Best new instructional resources on the internet

“The Valley of the Shadow” traces two communities through the Civil War

Developed by University of Virginia history professors Edward Ayers and William Thomas with support from the National Endowment of the Humanities, this site takes two communities—one from the North and one from the South—through their respective Civil War experiences. The project collects thousands of primary sources, including newspaper accounts, letters, diaries, photographs, maps, church records, population censuses, and military records, to help students explore every dimension of the conflict and reconstruct the life stories of women, African Americans, farmers, soldiers, politicians, and families. A Teaching Materials page offers lesson plans and ideas for using the resources in your history curriculum.

“Auroras: Paintings in the Sky” sheds light on a natural wonder

“Far north in the night sky, a faint glow appears on the horizon. Green and red flames of light stretch across the sky. A glowing curtain of light forms, waving and swirling above you. As the lights fade away, the dark night closes over you once again.” That’s how this online exhibit from the Exploratorium describes the natural beauty of the Northern Lights. Through text, photographs, RealAudio clips of scientists from NASA’s Goddard Space Center, and Quicktime movies of the lights, the site explains what the Aurora Borealis are, how they are created, where they can be found, and what they look like from space. A Teacher’s Page also gives ideas for using the site in the classroom.

“Which Way Is North?” provides a lesson in orientation

Created by Lehigh University Assistant Professor Alec Bodzin for North Carolina State University’s Science Junction, “Which Way Is North?” is an activity that lets students develop their geography skills—and hone their powers of observation—by exploring a variety of geological formations online using Quicktime Virtual Reality (QTVR) panoramas and topographical maps. Students can examine the panoramic landscapes by clicking and dragging a mouse over the images to pan to the left, right, up, or down. By comparing each panoramic landscape with its corresponding topographical map, students are asked to determine which area of the panorama faces north. Twelve different landscapes are provided for students’ exploration.

“ReefWatch” removes the barriers to understanding these fragile ecosystems

Sponsored by the American Museum of Natural History, this site follows a group of scientists from Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution, the New York Aquarium, and other research facilities as they investigate the health of the coral reefs in the Florida Keys. The site includes a presentation on why coral reef systems are endangered around the world; a journal of the scientists’ activities from July 10-19 as they made daily excursions to various research sites in the Everglades, Florida Bay, Looe Key, and the Keys wetlands; and a list of resources for further exploration of coral reef environments.

“DNA for Dinner?” mulls the topic of genetic engineering

This WebQuest developed by William E. Peace, a science teacher at Dennis-Yarmouth Regional High School in Massachusetts, helps students use the internet to learn about the genetic engineering of food crops. Working in groups, students research how genes in plants can be changed, why they are changed, and what the possible side effects might be in order to answer the question, “Should genetically engineered crops be specially labelled for consumers, and why?” Students are then asked to draft a law that would address the labelling of genetically engineered foods in the U.S., present their proposed legislation to the class, and eMail their state or federal representative in Congress.

“Worldware” opens the world of the internet to educators

This K-12 curriculum site from Jostens Learning Corp. costs $35 per year for a 30-user subscription, but teachers can get a free two-week trial membership to check it out. The site’s goal is to help teachers integrate the internet into their curriculum in a meaningful and useful manner. Internet-specific thematic lessons and activities are grouped by the content areas of science, mathematics, social studies, language, current events, and the arts. In the Science Center, for example, you’ll find lessons such as “Yellow Fever and the Panama Puzzle,” which takes students back to 1900 when yellow fever was everywhere. In this interactive science activity, students follow the steps Major Walter Reed took to find the cause of the disease. A section called Currents Corner provides links to students activities based on current events, such as Europe’s transition to the euro currency, and the Lesson Plan Depot lets you share lesson plans with other teachers participating in the Worldware community.


Research and management resources for the K-12 decision maker

Reduce your total cost of ownership with these technology tools

Developed by the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) with funding from IBM and Intel, “Taking TCO to the Classroom” is an initiative designed to help school administrators better understand the concept of total cost of ownership (TCO) so they can plan for the long-term and other “hidden” costs associated with installing computer networks. Over the next few months, the project will seek to build awareness of the issue among those responsible for budgeting for technology. At the project’s web site, you can find tools to guide your decision-making, including a white paper that provides an overview of the topic; highlights of available research to help you budget wisely; and a downloadable presentation, called “Planning for the Total Cost of School Technology,” to help you explain the subject to school board members and stakeholders.

“” aims to streamline school purchases

A division of UCA Computer Systems of Whippany, N.J., is a portal site that seeks to streamline the school technology purchasing process by letting you compare the product specifications and prices of several different manufacturers at once, quickly and easily. Through its Academic Advantage Program, eduWonders also gives discounts to registered education customers. At its June 15 launch, the site reportedly offered discounts on some 11,000 products from 67 hardware and software makers, including Acer, Compaq, Toshiba, Microsoft, Symantec, and The Learning Company, and was expected to add another 80 or so companies to its online marketplace by the end of the summer. Products are available for just about every computer systems need, from desktops, laptops, and palmtops to modems, printers, scanners, and both general and education-specific software. For now, the site only takes credit card orders, but the company says it will have a system in place by the fall to take school purchase orders as well.

Team up with this site’s creators to learn about electronic collaboration

A joint production of the Northeast & Islands Regional Educational Laboratory at Brown University, the National School Network, and the Teacher Enhancement Electronic Community Hall, “Electronic Collaboration: A Practical Guide for Educators” features an 11-step process for making online collaborative projects successful. The guide includes explanations of various kinds of collaborations, including discussion groups, data collection and organization, document sharing, synchronous communication, and online workshops and courses; tools and web sites that can be resources for creating each of these forms of collaborative environments; tips for moderating online collaborations; and several examples of successful school-based collaborative projects.

“College Opportunities Online” helps students find the school of their choice

This new Department of Education (ED) site, which provides links to more than 9,000 colleges and universities across the U.S., was authorized by Congress last year to help students compare schools. Large universities, small liberal arts colleges, specialized colleges, community colleges, career and technical colleges, and trade schools all are represented. Students and school guidance counselors can search the site by location, type of institution, or academic program—either alone or in combination—or they can search for a college by name. Information on each school includes the contact phone numbers for general information, admissions, and financial aid; tuition and fees; student demographics, by race and gender; and degrees conferred.

“Classroom Connect” becomes an internet hub for educators

Internet-based curriculum and training provider Classroom Connect has redesigned its web site to become a comprehensive hub for educational resources. Designed to be a “home base” on the internet for educators, parents, and students, the new site features thousands of web links that are pre- researched by Classroom Connect’s cybrarians for their educational value and organized by curriculum topic and grade level; lesson plans for math, science, social studies, and language arts; surveys and posting of educator feedback on key classroom and industry issues; extracts from the Classroom Connect newsletter; a calendar of daily educational activities; a teacher contact database; teacher message boards and discussion groups; best practices topics and teaching tips; and a glossary of internet terms. Future plans for the educational hub include free eMail accounts for educators; teacher chat rooms; links to state standards web sites and databases; and a classroom-based area for students that will deliver a new curriculum topic each week.