Internet Scout Report -- Best of 2007-2008

May 22nd, 2008 Best of 2007-2008
The Scout staff takes an incredible amount of pride in providing some of the best online resources to our readers in our weekly Scout Report. Although we feel all of our resources are valuable, inevitably there are some that we are particularly fond of. This year we thought that we would share some of our favorites over the past academic year with our readers. The process was not easy, as the interests of our staff vary as much as those of our readers. Whether it is the design of the site, the fascinating subject area and content, the site's ease of use, or its usability in the classroom, Scout staffers all have different rationale for preferring one resource over another. Nevertheless, through a very democratic nomination process and staff vote (with a little help from some superdelegates) we were able to produce a top ten list that pleased everyone on the staff. The list is not meant to be inclusive of all our favorites, or every great resource, but it is meant to remind our readers of some of the great resources the Scout Report has delivered over the past academic year. So, we hope you enjoy our list and that you take a few minutes to revisit some of our favorite sites from 2007-2008 and we will look forward to providing our readers with a new batch of fantastic resources in the upcoming year.
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Research and Education

Want to know more about the vast political changes that have occurred in southeastern Europe over the last century? How about the challenge of Jerusalem or about doping and the future of cycling? If you do you are in luck as visitors to the website can do just that. Under the tagline, "The world is thinking", the site provides access to hundreds of delightful talks, conversations, conferences, debates, and more than a few stimulating arguments. Drawing on a broad range of new media experts, brings together content from the Hoover Institution, the Global Philanthropy Forum, the World Affairs Council, the American Jewish Committee, and dozens of other organizations. First-time visitors to the site can take a look through the "Popular Programs" section, and then maybe they might want to look over the blog. For users who don't find any of the programs to their liking, they should make a beeline for the "Pitch a Program" section.

The site is distinguished by its thought-provoking content, as well as the number of visual elements that the site incorporates to make it both easy to use and navigate. Along the top of the site's homepage, visitors are presented with a selection of their latest materials, which have included anything from a round-table discussion on Kosovo to the "greening" of China. Additionally, the site also contains a "Tools" area, which can be of great use to educators who would like to send along selected video programs to students or incorporate various clips into course management software packages. Materials on the site are always current and intriguing, and it is because of these qualities along with the site's ease of use, that the Scout staff felt that it represented one of the best finds of the academic year.

NASA can really put together a website, and the dramatic visual and audio introduction to their online interactive guide to the world of the International Space Station (ISS) is worth sitting back and watching in its entirety. After the introduction, visitors can listen to Commander Mike Fincke talk about the various scientific endeavors that are part of the Station's mission. The rest of the materials on the site are divided into three sections: "How the Crew Lives", "How it Works", and "ISS 360 Tour". While all of the sections are equally interesting, the "How the Crew Lives" is quite a treat, as visitors can watch videos demonstrating how the crew eats, sleeps, and exercises. Of course, visitors with a penchant for engineering technology should definitely not miss the "How it Works" area, which contains explanations of how the ISS is operated and supported. Finally, the site also contains a music video which blends together what sounds like early 1990s-techno music with in-flight scenes of space scientists at work and play.

NASA has developed a number of fantastic sites, and Scout has profiled quite a few over the years. We found this site especially fascinating and useful for both educators and the interested layperson. Because the space station and shuttle missions continue to be newsmakers, this site continues to offer an intriguing look into the international space arena as well as the United States' own space program. Along with the features mentioned above, the 360 Tour is quite a find and could be a great visual tool for the classroom. In addition, the site provides links to various missions involving the space station as well as to a news blog about the space station itself. All in all, this site provides both a visual and educational treat and should not be missed.

Over the past several decades, C-SPAN has brought many hours of fascinating programming to the generally curious. Many teachers have used their programming to edify their students about various aspects of US government, and now C-SPAN has created this very nice site to complement those informal activities. The formal mission of the C-SPAN Classroom site is "to enhance the teaching of Civics & U.S. Government through C-SPAN's primary source programming." Visitors can start their journey by viewing the "Clip of the Week", and then looking through the other thematic sections on the site, which include "Principles of Government", "Legislative Branch", and "Political Participation". Along with each clip, users can also view a short clip description, and take advantage of the discussion questions as well. Visitors will need to complete a short free registration form to access all of the clips, and this only takes a few minutes. This site is quite a delight, and for anyone who teaches civics and related fields, it will most likely become an essential online resource.

Educators who teach political science, civics, or United States government should find this site as handy and enjoyable as the Scout staffers did. We loved this site, and in an election year, the 2008 Presidential Campaign area should be especially handy. This area is full of topical resources that will prove fruitful for educators, students, and others. Resources here include teaching suggestions and links that cover subjects such as primaries, delegates, student activism, and of course, the conduct of the actual campaigns. Visitors will also want to click on over to the C-SPAN Classroom Bulletin area where they can learn about forthcoming classroom contests and opportunities. For its up-to-date content, usefulness in the classroom, and overall content, the C-SPAN classroom easily made it to our list of favorites from this past academic year.

With its use of alliterative verse and rousing subject matter, the epic poem Beowulf has been adored and analyzed for over a millennium. The poem was originally composed in Old English, and it has been translated into dozens of languages over the centuries. Generally, Beowulf's translators have attempted to reproduce one or more of its features or qualities at the expense of others, often intending to make the poem more readable. This particular translation, offered by Dick Ringler of the University of Wisconsin, is intended for "oral delivery". Visitors to this site can listen to the poem in its entirety or access different sections at forty-three separate locations within the text. Additionally, visitors can search for keywords and phrases within the entire poem. Those with a penchant for this masterful work will likely want to share this site with like-minded friends and colleagues.

Although this website has a fairly simple presentation, we found that the usefulness of an oral version of Beowulf in a classroom setting (or other settings) makes up for the site's austerity. English instructors can link to this site and play sections of the poem in the classroom or they can also assign sections for homework. Beowulf was meant to be heard, and this site gives one the rare opportunity to do so at their leisure. An accessible and free oral version of Beowulf is quite a feat and quite a find, and because of this, Beowulf: A New Translation for Oral Delivery, was a Scout Staff favorite to both see and hear.

Drawing on the expertise of lepidopterists and other such experts at Montana State University's Big Sky Institute and the National Biological Information Infrastructure program, this site is a database that provides easy-to-use information about over 2800 species of butterflies and moths. On the site, visitors will find dynamic distribution maps showing verified species occurrences, photographs of the adult and caterpillar (when available) and a cornucopia of species accounts. Users may wish to look over the "Taxonomic Groups" area if they just wish to browse around, or they can also perform a map search, or even just browse image thumbnails by family. Those who are new to the field may wish to look over the online glossary or external links, and those who are ready to lend assistance should check out the "Get Involved" area.

The Butterflies and Moths website was a clear Scout staff favorite of the academic year. The site is visually appealing, easy to navigate, and "swarming" with interesting and useful information. We loved how easy this site was to use and its practical uses in a classroom setting are clearly evident. The image gallery alone, would make this site a nice find, but the ability to browse by taxonomy, species, or geographic region makes this an altogether wonderful site for educators as well as the lay butterfly and moth enthusiast.

Working at the University of Nottingham, Dr. Rebecca Taylor and her colleagues have created this very fine set of resources designed to assist teachers who seek to utilize mathematics in the service of teaching economics. Visitors can learn more about their work in the "About the Team" section, and they can also view a summary of the project's work so far. The real heart of the site is contained within the "Resource Room", which contains streaming videos, teaching and learning guides, and a question bank. Visitors may wish to start with the question bank, which contains files that can be used in problem sheets, assessment exercises and tutorials. The exercises include those drawing on algebra, number theory, and differentiation. Moving on, the site also includes teaching and learning guides that address linear equations, finance growth, and either other topics.

The ME:TAL site is easy to navigate and provides quick access for visitors wishing to learn more about the site or utilize their resources quickly. ME:TAL aims to help instructors maximize student attendance, engagement, and participation in mathematics for economics and this site proves quite successful. The Scout staff liked the overall quality of this site as well as the fact that it was designed for instructors. As mentioned above, the Resource Room is a real find, providing economics instructors with a wealth of resources that are all easily applicable to the classroom. In addition, they continue to improve the site and are launching a number of upgrades and additional resources in spring 2008. Because of its functionality for instructors, quality content, and visual appeal the ME:TAL site was another of our favorite sites for this past academic year.

After a dynamic introduction, visitors will be more than a bit intrigued by this new site created by the National Archives. Designed to give users the unique ability to create their own cache of historical documents and other ephemera, the site offers sections that include "Collect", "Backtrack", "Pathways", and "Create". The "Collect" section allows users to drag historical documents into their own collection profile and the "Backtrack" area keeps tabs on which items visitors have used so far during their exploration of the site. The "Pathways" area is quite fun, as it offers users a series of clues that reveals relationships between photographs, documents, and other records. Visitors can create their own "pathway" or take a look at the three provided here. With more than 1200 documents contained within the site, visitors will definitely want to plan several return visits.

Scout staffers fell in love with this site the instant we found it. We couldn't help but spend valuable time shuffling records to see what we could find and then collect our favorites into our own profile. We created our own pathways and marveled at the digital access we were granted. The site is well developed and designed, easy to use, and provides a plethora of valuable memorabilia and historical documents that could easily be used in the classroom or to create a fun and interesting homework assignment. This site was a shoe-in as one of our favorites for the academic year.

With this rather remarkable collection, the dedicated staff members at Harvard University Library's Open Collections Program have brought together Philadelphia's yellow fever epidemic of 1793, London's Great Plague of 1665, and six other notable epidemics from world history. The collection provides general background information on diseases and epidemics worldwide, and as previously suggested, is organized around significant "episodes" of such diseases. Visitors to the collection will find historical pamphlets, serials, books, and manuscripts totaling over 500,000 pages. The "General Materials" area is worth a look as it provides access to brief overviews of important concepts such as germ theory, public health, vaccination, medical geography, and humoral theory. Overall, it's a tremendous set of offerings, and visitors with a penchant for the history of medicine, public health, or diseases will find that this site is well worth many visits. Also, visitors can share resources on the site via Google Bookmarks and Facebook.

This collection brings a unique set of resources to Internet users and can be applied to classes from epidemiology to public policy to social history. The site is easy to navigate and provides not only digitized copies of books, pamphlets, manuscripts, and maps, but it also provides supplemental explanatory pages. This addition of supplemental material, which introduces related topics, is what truly makes this site indispensable for instructors, or anyone interested in the history of disease and instructors of a multitude of other subjects. Scout staff loved this site for its quality content, ease of use, and its supplemental educational materials.

How do opera singers sustain those high C's in "La Fille du Régiment"? Is a birdsong music? These are but a few of the many questions explored, and answered, on this delightful site. Visitors can consider these and other queries through interactive exhibits, a "questions" section, and movies offered up by the Accidental Scientist Music site, created by staff members at the Exploratorium in San Francisco. To start, visitors should browse through the "Online Exhibits" area. Here they can join an online drum circle, explore the world of step dancing, and even create their own remixes. Queries that include "Why does some music give me goose bumps?" and "Why does sad music sound sad?" are answered using multimedia in the "Questions" area, which is definitely worth a few visits. Finally, the "Movies" area contains a selection of short films that cover everything from the tuning of musical instruments to the blues.

Every once in a while a site comes along that provides valuable educational resources but is also just plain fun. For the Scout staff, the Science of Music was just one of these sites. Providing solutions to common but often unanswered questions, this site delivers a valuable service to laypersons and instructors alike. Although it turns out that the Scout staff isn't musically talented, we still enjoyed composing our own remixes. We also found the online exhibits and movies valuable tools for the classroom and this site made it to our list of favorites with ease.

Which countries are in the European Union? What goods do countries in the European Union produce? Is Andorra a member of the European Union? These questions (and many more) are all answered in this interactive and lively site created by the European Union (EU). The site is set up to provide access to key facts and figures about Europe and Europeans in general, and visitors can click on one of nine playful graphic icons to learn about topics like quality of life, transport, and economic activity and trade. After looking through some of these fact-filled areas, visitors can also browse around in the "What's New?" area. Here they can read newly added reports and fact sheets that address food safety, biofuels standards, and the EU's efforts to combat gender stereotypes.

The European Union is a fascinating entity, which continues to change, develop, and grow. Scout staffers found this site a valuable tool when looking for quick and useful information on the EU or its member nations. Besides just helping visitors figure out if Andorra is actually a member of the EU (the answer is both yes and no), there is an abundance of other interesting facts, figures, and trivia about the EU on this site. Europa is easy to use and well designed and could easily find a place in a classroom. Again, another site that warrants return visits, thus the Scout staff felt is deserved a place in our list of favorites for the academic year.

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EditorMax Grinnell[KMG]
Managing EditorChanda Halderman[CMH]
Co-DirectorEdward Almasy[EA]
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Internet CatalogerEmily Schearer[ES]
Web DeveloperTim Baumgard[TB]
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ContributorDebra Shapiro[DS]

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May 22nd, 2008 The Scout Report - Best of 2007-2008