Best of the Scout Report for 2013

Internet Scout Report — Best of The Scout Report

The Scout Report
An Internet Scout Publication.

May 28, 2013 Best of The Scout Report

The Internet Scout staff takes pride in providing links to some of the best online resources in our weekly Scout Report. Although all of the resources we cover are valuable, inevitably some stand out from the pack. In this year's 'Best of' issue, we share some of our favorite sites from the past academic year. 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 content, or its classroom usability, Scout staff all have different rationale for preferring one online resource over another. Nevertheless, we were able to produce a top ten list that we could all agree on.

We hope you enjoy this list, and take a few minutes to revisit some of our favorite sites from 2012?2013. As always, we look forward to providing new batches of fantastic resources throughout the upcoming year.

In This Issue

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Public Art Archive

Public art is for everyone, and this website is a terrific way to learn about the works in your local community. Launched in 2009, the Public Art Archive "helps explorers find information about public art in their world." We liked that this archive sourced submissions from people across the country, making the site a valuable repository of information about projects large and small. To get a feel for the site, start with the Collections area to travel through pictures of works at the Albany International Airport, Atlanta's Beltline, and other locales. Or why not mix things up by looking around the By Year area, which is a good way to get a sense of the progress and transformation of public art. Also, the blog is a fine potpourri of updates about calls for new public art, networking opportunities, and more.

The Public Art Archive was launched in 2009 as a free resource for comprehensive data and extensive information about thousands of public art installations across the United States. New users should visit the About area for information about the functionality of the site and its history. After a quick visit here, the Browse tab filters this information by artist, collection, location, materials, work type, placement and year. Those unacquainted with the world of public art would do well to start in several large cities like Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle, and Miami. The clickable map interface makes it easy and quite enjoyable to look at different cities and regions quickly. Browsing around by year is interesting as well; the works are listed chronologically all the way back to the year 1802.

Teaching Channel

While the official Teacher Appreciation Week may be over, we're always looking for ways to help and support those who educate our children. This website fulfills that goal by presenting hundreds of videos that bring together classroom best practices from all over the United States and beyond. We recommend starting on the homepage, with a inspiring videos like "Celebrate Teachers: Share This Song" and "Text Analysis: Symbols & Questions." The Active Topics area features videos in thematic areas that include English, math, and science. There is also a fantastic Q&A section where visitors can get answers from their colleagues on everything from the ever-tricky "Getting students to do homework" to the perennial classroom management issue, "How do you entice student leaders to benefit you?"

The tagline of Teaching Channel is "Great Teaching. Inspiring Classrooms." Educators from kindergarten to college will find hundreds of resources here, including fact sheets, lesson plans, videos, and blogs to help them in the classroom. First-time visitors will need to fill out a short free registration to get started. After this, users can click on left-hand side of the page to browse through Topics that include planning, class culture, behavior, engagement, and assessment. The materials are also arranged by subject and grade level. The Featured Videos area is a delight as well, as it contains dozens of offerings, such as "Carbon Cycling: Create Your Own Biology Lab" and "Reading Like a Historian." Finally, the high-quality blog posts are thoughtful and erudite, including offerings like "Setting Goals for 2012: Where Do You Start?" and "10 Common Core 'Ah-Ha' Moments."

The Diary of a Civil War Nurse

Can you imagine what it would be like to be a nurse during the Civil War? The quick amputations? The widespread infectious diseases? The days-long battles? While time machines aren't yet a viable option, we think this website is the next best thing: a first-person account of the war by nurse Amanda Akin. This talented woman spent 15 months serving injured soldiers and others at the Armory Square Hospital in Washington, DC, and her letters to her sisters and other missives are included here courtesy of the Smithsonian's American History Museum. Visitors can explore the documents via an interactive map of DC, or look through the items that have been sorted into thematic sections.

Amanda Akin lived in Quaker Hill, New York in the 1860s, though she left her home in April 1863 to serve as a nurse at Armory Square Hospital in Washington, D.C. The experience transformed her, and during her time there she wrote long letters to her sisters and also recorded her daily experience in diaries. This digital collection from the American History Museum allows visitors to learn from her first-hand experience via an interactive map that brings up the places she encountered during her travels. After looking over the interactive map, visitors can make their way through six thematic sections, which include Tokens of Remembrance, A Wartime Role for Women, and Portrait of a Nurse. Each of these sections contains photographs, letters, and other items that tell of Akin's different discoveries, her trials, and her many accomplishments.

Better Data, Better Health

When some people hear "big data," they just tune out entirely. But big data can make big waves - and may even lead to better health. This remarkable project from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation goes the extra mile to help those of us without a penchant for numbers understand how data and public health are interrelated. On the site, visitors can learn about how mobile health applications are transforming the landscape of health care delivery. There are many engaging stories here, including "Asthamapolis: Personal Health Data in Action" and "The Perfect App for 'Cyberchondriacs'." Also, visitors shouldn't miss the interesting County Health Rankings area, which offers information about how each US county ranks in terms of overall health.

As of late, there has been extended discussion about the ways in which better data can improve public health problems such as obesity, rising health care costs, and other areas of concern. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is intimately concerned with the possible applications of "big data", and this site offers some fine commentary and reporting on this situation. A good place to start is the Q&A with RWJF Chief Technology and Information Officer Steve Downs. "Better Data = Better Health: Stories from the Field" looks at the applications of mobile health applications, GPS sensors in the service of tracking asthma symptoms, and much more. The footer of the site includes sections analyzing how data is transforming the overall health of communities. There are data sets, reports, rankings and access to publicly available reports that include information on the quality of care delivery, patient outcomes, and patient feedback on physicians, hospitals, and cost.

Frontline: Digital Nation

We've all seen it: two people sit at a table, ostensibly eating a meal together, but both entranced by smartphones. As Internet Scouts, we're always on the lookout for advances in computing and communication technology. (It goes without saying that we love the Internet.) But what does the revolution in information technology mean for us as a nation? The folks at Frontline have some insightful things to say about the subject in this documentary on "life on the virtual frontier." Visitors can watch the entire documentary, which includes thoughtful insights from policy experts, parents, and scholars. As a bonus, the website has exclusive content that includes vignettes on Living Faster, Relationships, Waging War, and Virtual Worlds. And of course, since it's PBS, there are well-designed resources for educators in the Teacher Center.

How is technology changing our lives? It's a very difficult question to answer, but this engaging program from Frontline takes first steps into this brave new digital world. On a note that appears on the site's homepage, Rachel Dretzin (the producer) remarks that "Digital Nation is an effort to define this new space and to put some walls around it." On the homepage, visitors can watch the entire 90-minute program and also view special segments such as Living Faster, Relationships, Waging War, and Virtual Worlds. The Virtual Worlds area is particularly compelling, as it looks at how virtual reality is being used to treat the post-traumatic stress disorder experienced by soldiers. Visitors are encouraged to share their own experiences (Your Stories). Interested parties may want to explore the excellent "Interviews" area, which features conversations with experts from Stanford, MIT, and Wired magazine. Finally, the Your Thoughts area allows users to learn how other people from around the Web feel about this subject.


Hear these calming tones coming through your speakers? Those are the melodious sounds of Seaquence. This "experiment in musical composition" gives the generally curious the ability to "create and combine musical lifeforms, resulting in an organic, dynamic composition." The program uses a biological metaphor, so essentially users are creating audio "creatures" which interact with each other. Their look and sound is determined by the step-sequencer pattern and other parameters can tweak, including their audio waveform, octave, scale, melody, envelope, and volume. Visitors should just check out the demo, then go ahead and get started. You can't really go wrong and it's a remarkable aural, mind-enhancing way to spend a few minutes (or, if you're like us, hours).

Simply put, Seaquence is "an experiment in musical composition." It's a rather modest way to describe this truly unique online experience. By adopting a biological metaphor, visitors can "create and combine musical lifeforms resulting in an organic, dynamic composition." There are visual "creatures" on the site which can be manipulated by users as they are encouraged to add different elements to the creation "dish" here. The combination of different creatures results in unique musical compositions that always change as they move about the screen. There's a demonstration in the About area, which is a good way to learn about how the different controls work. After completing a composition via their creatures, visitors can save each composition by clicking "share" so they can send them along to friends and other creative types.

Dreaming the Skyline: Resort Architecture and the New Urban Space

What happens in Vegas is now available online, thanks to this collection from the University of Nevada Las Vegas Libraries. While we have an abiding interest in urban design and digital libraries, what really caught our interest here was the range of material, including photos, drawings, postcards, and more, all scanned in high resolution. Through the nearly 2,000 images here, visitors can gain a real sense of the ever-changing face of the city from 1954 to the 1980s. New users should start with one of the Projects, as each one includes a contextualizing timeline as well as links to all photos and drawings related to the design. It's also a wonderful treat to wander over to the Drawings area. Here visitors can search the collection by Site Names, Drawing Content, and Architectural Component, and draw inspiration from these unique works of American architecture.

There's so much that architects, urbanologists, and scholars of the American condition can learn from Las Vegas. This digital collection from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas Libraries brings together dozens of architectural drawings and renderings from the offices of two major hotel architects who worked in Las Vegas from 1954 to the 1980s: Martin Stern, Jr. and Homer Rissman. The materials here include site plans, master plans, and individual floor plans for many different buildings, including the Thunderbird Hotel, the Flamingo, and the Sands. Visitors can consult the About area to get started, and they should feel free to consult the Drawings, Projects, and Architects areas for more in-depth information. The Projects area is amazing, as it contains drawings and renderings of Circus Circus, the MGM Grand, and Xanadu, among others. Also, visitors can view the interactive timeline and leave their own comments on various items held here.

Today in History

In the Scout Report, we often have occasion to feature work by experts in the sciences and humanities. Less frequently, we happen across a gem like this long-term, experience-building project for undergraduate students who wish to research, write, and publish short pieces online. The model is an ingenious one: students from Schoolcraft College in Michigan post to this blog several times per week to describe "memorable moments set in a socio-cultural context." The blog entries are intended to pique readers' interest, and certainly captured ours. Other teachers and students may wish to browse through past entries to find inspiration for similar informal but innovative projects.

Professor Steven Berg of Schoolcraft College has been working with his students to create this well-thought-out and interesting website. The purpose of the site is to focus on "only one event each day which is put in a socio-cultural context." Each day, the site features a new brief on a notable historical event such as the feast of Saint Pope Mark or the opening of the celebrated Moulin Rouge cabaret in Paris. While the quality of the student contributions varies (it is, after all, a blog rather than scholarly writing), the mission of the site makes it inspiring for others looking to enlist students in contextualizing and writing about history. In addition, Berg welcomes contributions from outside parties, so those in college settings may wish to inquire further. It's fun to look through the entries and see what students have profiled so far, and it's a nice way to learn about various intriguing events in human history.


"If we encountered a man of rare intellect," Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, "we should ask him what books he read." As a group of avid readers, educators, librarians, and computer scientists, we take those words to heart when deciding which book to dive into next. Fortunately, it's now possible to find out what people of all sorts are reading, and maybe recommend a few yourself, via the innovative interface of Goodreads. Search for a book's title to find out what others have thought of it; follow your friends to see what they're reading; keep track of the books you've finished; and contribute your own reviews and ratings to the site. A simple star rating system, easy-to-use tags, and the option to write an in-depth review make this website a fantastic way to organize your reading list and remember the key details of books of years past.

Goodreads is not only a fine place to find your next "good read," but also a great way to keep track of books you've enjoyed. Visitors can log in to create their own lists of books, along with annotations, comments, and ratings. Additionally, visitors can search and browse other readers' profiles, take literary quizzes, and look over hundreds of book lists. Author pages collect writers' bibliographies for an easy way to find more books based on those already read. Finally, the Recommendations area suggests more books individual users might enjoy, drawing from their ratings, tags, and virtual "shelves."

Century of the Child

The 20th Century brought with it incredible advances: the radio, the airplane, antibiotics, and of course computers and the Internet, without which you would not be able to read this publication. It was also a time of intense interest in children and childhood, subjects that are highlighted on this beautiful website from New York's Museum of Modern Art. The collection is divided into seven time periods, each indicated by a colored "button." After clicking on one of the buttons, visitors to the site will be treated to a rich timeline of toys, art, furniture, and more for and about children. Clicking on any of the artifacts brings up a description, as well as some related items. We love that this site, like many of the best Scout Report finds, takes the experience of browsing a digital collection to a new, elegantly designed level.

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) traces the history of childhood through products designed for - and art objects about - children since 1900. Follow the button wheel clockwise to progress through the decades. Some notable examples are a group of Prairie School objects including a 1902 high chair designed by William Drummond, and one of the most well-known Frank Lloyd Wright icons, the stained glass window from the Avery Coonley Playhouse. Chicago is highlighted as influential in the playground movement with an image of a swing set from 1905, in a city park. A smiling Walt Disney stands next to an aerial view of Disneyland near the beginning of the "Power Play," 1960s to 1990s section of the exhibition. A little later on the timeline, see Jake & Dinos Chapman's "Unhappy Meal III," presented without curatorial commentary, related to an advertisement for Nutricia, an enriched powdered milk supplement, dated 1927-28.

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Editor Max Grinnell
Managing Editor Carmen Montopoli
Co-Director Edward Almasy
Co-Director Rachael Bower
Metadata Specialist Andrea Coffin
Internet Cataloger Autumn Hall-Tun
Internet Cataloger Sara Sacks
Web Developer Tim Baumgard
Web Developer Corey Halpin
Technical Specialist Zev Weiss
Technical Specialist Evan Radkoff
Contributor Debra Shapiro

For information on additional contributors, see the Internet Scout staff page:

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