Internet Scout Report -- Best of 2009-2010

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The Scout Report
June 10th, 2010 Best of 2009-2010

The Internet Scout staff takes an incredible amount of pride in providing pointers to some of the best online resources to our readers in our weekly Scout Report. Although we feel all of the resources we cover are valuable, inevitably there are some that stand out from the pack. In this year's 'Best of' issue we will share some of our favorite sites from the past academic year with our readers. The process of choosing which sites to include 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 online resource over another. Nevertheless, we were able to produce a top ten list that pleased everyone on the staff and we hope our readers as well.

The list is not intended to be inclusive of all our favorites, or every great resource, but it is meant to remind our readers of some of the outstanding resources the Scout Report has covered over the past academic year. So we hope you enjoy this list, and maybe take a few minutes to revisit some of our favorite sites from 2009-2010. As always, we look forward to providing you with a new batch of fantastic resources throughout the upcoming year.

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Best of 2009-2010

Xeno-Canto: Bird Sounds From the Americas [Real Player]

As birds continue their twittering and general noise making around the world, we here at the Scout Report are reminded of what drew us to this site. Perhaps the highlight of this excellent site is the ability to cross-reference the geographic locations of the birds, their sounds, and conservation efforts around the word. Also, we are self-professed amateur ornithologists here at Internet Scout, and making an audio tour of weaver calls from Kenya and lesser kiskadee noises from Guyana without leaving the computer is great. Visitors can use the "Random Species" link to get started, and it's easy to move around the site with the "Map Search" feature and the "Browse" option. If that's not enough, visitors can also comment on different birdcalls, and help others identify different recordings.

Xeno-Canto is a fantastic website that exemplifies how the Internet can bring together people from around the world who have a common interest. This website offers bird songs, recorded by ornithologists and amateur birders alike, of almost 4500 species from around the world. The site is divided up into "Americas", "Asia", "Africa", "Europe", and "Australasia", and visitors can click on any region they desire in the far right hand corner of any page. There are many ways to view the information in the site, keeping in mind that the English and Latin names are used to identify the birds. Under Collection, on the menu found on the left side of any page, visitors can click on the link "All Species" to see a list of all the species with recorded songs, for the region they selected or across all regions. The number of recordings of each species of bird is listed next to their name. The fun "Mysteries" link, underneath the "Participate" section also found on the left side menu, contains unidentified bird recordings, posted so others might help determine the bird in question.

Nasa eClips

Over the years, NASA has created a host of fantastic websites and the NASA eClips is no exception. The Scout staff gave their thumbs up to this series of short "eClips" for a number of reasons. First, the site is easy to navigate and the videos are easy to view, easy to understand, and well produced. Second, the wide variety of grades and topics covered is impressive. Third, we loved the flexibility that these clips provided for classroom use; their short duration makes them easy to fit in to a lesson plan or homework assignment. We also appreciated the work that went into ensuring that the material for these programs was based on national curriculum standards, including standards identified by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), and the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). Last, but not least, we were impressed by the high quality teacher tools provided here. Overall, the Scout staff expects that this site would be extremely useful to students, educators, and the general inquisitive public.

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) are the focus of this website and it is meant to be used as a teaching tool. The site utilizes video segments to provide flexibility and inspiration for those teaching STEM-related topics to grades K-5, 6-8 and 9-12. Many of the advanced grade segments are also appropriate for introductory college level courses. The collection of videos for 9-12th graders is called "Launchpad". Visitors can access it by clicking on the link in the menu on the left hand side of the homepage and view videos on topics from methane to transits to fluid dynamics. Those visitors who are no longer in the classroom, but still want to learn about space via engaging videos can check out "NASA 360 For Public" on the left hand menu on the homepage. There is a series of a dozen videos to play online or download which address such topics as "NASA in Your Home", "NASA and Pro Athletes", and "Exploration and Racing".

Vincent Van Gogh: The Letters

At the Scout Report, we are always on the lookout for compelling exhibits that reveal the true character of artists of all sorts. Truly, this site can be considered one of the best portraits of an artist we have seen in this past year. This is largely due to the site's focus on Van Gogh's abilities as a communicator across several expressive traditions. We were delighted to discover this amazing collection of letters to and by Vincent Van Gogh, provided courtesy of the Van Gogh Museum and the Huygens Institute. The site contains over 900 letters, and visitors can pick out letters of interest by period, correspondent, place, or look for those with sketches by the master himself. Visitors can also view topical essays like "Van Gogh as a letter-writer" and check out information on the print edition of these letters.

The letters written by Vincent Van Gogh have appeared many times before, but this is the first time they have appeared as part of a complete digital edition. This fascinating collection was created by the Van Gogh Museum and the Huygens Institute, and the letters were edited by Leo Jansen, Hans Luijten and Nineke Bakker. On the site, visitors can view the over 900 letters from and to Van Gogh, complete with detailed annotations and illustrations from the master himself. First-time visitors should definitely click on the "Quick Guide" to get an overview of the site's holdings, and then they should also take a look at the sections "Van Gogh as a letter-writer", "Correspondents", "Biographical & historical context", and "Publication History". The letters include those from many of his contemporaries, including Paul Gauguin, and of course, those lovely pieces of writing from his brother, Theo. Users can also use the search engine here to look around by keyword. Finally, visitors can also look through the "About this Edition" area to learn about the reading texts included here, the translations, and the annotations.

Exploratorium 40th Anniversary: Speaking of Music Rewind [iTunes]

Here at the Scout Report, we don't often get visitors like Anthony Braxton, Astor Piazzolla, or Philip Glass stopping by our offices. We'd love to play host (hint, hint), but in the meantime, we'll just keep on listening to the Speaking of Music Rewind podcast series created by the Exploratorium. The site is distinguished by its use of clear and compelling graphics, and a broad focus on a range of musical talents and traditions. The offerings here include extended musical conversations from the past 40 years with some of the distinguished guests mentioned above, and a few other surprises. Visitors can even get a taste of "augmented reality" in the "Surprise!" area. Also, the "Timeline" area presents a great way to learn about the history of the Exploratorium museum in San Francisco.

The Exploratorium is in San Francisco's Palace of the Fine Arts, and contains science, art, and human perception exhibits. It has long promoted museums, including its own, as informal learning centers. The 40th anniversary of the Exploratorium is, in part, being honored with monthly podcasts of the radio series Speaking of Music that ran from 1983-1992. Prominent musicians were interviewed in front of a live audience, and some of the musicians even played some music on the show. The podcasts are called Speaking of Music Rewind and a new one will come out monthly until November 2010. The website has "Upcoming", "Recent", and "Featured" sections of podcasts from which to choose. Some of the prominent artists that were guests on the show include Brian Eno, Phillip Glass, and Laurie Anderson. These podcasts can be found in the "Recent" section. In order to "browse full archive", simply click the link at the bottom the homepage.

National Science Foundation: Science Nation [Flash Player]

"Science for the People" was a tagline that caught our eye when looking at the National Science Foundation's (NSF) "Science Nation" website. The site lives up to its promise, and it's the best way we have seen as of late to learn about the NSF's activities, and more importantly, about science in general in a clear and concise fashion. Science Nation is hosted by Miles O'Brien, and visitors can view the featured Science Nation update on the homepage to get started. Recent profiles have included video features on wind power in Wyoming and the sense of "fair play" that is shared by humans and primates.

Billed as "The Online Magazine That's All About Science for the People", the online magazine Science Nation reports on important science breakthroughs. Created by the National Science Foundation, the site reports on scientific and technological developments by using video clips, first-hand reporting, and well-written articles. On the homepage, visitors can take in their latest report, and then move on down to the "Science Nation Topics" area. Here they will find reports on tornadoes, new technologies for the visually handicapped, and the effect that climate change will have on Emperor penguin populations in Antarctica. Each topic is accompanied by related images and links to additional websites of note. Finally, visitors can also sign up to receive updates from the site via email and they are welcome to send along their feedback.

The Mathematical Association of America: Podcast Center

Facets of the Mathematical Association of America's (MAA) website have been highlighted in the Scout Report a number of times, but we were especially fond of its new feature - the MAA Podcast Center. Though the site isn't the fanciest around, the content makes it well worth a number of visits. Listening to each podcast is simple: just click on a subject that interests you and you are ready to go. The site is updated regularly and, perhaps surprisingly to some, these mathematics podcasts stay abreast of current news and issues. In addition to the high quality of the content, the Scout staff especially liked the idea of being able to use a podcast in a Math classroom - something that isn't always easy to do. But thanks to the MAA, math educators can search through a variety of podcasts to find something useful for their classroom.

The Mathematical Association of America (MAA) has done an excellent service by placing this collection of podcasts online. This diverse set of podcasts consists of talks and presentations given at MAA-sponsored events, and visitors are welcome to use them in the classroom or for their own personal edification. The podcasts here extend back to the spring of 2007, and the presentations include "Why Do Golf Balls Have Dimples?" and "The Joy of Solving Equations". The speakers include experts from Brandeis University, the University of Montreal, and Macalester College. It's also worth noting that for many of the lectures, an accompanying article is available for consultation.

Balzac's Paris: A Guided Tour

Honoré de Balzac was a keen observer of the world around him, who found himself in one of the world's cultural centers during a period of great social upheaval, technological transformation, and urban change. This delightful website from the University of California, Riverside's Tomás Rivera Library is one of our favorites because of the way it immerses visitors in the life of this renowned author via period maps, unique photographs, and helpful directions. First-time visitors should kick things off by looking at the "Balzac Biography". After this, visitors can meander through the "Balzac's Paris" area, where they will find period maps, drawings, and other materials that will place them into this 19th century urban world. The Scout staff was enchanted with their visit to the site, and it may inspire a trip to the City of Lights.

Honoré de Balzac was a great lover of Paris, and he happened to live in the City of Lights during a time when the city was undergoing intense physical transformation. Admittedly, many of the city's most famous landmarks did not emerge until after Balzac's passing in 1850, but this rather emotional and provocative online exhibit takes users into the Paris that the writer knew most intimately. Drawing on its tremendous Vernon Duke Collection (which includes over 800 books, maps, and documents on the history of Paris), the University of California, Riverside Library has created this fine introduction and exploration of Paris during the life of Balzac. The site contains a number of virtual tours (illuminated by various primary documents), along with a biography of Balzac, and a detailed bibliography.

BioEd Online: Podcasts Plus Lessons

BioEd Online, from the Baylor College of Medicine, has always been a Scout staff favorite and the podcast feature of the website does not disappoint. The site is especially easy to navigate, with each available podcast clearly listed on the site with a title and a short description. Once visitors choose a title of interest, they are provided with a longer description of the podcast, a relevant photo, multiple versions of the podcast, and coordinating lesson plans, additional activities, and additional resources. The Scout staff chose this site not only because the quality of the material is so good, but also because they have made it so easy for educators to use. Visitors to the site can choose to just listen to the material directly or download the podcast for offline use. We appreciated how each of these podcasts could easily be integrated into a classroom lesson or even a homework assignment.

Baylor College of Medicine is responsible for creating this educational online resource for students, teachers, and parents. The podcast feature of the website is a new one and offers "supplementary standards-based educational activities, research information, and links." The currently available podcasts are by produced by scientists from the National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI), and they address such topics as astronauts' sleep, astronauts having to diagnose their own injuries while in space, the hazards of lunar dust, and how astronauts exercise in space. Visitors will find that each podcast has a short version and long version that can be played or downloaded. Each podcast also links to lessons for grades K-12, including ones from NOVA Science, NASA, Neuroscience for Kids, and NSBRI. Visitors will also find that there are numerous activities to supplement each podcast, such as "Additional Activities/Extensions", "Additional Resources", and "National Science Standards" for grades K-4, 5-8 and 9-12.


HistoryWorld's goal is to "make world history more easily accessible through interactive narratives and timelines." The Scout staff believes this is a worthy goal and we loved spending time discovering this site. Have you ever wished you knew more about the American Revolution, Marco Polo, or sea warfare? Well if you have, this site makes it simple to find out. We appreciated how easy it was to navigate, and how accessible the information was to find and understand. Clicking on any topic found under the "Histories" tab, will take visitors to an overview page. If they are not interested in the entire history of sea warfare, but are interested in a specific period instead, a table of contents (found on the left side of the page) is made available for each topic. So, should you want to skip over the canoe as warship and move on to the 19th century, this site makes doing so a simple process. The Scout staff has spent a lot of time browsing this fascinating and educational site, and we have also taken our fair share of quizzes to varying degrees of success. Overall, HistoryWorld provides hours of educational entertainment and we are big fans.

One million words of history can seem a bit daunting, but not when it is divided into 300 narratives and 10,000 events. That's the basic format of the HistoryWorld site, which was created by Bamber Gascoigne. The narratives are all linked together, and visitors will find that the homepage rotates through different selections, including the history of painting and the history of Andean civilization, just to name a few. Visitors can click on the "Histories" link to view an alphabetical list of the subjects covered. Each narrative history contains a brief outline and a link to an interactive timeline, complete with additional links. Moving on, the site also offers a set of quizzes, which include a timer for a bit of extra drama.

Nature Milestones

The Scout staff was immediately enamored with this section of the website. This feature, Nature Milestones, highlights key discoveries that have "shaped different scientific fields and enables the wider recognition of these classic findings." There are a number of "Milestones" already available on the site and topics include DNA Technologies, Cancer, and Cutaneous Biology. The site is visually and technically appealing and we appreciated the array of resources provided with each feature. For example, their latest entry "Photons" includes an editorial to this "series of specially written articles, highlighting the most influential developments towards understanding and using fundamental properties of light and its basic units, photons." In addition, visitors will find a timeline, articles, and a collection of online photon related research papers and review articles. The Scout staff loved how easy the "Milestones" were to use in a classroom setting, as they provide basic and advanced materials that can be used by a number of introductory courses. Overall, Milestones is a great example of how online resources can be brought together for use by educators, and we always look forward to future Milestones.

What were the most important advances in cutaneous biology of the past 100 years? The Nature Milestones website provides a detailed answer to that question, along with similar responses regarding light microscopy, cancer, and gene expression. All told there are ten special features on the site, and each feature includes an interactive timeline, scientific commentaries, and a selection of articles from Nature magazine and other peer-reviewed publications. Additionally, each feature includes a list of academic advisors, sponsors, and links to external resources on the subject. Visitors may wish to use these resources in the classroom setting, as they provide basic and advanced materials that can be used by a number of introductory courses. Finally, a number of the materials are also available in the pdf format for easy printing.

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Editor Max Grinnell
Managing Editor Chanda Halderman
Co-Director Edward Almasy
Co-Director Rachael Bower
Metadata Specialist Andrea Coffin
Internet Cataloger Autumn Hall-Tun
Technical Specialist Rusty Lalkaka
Web Developer Tim Baumgard
Web Developer Corey Halpin
Admin. Support Matt Linson
Contributor Debra Shapiro

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June 10th, 2010 Best of 2009-2010