Encourage students to “Read, Write, Think” with help from this web site

Since its launch nearly two years ago, the ReadWriteThink web site has provided K-8 educators throughout the world with research-based lesson plans and web resources they can use to teach language-arts skills in their classrooms. Now the site has expanded its reach, offering lesson plans for educators teaching grades 9-12. Topics include young adult literature, censorship, modernist poetry, critical reading, characterization, and creative and business writing. These supplementary, interactive lessons invite students to test their knowledge of animals through inquiry-based research projects; plan for short stories and writing assignments using a handy circle plot diagram; compose their own comic strips; create poems and riddles; and much, much more. Can’t find exactly what you’re looking for? A comprehensive collection of web resources provides links to a myriad of language-arts and English web sites from all over the internet. Developed by the International Reading Association in collaboration with the National Council of Teachers of English, the site was selected for honorable mention by eSchool News readers during our 2003 Readers’ Choice Awards.

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“Veterans History Project” records the stories of America’s war veterans

From the American Folklife Center and the Library of Congress comes a unique online resource designed to preserve the stories and experiences of America’s 19 million living war veterans. The “Veterans History Project,” organized by former President Bill Clinton, seeks to collect and preserve videotaped oral histories–along with documentary materials such as letters, diaries, maps, photographs, and home movies–of America’s war veterans and those who served in support of them. While visiting the project’s web site, students will be able to read actual letters written by soldiers to their loved ones during many of the nation’s most trying times. The site includes the personal accounts of soldiers and civilians from all branches of service in World Wars I and II, as well as the Korean, Vietnam, and Persian Gulf wars. To keep the project going, students, citizens, and organizations are invited to contribute using the Project Kit, which provides all of the necessary information and forms required to interview a veteran about his or her experiences for inclusion in the archive. Librarians, museum directors, school officials, and civic leaders can read about model veterans projects and learn how to start an initiative of their own.

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Take a virtual trip into literary history with “The 19th Century in Print”

“The Nineteenth Century in Print: The Making of America in Books and Periodicals” is a great resource for students to explore 19th-century American history through the words and pictures of the authors and illustrators of the period. This fully online collection is a part of the Making America project, a collaboration between Cornell University and the University of Michigan to preserve deteriorating texts, including 23 popular magazines and more than 1,500 books that illuminate themes central to American life in the mid- to late-19th century. Topics include the Civil War, slavery and abolition, religion, education, self-help and self-improvement, travel and westward expansion, and poetry. The materials selected for inclusion illuminate subjects ranging from education, psychology, and American history to sociology, religion, science, and technology. The collection is part of the National Digital Library Program, an effort by the U.S. Library of Congress to offer broad public access to a wide range of historical and cultural documents as a contribution to lifelong learning.

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Help students design “Super Science Fair Projects” with advice from this site

For students, the school science fair often sets the stage for the most involved and intellectually challenging projects of the year. From exploding volcanoes to deteriorating ozone layers, a single project sometimes can take months to complete, says Chicago-area educator Madeline Binder, who recently launched a new web site designed to help middle and high school students through the science fair process. Using a cartoon character named Detective ThinkMore, Binder leads learners through the steps of conducting a successful science fair project. For instance, by clicking on the “Secret Files” button, students get a list of potential projects, topics, ideas, and experiments, as well as additional resources for continued research and exploration. Plus, an online timeline helps students stay on task and finish their projects on time. Students also can learn how to map a project timeline, keep a science log, choose a category and topic, research a project, complete all six steps of the scientific method, write a project report and abstract, make a display board, give an oral presentation about their project, and more. For parents, a guide explains how to coach a child during this process while avoiding the temptation of taking over the project themselves. In addition, a teacher’s resource page contains links to several instructional resources and planning guides designed to help facilitate the process.

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Teach media literacy with the aid of this new online resource

“Five questions that can change the world.” That’s what educators are calling the Five Key Questions that form the basis of the new “MediaLit Kit,” an educational framework and curriculum guide developed by the Center for Media Literacy. Adaptable to all grades, the Five Key Questions are designed to help children and teens critique and challenge the thousands of media messages bombarding them daily, the center contends. “We live in increasingly complex times, and unless we teach our children how to read about, watch, interpret, understand, and analyze the day’s events, we risk raising a generation of civic illiterates, political ignoramuses, and uncritical consumers, vulnerable not only to crackpot ideas, faulty reasoning, and putative despots but fraudulent sales pitches and misleading advertising claims,” wrote Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Shaw in a Nov. 30 Los Angeles Times editorial endorsing the service. Now, nearly two years in the making, the MediaLit Kit provides an overview of the core elements in the burgeoning field of media literacy education, as well as powerful and practical implementation tools for classrooms from kindergarten to college.

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Intel expands its support for ed-tech initiatives

Chip maker Intel Corp. has expanded its stable of free, online resources for educators with the addition of three new tools intended to promote the effective use of technology in education. The resources, first announced at the National School Boards Association’s Technology + Learning conference last fall, include “Design and Discovery,” a program to encourage student interest in engineering through a series of classroom handouts and mentoring activities; “Learning with Handhelds,” a collection of learning projects that integrate handhelds into the classroom, including instructional examples appropriate for different grade levels and subject areas; and the “Intel Innovation in Education Institutes,” a series of face-to-face training sessions where teachers show other teachers how to incorporate these and other resources into their curriculum. The institutes target those who are responsible for providing professional development in the use of technology, use a hands-on lab environment, and are lead by experienced facilitators. The new Intel web resources are part of the Intel Innovation in Education Initiative, which aims to improve the quality of science, mathematics, technology, and engineering education by helping students develop the higher-level thinking skills they need to participate and succeed in a knowledge-based economy, the company said.

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Call it a sign of the times: New searchable online sign language dictionary debuts

From the Atlanta Area School for the Deaf (AASD), “MySignLink” is a new resource designed to make it easier for educators to communicate with students who are hearing-impaired. The site contains a searchable online sign language dictionary, which the AASD bills as a “powerful new application that promotes deaf literacy, while helping others around the state, and the world, learn American Sign Language.” Currently, the database includes 17,000 English words and phrases, all linked to nearly 2,500 video clips showing signs in action. AASD said it hopes to expand the database to more than 100,000 word entries. Educators who wish to use this free service can do so by going to the web site, highlighting any of the words on their screen, clicking on the link, and watching the a short video of the corresponding sign. A search feature also enables users to look for a specific word within the list. MySignLink was developed by AASD Media and Technology Specialist Dr. Harley Hamilton, with assistance from Kennesaw State University Technology Instructor Jim Wright. “Use it while browsing web pages, reading a book, watching captioned TV, doing homework, studying for a test, communicating with a deaf family member, or even eating a sandwich,” Hamilton said. “It’s a fun and easy way to learn sign language, and it is available on any computer with an internet connection.”

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Chart the progress of the charter school movement with this new online database

State and local educators and policy makers now have a resource that promises to help them stay on top of the charter school laws and policies already enacted in 40 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Courtesy of the Education Commission of the States, this new database enables users to generate profiles of the different charter school policies in individual states; compare various rules and regulations across several states; and view reports on student and school performance, sponsors, funding, per-pupil expenditures, teacher certification, waivers, facilities, and more. In compiling the information for this site, the commission reportedly reviewed each state’s statutes and administrative codes concerning charter schools, consulted the Center of Education Reform’s report “Charter School Laws, State by State,” and sent each state’s profile to a state department of education or charter school association official for review and comment.

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“NetSafeKids.org” arms parents with information to safeguard their children online

Here’s a site for educators to share with parents as they continue looking for new and reliable ways to keep their children safe online. From the National Academy of Science and predicated upon the findings of the National Research Council’s 2002 report “Youth, Pornography, and the Internet,” NetSafeKids.org provides practical information and tips to help parents identify and combat the different types and sources of sexually explicit content online. The site discusses the various ways inappropriate material can reach youngsters, the threat of “cyberstalking,” the pros and cons of filtering and monitoring tools, and other issues involving internet safety. Proponents of the site have called it “an important step on the road to becoming an internet-savvy parent who can make informed decisions and plan effective strategies that promote safe and enjoyable internet experiences for children.”

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product spotlight

Linux-based tablet PC breaks the $1,000 price barrier

With the launch of Microsoft Corp.’s Tablet PC operating system in 2002, tablet computing devices have soared in popularlity. But the technology’s high price point has kept most schools from being able to afford such devices–until now.

Element Computer, a Staten Island, N.Y.-based manufacturer, has introduced a tablet PC device that runs on a Linux-based platform and costs only $999. The Helium 2100 has a 2-in-1 convertible design that transforms it from a laptop to a tablet PC. It runs on the new Desktop/LX Tablet Edition OS from Lycoris with a 1-gigahertz Antaur processor from Via Technologies. The Desktop/LX operating system reportedly is compatible with all printers, digital cameras, and components, so customers can feel as confident purchasing from Element Computer as they would from an all-Windows PC vendor, the company said.

“Being able to offer a tablet PC that people can afford is finally possible, and we are determined to bring devices like this to the masses,” said Mike Hjorleiffsson, president and founder of Element Computer.

The Helium 2100 features a 14.1-inch, touch-panel XGA active matrix display, 256 megabytes of installed memory (expandable to 1 gigabyte), 30 gigabytes of installed hard drive space (expandable to 80 GB), a wireless option, and up to three hours of battery life. (718) 247-4263 http://www.elementcomputer.com

Microsoft Encarta Premium is a top-notch learning tool

Microsoft’s new MSN Encarta Premium, based on the company’s encyclopedia brand, is a learning and research tool that combines the functionality of Encarta Reference Library 2004 and the internet. Its built-in Homework Center provides students with step-by-step writing guides, literature guides, an archive of top periodicals, a collection of web site links, and an interactive math tutorial feature called MathHelp.

Powered by Design Science MathPlayer technology, MathHelp gives students step-by-step guidance with problems in commonly used textbooks. Students select a textbook, navigate to a specific problem, and review detailed explanations by expert mathematicians on how to solve it.

Encarta Premium is a stand-alone subscription service available only in the United States and Japan that costs $4.95 a month or $29.95 a year. As of Jan. 8, it also became available as a feature in Microsoft’s newest subscription service, MSN Premium.

(800) 386-5550 http://www.encarta.msn.com

Latest version of NetOp School offers more functionality

CrossTec Corp.’s NetOp School software is known for its ability to give teachers thumbnail images or full-screen views of each student’s PC to make sure students stay on task during class time. The latest version, NetOp School 3.0, now lets teachers disable student access to all programs and web site URLs except those authorized by the instructor. This new version also has the ability to record a teacher’s lessons for playback later. The DVD-like playback controls include start, pause, stop, next, skip, and zoom. In addition, the new version boasts a tool teachers can use to create interactive lesson plans that include links to demo screens, URLs, multimedia files, and more.

“NetOp School was first developed in the mid-’90s to enable a teacher to take full control of a student’s PC, mouse, and keyboard,” said Robert Rounsavall, product manager for NetOp School. “With NetOp School 3.0, it’s now easier than ever for teachers to effectively demonstrate their teaching materials, control how students interact with those resources, and monitor their progress.”

NetOp School 3.0 starts at less than $650 per classroom. A free evaluation copy is available from the CrossTec web site.

(800) 675-0729 http://www.crossteccorp.com

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