” It contains general information to help people understand their legal rights and limitations. An “Education Law” section covers topics such as what rights teachers and school authorities have to regulate a student’s conduct, where and when a school’s jurisdiction in such matters typically ends, and the legality of dress codes and school searches. There’s also advice on accident law, employment law, general practice (suing and being sued), and intellectual property. The only category missing (and only because it’s too new a topic to have many clear precedents established): internet law…but that’s what the eSchool News “Ethics and Law” column is for, right?

“ProjectorCentral” sheds light on good buys

ProjectorCentral is a new internet-based resource for buyers, users, and sellers of LCD, DMD, and reflective projectors. The site has two objectives: educate the buyer, and put buyers in touch with as many sellers as possible. If you’re in the market for a projector, you can compare product specifications, read reviews, find a dealer, and solicit bids–all from the convenience of this site. A “Projector Database” contains a comprehensive listing of all projectors currently on the market, sorted by price, features, or function. Using the “Marketplace” feature, you can solicit price quotes via eMail from any or all dealers. Membership is free, but registration is required to get a password to the site.

Log on to the “21st Century Teachers Network”

21st Century Teachers Network, or 21CT, is a national network of “teacher leaders” helping themselves and their colleagues through educational technology. The volunteer movement, directed by the McGuffey Project with funding from the University of Phoenix, encourages teachers to develop new technology skills and share their knowledge by mentoring colleagues. Membership in the network is free, but you need to register to use the web site. Its resources include education-related news, prioritized by area of interest; “Event Central,” a calendar of training seminars, online projects, and grant deadlines; and “Favorite Places,” member-selected sites of interest, organized by topic and complete with synopses.


Special internet events you won’t want to miss

“Escape to Freedom” unearths the history of the Underground Railroad

February 1999

In conjunction with the Feb. 20 premiere of The History Channel’s two-hour documentary, “Save Our History: The Underground Railroad,” Headbone Interactive has produced this free online learning adventure modeled after its Headbone Derby series for grades 4-8. “Escape to Freedom” will encourage students to research heroes and events in African-American history and to understand the dangers facing runaway slaves during the 1800s. Following the illustrated story on the web site, students will solve a series of problems by finding the information online. They’ll also have a chance to win prizes such as televisions, VCRs, and educational videos for their schools as they compete against other classroom teams.