Best new instructional resources on the internet

“The Bridge” links educators to top-quality marine science resources

A project of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science with support from the National Marine Educators Association, “The Bridge” is a unique clearinghouse of the best marine science resources available online. The site is organized by science topics such as biology, physics, geology, chemistry, and climate. Resources include informational web sites, research data, and lesson plans; the physics section, for example, contains a web-based lesson for tracking drifter buoys to study ocean currents. A “Resource Pavilion” section also provides links to academic programs, aquariums, research institutions, national projects, online expeditions, career information, and professional development opportunities, and an eMail discussion list called SCUTTLEBUTT offers a forum for exchanging ideas.

Read all about it: “Scholastic News Online” is one hot story

Incorporating current events into your lesson plans can be a challenge, particularly in the younger grades. How, for instance, do you explain the troubles of the president to your fourth-grade class? “Scholastic News Online,” the free internet companion to the widely-respected print publication, is an excellent starting point. The site provides daily, age-appropriate news reports covering topics as diverse as sheep cloning and the National Basketball Association labor dispute. Three versions of the site exist: one each for grades 4-6, 7-8, and 9-12. Most stories end with questions for further thought or classroom discussion. There’s also a section called “Kids Speak Out,” where students can offer their own opinions online, and a weekly internet scavenger hunt.

“Sonnet Central”: It’s pure poetry

This online collection of sonnets from literature lover Eric Blomquest is as entertaining as it is thorough. The site includes sonnets from Great Britain, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and America. More than 200 authors are represented, from such luminaries as Shakespeare, Shelley, and Keats, to more obscure writers like W. S. Roscoe and Mathilde Blind. The sonnets are grouped by literary period and also can be accessed quickly via an alphabetical listing of authors. Excerpts from critical essays dating back to the 16th century and a “Listening Room” with Real Audio clips of sonnet readings further distinguish the site.

“The Math Forum” adds up to success in the classroom

In the November 1998 issue of eSchool News, we recognized “Ask Dr. Math” as an outstanding Netwatch site. But we’d be remiss not to mention the entire project of which it is a part. “The Math Forum” is an online community hosted by Swarthmore College and funded in part by the National Science Foundation. In addition to its Q&A service, the site offers a “Problem of the Week” for elementary, middle school, and geometry students; web-based math units created by forum members, such as “Famous Problems in the History of Mathematics” and “Geometry Through Art”; discussions of key math issues, such as equity of access; links to math resources, by subject; and discussion groups.

Satisfy your students’ curiosity with “How Stuff Works”

Created by Marshall Brain, a former computer science teacher at North Carolina State University, this site dissects many of the items found in our everyday lives–like cell phones, car engines, and televisions–and explains how they work in clear and simple language. Topics are grouped into categories such as “Engines and Motors,” “Electronics,” “Around the House (refrigerators and stoves),” “Things You See in Public” (water towers and airplanes), and “Computers and the Internet” (how web servers and the internet work, how a modem works, etc.). Photographs and diagrams accompany the text to help illustrate the principles behind each topic. There’s also a “Question of the Day” section, where you can eMail your own question about how something works.

“HyperHistory” helps depict world events simultaneously

Teaching history according to themes, such as the Industrial Revolution or the Civil War, is probably the most logical approach to helping students understand the events of the past. But sometimes it’s hard for students to understand what was going on at the same time as the period they’re studying. “HyperHistory” promotes a synchronoptic (“seeing at the same time”) approach to history that can be a great way to complement your traditional teaching of the subject. The site offers timelines that show simultaneous historical figures, civilizations, and events side-by-side, so students can see how events around the world overlap and are connected. Color codes help distinguish topics; for example, events relating to science, technology, and discovery are shaded in green; culture and philosophy in blue; religion in yellow; and politics and war in red. The timelines cover 3,000 years of world history and include 400 lifelines and 24 colorful historic maps.


Research and management resources for the K-12 decision maker

“Technology Atlas” puts Pennsylvania’s infrastructure on the map

Want to know which school districts in Pennsylvania use videoconferencing technology? How about whether fiber optic lines reach the state’s northern tier? Such information is instantly available on this web site developed by the state’s Office of Educational Technology. Believed to be the first effort by any state government to map its technological infrastructure, Pennsylvania’s atlas contains more than 400 megabytes of information collected over two years by the University of Pittsburgh from 11,000 telecommunications companies, utilities, schools, universities, local governments, and state agencies. A model for other states to follow, the map can be used by school officials to determine which technologies are available to them in a particular region of the state. It also shows Pennsylvania officials where they should focus the state’s resources to make technology access more equitable for its schools.

Decision-making is made easy with “Edvancenet”

The Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), the National School Boards Foundation, and MCI WorldCom have teamed up to offer this web site to help policymakers and educators make sound decisions about the use of technology in their schools. The site’s main resource is a document called “The Leader’s Guide to Education Technology,” which provides information on how computers can be used to enhance student achievement, remove barriers to learning, and prepare students for the workplace. Each section discusses the challenges to these goals and offers a list of questions that school leaders should ask to ensure that technology is supporting their educational goals. The site also features a “Community Center,” where educators can connect with others around the country to discuss the use of educational technology. Forums include a listserv and online discussions with nationally recognized authorities on school technology issues. February’s discussion topic, “Should textbooks be replaced by laptop computers?,” featured Jack Christie, former chairman of the Texas State Board of Education, who proposed the idea for his state last year.

“Safeguarding Your Technology” should help you sleep at night

As this site indicates, managing technology in your schools can be a risky job–a single mistake can get a superintendent sued, a school board to forbid the exchange of vital educational records, or a local legislature to deny technology funding. This document from the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) offers guidelines to help you understand how and why you should secure your schools’ sensitive information, critical systems, computer equipment, and networks. You can browse the full report online or download and print a PDF version. Topics include why information security is necessary in education, how to assess your security needs, and how to develop and implement a security policy. The report covers the physical security of computer systems as well as security of information, user access, and networks.

Tech planning advice from the “Excellence and Equity Technology Network”

If you’re just beginning to put together your technology plan, you might find this site helpful. Developed through a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, the Excellence and Equity Technology Network offers a technology planning template and information about promising new practices. The “Promising Practices” section contains case studies of schools using technology effectively in five areas: Teaching and Learning, Professional Development, Administrative Communication, Community and Family Involvement, and Infrastructure. Under “Professional Development,” for example, you can read about Boulder Valley, Colo., School District’s solution to providing cost-effective, ongoing technical support. You can also gain new insight from others around the country in the “Network” section’s bulletin boards and listservs.

Try this one-stop shop for your “Web Site Resources”

Created by MC Designs, a student-run web development company based in Fairfax, Va., this site is a comprehensive collection of online resources for building your own web site. Though the occasional grammatical errors in its text suggest that its author should brush up on his English, it’s obvious from the site’s content that he’s much more knowledgeable when it comes to web publishing. Besides providing links to hypertext markup language (HTML) editors, HTML guides, graphics tools, graphics sites, free web site hosting services, file transfer protocol (FTP) tools, counters (to show web site traffic), java tools, and chat utilities, the site includes a comparative chart for each that indicates its cost, description, ease of use, minimum disk space required, and other helpful indicators for choosing the tool that’s right for you.


Special internet events you won’t want to miss

Celebrate “Women in the Arts” with this interactive project March 1-31

This free online project from Computer Curriculum Corp. introduces students to famous women writers, performers, and visual artists such as Patricia Polacco, a children’s author and illustrator; Kiki Sinclair, a performing artist formerly with “STOMP”; and Juanita Ulloa, a musician whose works include the children’s CD series “Canta Conmigo.” Students will explore the creative process with women artists and create a collaborative online collage of student work. The project is CCCnet’s “Theme of the Month” for March; to access it, you’ll need to register using the special offer code “tom423.”