A Toolkit for Action” holds the nuts and bolts for fixing the digital divide

According to the Children’s Partnership, a national nonprofit organization whose mission is to inform leaders about the needs of America’s 70 million children, experts project that computers and the internet will play an increasingly influential role in the job market, the way children learn, and nearly every aspect of their daily living. In response to the growing need for a skilled work force, the partnership has posted a new online resource with state-by-state information tools addressing the digital age. “Young Americans and the Digital Future” is focused on decision-making within states and local communities. Working with both the public and private sectors, this campaign pays particular attention to the needs of low-income and other underserved young people. The Children’s Partnership has designed this online “Toolkit for Action” to build upon that growing momentum and to help leaders implement policies that address these challenges effectively. The toolkit includes a National Fact Sheet with the latest data on U.S. kids and families online at home, school, and in the community. It also contains a framework for policy action, including examples from communities where the ideas are being tried, as well as a State Fact Sheet with current statistics about young people and technology. There is also a state policy model with actual language from a proposal currently being considered in one state, as well as a list of resources for further information and assistance.



“Teach for Tomorrow” prepares teachers to use the web during instruction

Teach for Tomorrow (TFT) debuted as a pilot program among 25 Michigan educators during the 1998-99 school year. Today, more than 450 facilitators in more than 175 school districts have been trained as TFT facilitators. The program is designed by educators to meet the unique needs of teachers who seek to make the best use of the internet in their classrooms. Use of the program’s web site is free with registration. Every “member” receives a web-based portfolio to use as a tool for their own planning, reflection, collaboration, and recording of ideas and web links. The site contains useful online resources and activities, and it helps teachers understand how to use internet technology and content for instruction, presentation, lesson planning, research, and collaboration. TFT begins with an introduction to internet tools, then moves into more complex topics. Some of these include best uses of the internet with students, bookmarks and web pages as teacher tools for instruction, learning and teaching online search strategies, curriculum planning with the internet, and how to learn and teach web page authoring. The online course materials can be used by a teacher for independent online learning, by a group of teachers working with a trained facilitator, or by a trainer (media specialist, technology coordinator, or teacher) working with a school- or district-based group of teachers. This site is very useful for training reluctant technology users in your district.



Get the goods on federal support for ed-tech at this web site

“Education Technology: Selected Federal Information and Resources” is a companion web site to the U.S. Department of Education’s May 2001 Satellite Town Meeting. This page lists a number of federally supported resources designed to help schools and families use technology for learning. Make sure you visit the site now, as it will be removed from the web on August 1. The page of links is organized around five questions: What teaching and learning resources are available on the web from the federal government? What support is available from the federal government that can help my school or family use technology for learning? What information is available from the federal government that can help my school or family use technology for learning? What information and resources does the federal government support in my region of the country that can help my school or family use education technology effectively? Where can I find information and resources in my state that could help my school or family use technology for learning? Clicking on any one of these general questions takes you directly to the applicable links, each of which is accompanied by a small blurb describing the resource. Get the useful details from this site as soon as possible, before it expires.



The animation of “TECHtionary” brings complex technology concepts to life

TECHtionary is a great resource for school network administrators who really need to understand and explain complex technical concepts and systems. It may also be the first animated dictionary on telecommunications, data networking, and internet technology. The site is simple to use, but a relatively speedy internet connection to load its animations is preferable. It is best viewed with Internet Explorer and Flash 5, both of which can be downloaded right from TECHtionary’s home page. To look up a term, users simply roll their mouse over the first letter of the item they want to understand and see animated, and a pop-up list of all terms for that letter appears. When users click on the correct term, the site’s ingenious creators supply them with an animated clip that delineates exactly how that hardware, software, system, or concept works. For instance, to get a better understanding of what a LAN switch does, users can click on that term for a short clip and a definition. TECHtionary is a great resource for school technology coordinators who need to explain complex technologies and technology decisions to less tech-savvy administrators and school board members. It takes out the computer jargon and makes concepts more palatable for beginners. This also could be a wonderful resource for computer and information technology teachers.



“spaceKids” sends learning into orbit

“spaceKids” was developed by Space.com, a space science web site that offers rich, compelling, entertaining, and educational content for everyone, from astronauts to educators to kids. spaceKids uses IBM’s HotMedia technology for its zoom-in capabilities and features EarthKam, a series of images taken by satellite and provided in a fast, easy format for downloading. The site includes a photo gallery of actual images of heavenly bodies, from comets, to asteroids, to sun storms, to craters. It also provides students and teachers with great movie clips of shuttle missions, liftoffs, famous moments in space history, and television clips. Kids can participate in an “Ask the Experts” chat on the site, in which astronomy and space science experts answer questions on any of 26 different topics, from the moon, to telescopes, to galaxies. The Solar System portion of the site begins with a virtual tour of the corner of the universe we call home, and it answers questions about some of our solar system’s leading characters, such as our sun, the planets, and their satellites. Students with Flash 4 and Shockwave capability also can play space-related educational games. spaceKids includes a “Just for Teachers” segment, with lesson plan modules for using the site in classroom instruction. Kids and adults alike will enjoy this colorful, interactive, and entertaining resource.



“Virtual Ocean” will make quite a splash with youngsters

Part of the web site “An Introduction to Microscopy,” the Virtual Ocean shows what sea creatures look like in larval form, as well as microscopic algae, bristle worms, radiolaria, and other smaller, often overlooked sea dwellers. Students can get an in-depth look at some of the smallest–and most important–creatures in the ocean’s food chain. For instance, have you ever seen a comb jelly–or “sea gooseberries,” as they are also known–considered to be one of the most beautiful creatures in the ocean? Did you know there’s a microorganism called an Art Deco Diatom, named for its symmetrical fan-shaped body structure? And did you know that sea squirts have a larval tail–much like that of a tadpole–that they use for propulsion, which they later reabsorb when they find a suitable place to live? This site also includes tips on catching and keeping some of the ocean’s tiniest inhabitants for classroom study, and it provides a useful reference for lab work on ocean biology. Included on the main page is a link to “The Smallest Page on the Web,” an introduction to the microscopic organisms that can be found in a freshwater pond. Science teachers are encouraged to use images and text from the web site in their classes.

http://www.euronet.nl/users/janpar/virtual/ocea n.html


Look for American history “Within these Walls”

This web site from the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History follows the inhabitants of a single house in Massachusetts, over the course of 200 years. The site runs in correlation with the museum’s “Within these Walls” exhibition, in which a real two-and-a-half story house was moved from Massachusetts to the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. and is now located on the museum’s second floor. Visitors to the web site–and the exhibit–are invited to discover the stories of five families who lived in the house from the 1760s to the 1940s and made history in their kitchens and parlors through everyday choices and personal acts of courage and sacrifice. Students learn how their lives reflected the great changes and events in American history, from colonial times, the American Revolution, slavery, and abolition to immigration, industrialization, and World War II. Virtual visitors are invited to look inside the house to find original architectural details, as well as furnishings that suggest how some of the rooms might have been used. Artifacts from the different time periods–such as an 18th-century doll, a rare Revolutionary War coat, an antislavery almanac, and World War II posters–all suggest what the daily lives of the home’s inhabitants may have been like. This easy-to-use, glossy site, which requires the Flash plug-in, provides kids and history teachers with a fascinating visual glimpse into different time periods throughout American history.



“Cyber Newseum” teaches kids to think critically about the news

The Cyber Newseum was created by the Newseum, an interactive museum located in Arlington, Va., that takes visitors behind the scenes to see and experience how and why news is made. The Cyber Newseum highlights several of the museum’s exhibitions online, showing what it’s like to be on the front lines and in the trenches reporting on conflicts that affect the fates of nations, cultures, and human lives. The “War Stories” exhibit demonstrates what it’s like to a war correspondent, with interview clips from correspondents from World War II, the Korean conflict, Vietnam, Desert Storm, and other international conflicts. This history of war reporting includes first-hand stories told by the men and women who have gone to battle with pens and cameras. “Holocaust, the Untold Story” examines the role of the press during World War II. The exhibit asks whether a more aggressive press during that conflict might have saved lives. It dispels the myth that the Holocaust was a secret and explores the reasons why newspapers downplayed the horrifying reports from Europe. “Capture the Moment: Pulitzer Prize-winning Photographs” displays the images that have touched the American consciousness over the years. The exhibit displays every Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph since 1941–the first year a photograph was eligible for the award–to the present day. The site’s Shockwave version includes accompanying narration by the actual photographers who have won journalism’s most prestigious award. This is a great resource to get kids thinking critically about what they see and hear reported in the news.