Best of the Scout Report for 2015

Internet Scout Report — Best of The Scout Report


The Scout Report
An Internet Scout Publication.

May 29, 2015 Best of The Scout Report

Every week, the Internet Scout staff scours the web for mind-opening, perspective-widening, and just plain interesting resources in the sciences, humanities, and other fields - information that we hope will be edifying and useful to our readership of librarians, educators, academics, and lifelong learners. In this year's “Best of” issue, we've selected a colorful compendium of the resources we feel best represent what the Scout Report has to offer. 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 have developed a wide array of rationales for preferring one online resource over another. Nevertheless, we were able to produce a top ten list that we could all agree on and that also features some reader favorites as well.

We hope you enjoy the assortment, and take a few minutes to revisit some of our favorite sites from 2014–2015. As always, we look forward to providing new batches of fantastic resources throughout the upcoming year.


In This Issue


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Feedback is always welcome: scout@scout.wisc.edu

In This Issue

Teaching History with 100 Objects
·http://www.teachinghistory100.org

As William Faulkner wrote in his experimental novel, Requiem for a Nun, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” This site makes compelling links to the present through an amazing array of historical artifacts. In addition to being one of our most shared resources from the past year, the Scout staff seemed to come back to the website again and again. Not just for history teachers, Teaching History with 100 Objects has a mesmerizing way of bringing to life tales from ancient Egypt, Qing Dynasty China, revolutionary Russia, and many other places and times.

Teaching History with 100 Objects may be funded by the United Kingdom's Department of Education, but the resources available on the website will be useful to educators the world over. The 100 objects in question consist of historically significant Irish posters, English canons, Chinese tea pots, Viking scales, and many other fascinating objects. The site can be scouted in a number of convenient ways. Readers can search by topics, dates, places, or themes, or simply select an image from the homepage to get started. Each object is accompanied by a brief annotation, as well as additional categories, such as About the object, A bigger picture, Teaching ideas, and For the Classroom. Each category is packed with information, ideas, and suggestions for bringing history to life.

Pick Your Poison: Intoxicating Pleasures and Medical Prescriptions
·http://www.nlm.nih.gov/exhibition/pickyourpoison/

It’s not hard to see why our readers loved this thought-provoking expose of America’s long history with mind-altering substances. In fact, the ad for Cocaine Toothache Drops (contemporarily priced at 15 cents) alone is worth a trip to this colorful and well curated site. Lesson plans and online activities help educators illustrate how the United States has handled the thin and shifting line between useful medical prescriptions and harmful, illicit substances.

Over a century ago, it was not uncommon to find cocaine in treatments for asthma, cannabis offered up as a cure for colds, and other contentious substances offered as medical prescriptions. This engaging collection from the U.S. National Library of Medicine brings together sections on tobacco, alcohol, opium, and marijuana. Visitors can learn about how these substances were marketed and also view a selection of digitized items culled from its voluminous holdings, including advertisements, doctor's prescriptions, and early government documents. In the Education section, educators can look over lesson plans, check out online activities, and explore online resources from the National Institutes of Health, such as, "A Guide to Safe Use of Pain Medicine" and "College Drinking: Changing the Culture.”

Interactives: Oceanus Magazine
·http://www.whoi.edu/oceanus/

Many scientists consider the Earth’s oceans to hold some of the last real mysteries on the planet, with new species still being discovered every year and the depths of the deepest seas yet unexplored. These engaging interactives from the Woods Hole Oceanagraphic Institution were a clear reader favorite, bringing blue water and sundry sea life onto our monitors and into our conversations. Of course, educators will find plenty of resources for their classroom use; but the lifelong learners among us will be just as excited to discover the high-tech dive suits, arctic explorations, and other wonders in store on this excellent site.

These educational interactives from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution provide excellent supports for dozens of ocean-related classroom activities. From the effects of Fukushima's Fallout on Marine Life to Measuring River Chemistry, a variety of well designed, instructional tools are offered here. The visual and audio materials (slideshows, multi-step presentations, whale calls, etc.) are quite detailed and a number of them also link to the articles from Oceanus Magazine in which they were first featured. If these articles pique your interest, hundreds more can be found in the Archives as well as a select number of Digital Editions in the Print Issues section.

The Upshot
·http://www.nytimes.com/upshot/?_r=2

Since The Upshot opened its virtual doors on April 22, 2014, it has published over 1,500 articles, charts, tables, interactive calculators, maps, and photo essays. Since we covered the site in September, the Upshot has celebrated its first anniversary. In commemoration, it published a must-read list of its most popular pieces, including a map of migration in the U.S., a photo essay of what 2,000 calories looks like, and many other unusually alluring tidbits. The material here provides an innovative platform for staying abreast of the most interesting, and sometimes unusual, current events circulating the Internet.

Launched this past spring, The Upshot is an analytical blog from The New York Times that focuses on politics, policy, and economics. The brain child of Pulitzer Prize-winning commentator David Leonhardt, the site is awash with interactive graphics and gripping narrative. The blog is continually updated, so you can start anywhere and find clear-headed, hard-hitting analysis on everything from the hardest places to live in the U.S. to the history of baseball. This first item can be found amongst the site’s “best and most popular interactive work,” located in the middle of the page. Just make sure you set aside a few hours, because one amazing interactive leads to another fascinating graph, which leads to a colorful thought experiment, and... well, you’ll see.

Open Culture
·http://www.openculture.com

Readers raved when we published our coverage of Open Culture, the artsy information hub that features “the best free cultural & educational media on the web.” The website contains reviews and links to hundreds of open educational resources. Whether readers are interested in learning Arabic, would like to hear Patti Smith read Virginia Woolf, or are eager to explore a collection of Gabriel Garcia Marquez stories, Open Culture truly has something for everyone. Including ebooks, movies, audio books, online courses, language classes, and textbooks, the fact that Open Culture is accessible across multiple devices doesn’t hurt, either.

Perhaps the best way to describe Open Culture is to list what's available: 1,100 free online courses, 700 free movies, 550 free audio books, 700 free eBooks, 1,000 free MOOCs, free educational material for 46 languages, and 200 free educational resources for kids. Founded in 2006 by Stanford University's Dan Colman, the site also contains great lectures by Toni Morrison and Bertrand Russell (among others) and great readings by notables such as T.S. Eliot and Anne Sexton. If readers are looking for art and images, the Met, the Getty, the British Library, and other museums and galleries are featured here. In essence, Open Culture gathers together all of the wonderful, disparate content from around the web, curates it, and presents it in an easily navigable and enchanting format.

Neuropod Podcasts
·http://www.nature.com/neurosci/neuropod/index.html

The 1990s may have been the “Decade of the Brain,” but the groundbreaking research and paradigm shifting discoveries of neuroscience have only accelerated since then. In fact, our readers shared this phenomenal series of brain-related podcasts more than any other resource this year. What got them so excited? Maybe it was the charisma of Kerri Smith, or perhaps it was the sheer range and depth of the programming. There’s only one way to find out: explore the Neuropod Podcasts for yourself.

If you are looking for the newest in neuroscience, and you'd like it in the form of punchy, approachable podcasts, look no further than Neuropod, a series of podcasts by "self-confessed neurogeek," Kerri Smith. Smith, who holds a master's degree in science communication from Imperial College London, provides an upbeat look at topics that run the gamut from psychosis to education to how the brain keeps time. Hosted by the Nature Publishing Group, podcasts have been published monthly since 2006 and the archives contain a host of wonderful material.

40 maps that explain the Roman Empire
·http://www.vox.com/2014/8/19/5942585/40-maps-that-explain-the-roman-empire

Since Scout’s founding in 1994, our staff has included a steady stream of map lovers. The Scout Report has featured maps of small townships in the south of England, maps of uncolonized territories in the American West, maps of ancient Indian dynasties - and with this resource, 40 maps that explain the Roman Empire. This fascinating collection brings the political, social, and economic realities of one of the world’s great ancient empires to vivid life, using colorful, vivid images that our staff and readers loved. In addition to maps, there are also fascinating architectural representations, paintings, and one particularly wonderful effigy of a Roman warship included here.

If you like your history presented visually and in a popular, Internet style, this site is for you. The set of 40 maps begins with an animated map, that depicts the rise and fall of the Roman Empire by landmass, from 500 BC to 476 AD. Map #3 provides an interesting insight into the size of the Roman Empire, relative to the transportation technologies of the day. Plotted by researchers at Stanford University, readers can use this map to determine travel time from London to Rome - about 3 weeks. There's also a map on the route of Hannibal's famous invasion of Rome with elephants. Compiled by editorial staff and artists at Vox Media, this map collection includes a few errata listed at the end. Many of the maps and sources are linked to Wikipedia articles, which in turn cite published histories - so it appears that Vox has done due diligence.

Birds of North America
·https://www.audubon.org/field-guide

What could be better than a fully digitized, completely free, web-based Audubon Field Guide? The resources available on this site are as useful as they are beautiful. In addition to the Song and Calls section and the individual profiles of hundreds of birds (both listed below), environmentally conscious readers will likely find the coverage of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill extremely informative. The navigation of the site is both functional and fun, and components such as the 2015 Photography Awards, with its heart-stopping images of birds from around the world, will delight and amaze.

The Audubon field guides have sold over 18 million copies since Alfred A. Knopf published the first illustrated and descriptive books in 1934. This informative website, which features beautiful drawings and photographs as well as extensive descriptions of birds from around North America, is intuitive and pleasing to the eye. Readers can start by selecting the Featured Bird, by typing the name of a specific species into the search function, or by sorting the guide into taxonomic family or region. Each record then opens to provide detailed information, including facts about Habitat, Migration, and Feeding Behavior. Perhaps best of all, the Songs and Calls section (stocked from over 2,500 sound files created by Lang Elliott) lets readers experience the song of the Acadian Flycatcher or the rhythms of the Acorn Woodpecker among others.

Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet
·http://climate.nasa.gov

While the Internet offers dozens of excellent sites dedicated to the science of climate change, few can compete with NASA’s Global Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet. In addition to the walkthrough provided in the original writeup (see below), readers may want to explore the menu bar in the top right hand corner. From there, a page of resources opens up, including Facts, Articles, and Explore, among others. With special items for educators, including a link to the excellent website, Climate Kids, we are excited to see the many ways this resource can be integrated into classroom curriculum or activities.

This is one of those websites that might just stop you dead in your tracks. First off, it's beautiful with incredible images of Antarctica, Everest, and smog-clouded cities. Then there are the figures: global temperature has increased 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit since 1980, Arctic ice has decreased by 13 percent per decade, and that's just the tip of the iceberg (so to speak). Check out News and Features for NASA's coverage of climate related science or browse the Earth Blog, a pithy, readable blog chock full of important facts on our changing planet. Then take a look at What is Climate Change? and scout its four sections: Evidence, Causes, Effects, and Solutions.

Made with Code
·http://www.madewithcode.com

What really excited us about this beautifully designed site was its appeal to engage more girls and women in computer science and STEM more broadly. As NPR reported in an October 2014 article, the number of women majoring in computer science climbed steadily between 1970 and 1985, until it looked like they would soon rival men for slots in computer labs around the country. Today, however, less than 20 percent of computer science majors are women. Resources like Made with Code provide engaging ways for girls and boys to learn and play with code, helping to catapult the next generation into this increasingly ubiquitous arena.

Google.org, the charitable arm of the tech giant, has committed over $100 million to investments and grants in the last five years. While Google.org's initial projects concerned plug-in vehicles, solar energy, and emergency response systems, the foundation has recently expanded into computer science education with its free Made with Code program. This program is designed to interest girls in the art and science of coding in order to develop a new generation of female programmers. Readers may like to start by watching the inspiring short video. Perhaps the most engaging aspect of the site is the Projects section, where beginning and intermediate coders will find engaging projects such as Music Mixer and Kaleidoscope. Uplifting stories of young women who have fallen in love with coding round out the site.

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Copyright Internet Scout, 2014. Internet Scout (http://scout.wisc.edu/), located in the Computer Sciences Department of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, provides information and tools and services for finding information about the Internet to the U.S. research and education community. Permission is granted to make and distribute verbatim copies of this Scout Report in its entirety, provided this paragraph, including the copyright notice, are preserved on all copies.

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Colophon

Editor Craig Hase
Managing Editor Catherine Dixon
Contributing Editor Debra Shapiro
Co-Director Edward Almasy
Co-Director Rachael Bower
Metadata Specialist Kendra Bouda
Internet Cataloger Elzbieta Beck
Internet Cataloger Samantha Abrams
Software Engineer Corey Halpin
Web Developer Yizhe (Charles) Hu
Web Developer Cea Stapleton
Technical Specialist Zev Weiss
Administrative Assistant Adam Schwartz
Administrative Assistant Mitchell Mckay

For information on additional contributors, see the Internet Scout staff page: https://scout.wisc.edu/staff-bios

If you'd like to know how the Internet Scout team selects resources for inclusion in the Scout Report, visit our "Selection Criteria" page at: http://scout.wisc.edu/About/criteria.php

Feedback is always welcome: scout@scout.wisc.edu