Internet Scout Report -- Best of 2010-2011

The Scout Report
June 21st, 2011 Best of 2010-2011

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 2010-2011. 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 2010-2011

NOVA Teachers

NOVA consistently produces great materials, and their partner for this site, WGBH Teachers' Domain, is no slouch when it comes to bringing fantastic online resources to your classroom. Thus, it should come as no surprise that this partnership created such a wonderful source for some of the best classroom resources in science, technology, and engineering. We love how easy the site is to use, as well as how the resources are all tied to standards and include video and audio segments.

The Scout Report hasn't wandered over to the NOVA Online: Teachers site for a number of years, and it has expanded greatly as of late. Visitors to the site will immediately notice the "Watch, Interact, Explore" section, which allows interested parties to access short video clips and interactive features culled from NOVA program webpages. The materials here are all tied to state educational standards, and visitors can browse the subject headings, which include anthropology, forensic science, and space science. The "Technology" area has some great features in particular, including "Inside a Solar Cell" and a bit titled "Killer Microbe", where visitors learn how biotechnology is used to analyze the evolution of a harmless bacterium into a highly drug-resistant one. Finally, visitors can also sign up for their weekly email bulletin.

Invitation to World Literature

When Professor David Damrosch talks about world literature, people listen. Professor Damrosch presides over this breezy tour through everything from Gilgamesh to Voltaire's Candide. The site covers eight different fine classic pieces of literary human history, and each piece includes an introduction to each work, along with supplementary materials like timelines, full-length translations, and maps. It is a sumptuous tour through wonderful pieces that have informed and illuminated the human experience during the past 4 or 5 millennia, and it was an easy pick for our best of this year.

Some readers may not need an invitation to world literature, but this very interesting and thoughtful website created by Annenberg Media offers the welcoming embrace of such works as the Bhagavad Gita and the epic of Gilgamesh. The site complements a 13-part video series, which offers up literature from "a range of eras, places, cultures, languages, and traditions." Your host for this adventure is Professor David Damrosch, and performers and artists such as Kristin Chenoweth, Philip Glass, and Wole Soyinka join him. The texts explored here include "My Name is Red" by Orhan Pamuk, "Candide" by Voltaire, and "Things Fall Apart" by Chinua Achebe. For each text, visitors can watch the 30-minute corresponding program, read selections from each work, and also explore the historical and cultural context of each work through interactive maps and other features.

NOAA Education Resources

This site from NOAA provides access to the many fine educational resources developed by NOAA and their partners and is designed to make accessing all of these wonderful resources easy and from one centralized site. The resources themselves are wonderful, but we also loved the idea of centralizing information to make it easier for educators to find what they need. In addition, the site does a great job of organizing content into categories including Climate, Marine Life, and Freshwater as well as into types such as Multimedia, Lessons & Activities, Articles and more. If only all government resources could be so organized, useful, and first rate.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has so many publications, booklets, and educational activities available across the agency, that they have created this website to make it easier for teachers, students, librarians and the general public to access them. Visitors will find that due to their extensive involvement in helping remedy the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the website's "Highlighted Program" is about NOAA's collection of resources regarding the oil spill, compiled for use in the classroom or as background material. Visitors can click on "Gulf Oil Spill Resources" to browse the large number of materials, including "Multimedia", "Lessons & Activities", "Real World Data" and "Background Information". There is a two-minute animation of surface oil on the Gulf from the day the rig caught fire, exploded, and sank, to the day the leak was stopped, in "Surface Oil Movement in Gulf Animation" in the "Multimedia" menu. One of the lessons for students that may be of interest to many is how the oil spill affected the feathers of birds, and the best method to clean them.

The Mourners

The Scout Staff just couldn't get enough of this site: it is easy to navigate, fun to look at (again and again), and a wonderful example of how to make an online exhibit feel real. We loved that you could view each individual Mourner, spin them around to see all sides, and get up close and personal. The Tomb is also beautiful to view, and the tools provided to view the tomb are also wonderful. This was an easy choice for Best of the Scout Report.

By happy accident - gallery renovation - The Mourners, tomb sculptures from the Court of Burgundy, have been removed from the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dijon and digitized by the French Regional & American Museum Exchange (FRAME), a consortium of museums in France, the U.S., and Canada. The Mourners were originally created for the tomb of Jean sans Peur (John the Fearless), one of the Valois Dukes of Burgundy and installed in the Charterhouse of Champmol in 1470. The tomb was moved but did not escape vandalism during the French Revolution and was restored in 1819 in what was then the ducal palace in Dijon, now the Musée des Beaux-Arts. Around the base of the tomb is a sculpted arcade of white alabaster, in which figures of the mourners, also white alabaster, seem to march in a processional. There are choirboys, a cross bearer, a deacon, a bishop, three cantors, and two Carthusian monks, followed by members of John the Fearless' family. At the website, individual mourner's figures can be viewed in 360-degree and 3-D views, as well as in the arcades. There are also overviews of the tomb and its history, and links to additional information about the Dukes of Burgundy and their works.

Museum of Science, Boston: Podcasts [iTunes]

The Scout Staff adores science in all of its permutations and combinations. With that in mind, we loved this set of podcasts offered by the Museum of Science in Boston. We came back again and again to listen to talks like Dr. Hans Sues speaking about his recent discovery of a new T. rex, or Dr. Thomas Kunz (a.k.a. "the Bat Man") discussing the economic and ecological benefits of bats. This site is an excellent example of how podcasts can help museums reach a wider audience, and how they can help a wider audience enjoy what these fantastic museums have to offer.

The Museum of Science in Boston has an impressive array of podcasts, and visitors with a love of science will want to peruse this site closely. The series started in May 2009, and the podcasts feature weekly interviews with guest researchers and their own staff members. While the podcasts aren't arranged thematically, visitors can just scroll through the list here to look for particular items of interest. Some of the most recent entries include titles like "Energy Saving Technologies", "Wearable Electronic Fibers", and "Bonehenge: Assembling A Sperm Whale Skeleton". Visitors can also click on the "description" area next to each title to learn about the guests on each program, and they can also use the social media buttons to share the podcast with others. Finally, visitors can also subscribe via RSS feed or iTunes.

Growing Knowledge: The Evolution of Research

This website has engaging and thoughtful conversations about what research will be like in the coming years and decades, and that's what won us over at the Scout Report. The conversations with scholars, information science specialists, and other commentators distinguish this site from others. Visitors are encouraged to chime in via the Twitter feed here and they can also follow posts by "Researcher in Residence" Aleks Krotoski. Also, don't miss the "Explore the Projects" area where people can have management research updates sent right to their desktop.

How will research change and evolve in the 21st century? It's a broad question, and the British Library has created this website to offer insight into the world of innovative research tools. First-time visitors will want to watch the video on the homepage that features commentary by various scholars and professionals on "The Modern Library", "Information Overload", and "Digital Research". All of the offerings on the website complement an existing in situ exhibit that includes multimedia research stations and a "collaborative zone". In the "Start Researching" area of the site, visitors can look at standout examples of recent collaborative digital projects that push the contemporary boundaries of research. Further along, visitors shouldn't miss the "Tools" area which brings together high-quality online tools that can make the research process much easier and streamlined. Finally, the site is rounded out by a range of social media tools that users can use to stay on top of the latest posts and materials added to this site.

Science360: Chemistry

We here at the Scout Report enjoy benzene rings, oxygen, the structure of uranium, and cheeseburgers just as much as anyone else. For those who might have tuned out during high school or college chemistry, this website will bring them right back into these fascinating subjectst. Visitors can learn about the chemistry of condiments, explosive "sniffing" plants, and the chemical reactions that make chocolate. The videos that illustrate each topic are fun and more than a bit addictive, so you probably won't be able to watch just one. We sure weren't.

Have you ever wondered about the chemistry of a cheeseburger? Well you are in luck because that is one of the subjects covered on the topical and delightful "Chemistry" section of the popular Science360 website. As it states on the site, "…everything you hear, see, taste, smell and touch involves chemistry and chemicals", and here visitors can watch videos and learn about the molecular structure of water, the science behind glass blowing, and how a curious mud-like mixture is being used to soak up oil spills and insulate homes. Currently, there are about fifteen videos on the site, and visitors can sign up via a host of social media (Twitter, Facebook, and so on), to stay abreast of new additions to the site. Teachers will find that this material can be integrated into the classroom quite easily, and everyone else will just enjoy wandering through these offerings.

National Archives: Teachers' Resources

The National Archives: Teachers' Resources website is a perfect example of how to provide high quality, useful, and accessible online resources for educators. The site is incredibly simple to navigate and provides enumerable tools to make finding and creating interactive learning activities tied to primary sources easy. We loved the DocsTeach Section, Lesson Plans & Activities, as well as all the other resources provided to help educators make the most out of the National Archives. In addition, they provide links to professional development opportunities for educators, and a multitude of ways to keep up-to-date with all they have to offer including YouTube, Twitter, Flickr, blogs, and much more.

The National Archives has developed this site to give teachers an array of resources to use in their classroom, and their offerings range from first-hand accounts of the Civil War to information about summer teaching workshops. The three main sections on the homepage include "Featured Activity", "Featured Exhibit", and "Professional Development". The "Featured Activity" includes collections of primary documents, accompanied by teaching guides, discussion questions, and other helpful items. One such collection includes "The Constitution at Work", which helps students learn how to analyze a number of key documents and then determine their connection to the U.S. Constitution. On the right-hand side of the page, visitors can find the "News, Events & Notices" area, which includes links to social media, regional events and programs, and information about National History Day.

Teaching Geoscience Online

Here at the Scout Report, we profile many sites that address teaching practices and pedagogy, and we always enjoy returning to this one in particular. The Teaching Geoscience Online site from Carleton College and the National Science Foundation (NSF) is one of the best resources available, and it's updated frequently. We enjoyed all that the site has to offer and one of our favorite features is the availability of interactive activities for online courses. These online activities include data-rich teaching plans covering the Quaternary period, plate tectonics, and in-class demonstrations, like new ways to incorporate rock identification into courses.

More and more schools are offering online courses in the sciences, and the geophysical sciences are no exception. Carleton College is deservedly well known for their "Cutting Edge" website of geoscience teaching resources, and here they present some helpful materials for those wishing to teach geoscience online. The resources were developed as part of their 2010 workshop titled "Teaching Geoscience Online". Visitors can scroll through the list of resources, which are divided into sections that include "pedagogy" and "online activities and courses". The materials include titles like "Student Motivation and Engagement in Online Courses", "Using Data to Teach Geology in College-Level Online Classes", and "Course Platforms for Teaching Online". A number of these resources could be used by anyone teaching online courses, not just those in the field of geoscience.

Dictionary of Art Historians

As you can imagine, a compilation of biographical and methodological information about art historians used to be hard to find, but thanks to Duke University's time and effort, that is no longer the case. Here interested parties can find the basics about where an art historian trained, who influenced them, and their methodology. We appreciate the work that went into the Dictionary, and how organized and easy to use the site is. This is a perfect example of using the web to organize, filter, and make accessible information that would otherwise be difficult to find.

Although there are many dictionaries of art online and in print, dictionaries of art historians of Western art history are harder to come by. Visitors interested in the lives of art historians will be delighted with Duke University's free online database of historic scholars, museum professionals, and academic historians of art. Duke's Department of Art, Art History and Visual Studies' created this database as a "biographical and methodological database intended as a beginning point to learning the background of major art historians of western art history." Visitors will find that the "Explanation" link found on the menu across the top of the page, tells when the Dictionary of Art Historians got started and why there was a need for it. Several telling quotes about how art historians are regarded, lead the section, and the introduction that follows it states that the "basics of where an art historian trained or who his/her major influence was, or even what methodology the scholarship employs are often impossible to discern." The "Recent Entries" link allows visitors to go back to January of 2009, and they can also find entries from 2002-2008 available at the bottom of the page. The site is also available in German, French, Dutch, and Italian.

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Editor Max Grinnell
Managing Editor Chanda Halderman
Co-Director Edward Almasy
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June 21st, 2011 Best of 2010-2011