Webcams, which are unmanned cameras that send images automatically to a web site, are among the most oddball but popular items on the web. They have their fans, who see individualism supported, and their detractors, who see voyeurism (or worse) supported.

But one area that’s deserving of exploration are webcams designed to support education. At their best, these webcams bring live, real-time views that could not be accessed in other ways into the classroom.

The online division of the Discovery Channel, Discovery.com, has a section devoted to webcams with potential educational value. Located at http://www.discovery.com/ cams/cams.html, it offers links to webcams covering such topics as animals, travel (for example, the Kremlin), and earth science.

In addition to showing webcam images, Discovery.com has added descriptions of each site, background information, and related links. Each webcam also has an archive of some of the most popular images it has captured to date.

The ability of the webcams both to capture the moment and to archive history can create valuable lessons. For example, a webcam that follows twin baby gorillas is very popular, said a Discovery.com representative. It keeps capturing the gorillas’ images as they grow.

Some webcams, such as those created by the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., also provide a forum for viewers to chat online with other viewers while watching the camera’s images.