Best of the Scout Report for 2016

Internet Scout Report — Best of The Scout Report


The Scout Report
An Internet Scout Publication.

May 27, 2016 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 selecting 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 and that also features some reader favorites as well.

We hope you enjoy this list and take a few minutes to revisit some of our favorite sites from 2015-2016. As always, we look forward to providing new batches of fantastic resources throughout the upcoming year.


In This Issue


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The Refugee Project
therefugeeproject.org

It is hard to say what exactly is most compelling about the Refugee Project. Perhaps the highlight is the site's ability to provide users with a deeper understanding of the trends in refugee statistics. Or maybe, it's the opportunity to track the routes of refugees, past and present, as they attempt to find a new place to call home. Either way, this interactive map, both visually appealing and information-rich, offers a dynamic look into the past as it progresses to the present. Anyone wishing to be informed about the complex situation that has become today's refugee crisis would do well to investigate this resource.

This richly informative and interactive website from the Refugee Project opens with vivid photographs of refugee life and a short explanation of the worldwide refugee situation. From there, readers will want to select Explore to access the interactive map that tracks refugee migrations, year by year, from 1975 to the present. Readers may select a year to view the annual number of refugees that were forced to flee their homes, as well as view the affected areas on the map in the form of red circles. From there, hovering the mouse over an area offers more information on the region and conflict. In addition, clicking on the name of the conflict pulls up a more complete description of the circumstances. For example, for the year 1978, selecting Ethiopia Defeats Somali Invasion of Ogaden, pulls up a history and description of that event.


Stinks, Bangs and Booms: The Rise and Fall of the American Chemistry Set
chemistryset.chemheritage.org

As captivating as it is well designed, this unique website provides an interactive and cinematic experience that details the stages of invention, popularity, public disenchantment, and the eventual rebirth of the chemistry set. We love that users are kept engaged throughout the entire experience, progressing through the timeline by completing brief games and activities. Brimming with interesting facts, images, and quotations, this resource can be considered among the best examples of digital humanities for its use of digital tools and technologies to highlight the historical, cultural, and scientific facets behind this now iconic artifact.

Have you ever wondered about the origins of the chemistry set or its evolution from the Young Chemists Pocket Companion of 1797 to the modern kits we know today? Stinks, Bangs and Booms answers those questions and more as it traces the rise and fall of the American chemistry set through four interactive chapters: Inception (1791), Heyday (1920-1960), The Decline (1960-1979), and The Resurgence (1980-Today). The engaging online interface was created by Bluecadet and draws upon the plentiful research and archival material of the Chemical Heritage Foundation. Interactive elements and mini-games keep readers interested and users have the opportunity to delve a little deeper or move on to the next section. One particularly interesting activity, featured in the Heyday chapter, includes listening to the short oral histories of professors, business leaders, and others as they remember their first chemistry sets. While most site visitors will be intrigued by the American chemistry set's colorful history, educators and librarians are sure to find many exciting uses for this amazing website.


Histography: Timeline of History
histography.io

While online resources such as Wikipedia provide quick and easy access to historical information, the vast quantity of facts and figures can make the browsing process overwhelming. Viewed out of direct context, it's also easy to miss the subtle and overt connections that link historical events and actors across time and space. Understandably, then, readers and members of the Scout staff alike were quickly enamored with Histography. This interactive timeline categorizes and contextualizes important historical events, providing instant access to billions of years of history.

Histography stands as a shining example of the exciting ways that web technology can make learning fun. Originally created as Matan Stauber's final project at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, the editorial stories and interactive timeline take readers into historical events that span an epic time frame, from the Big Bang to just a few months ago. Drawing from Wikipedia's seemingly infinite stash of entries, Histography self-updates daily so that readers never miss out on new interpretations of old events, or on the new events that are shaping the world today. The display is reminiscent of a sound wave; entries are ordered chronologically from left to right, increasing in quantity around certain pivotal points in history. Hovering over each black dot reveals the corresponding Wiki Page, Related Events, and even Video clips when available, while resizing the scale at the bottom of the timeline expands or narrows the focus, sharing entries that cover decades, centuries, and even millennia. Thematic timelines have also been created for certain topics, such as Literature, Music, Wars, Politics, Women's Rights, and others. From the fall of the Kanem Empire (in 1387) to the composition of the first blues song (in 1912), educators and the general reader alike will find much on the site to engage and intellectually enliven conversations of all kinds.


Free Code Camp
freecodecamp.com

It's no surprise that the Scout staff values Computer Science. With that in mind, we loved that this website offers a unique and generous gift to its visitors: the opportunity to learn viable coding skills at no cost. Free Code Camp offers exercises to help develop JavaScript and database coding skills, four possible certifications to earn, as well as the opportunity to join a community of fellow coding hopefuls. Most notably, Free Code Camp's simple, organized design is approachable and pleasant, welcoming the wary.

Completing Free Code Camp is no easy task. In fact, students log over 1,600 coding hours by the time they complete all the classes, tasks, and projects that the site employs. The upswing, however, can be significant, as the site promises that committed users will: learn full stack JavaScript; build a portfolio of real apps that real people are using; and, hopefully, get a coding job. Users begin by taking 200 hours of online lessons. Next, they log 200 hours of JavaScript Algorithm practice, then work on 200 hours of front end web development, followed by 200 hours of full stack web development practice. Camp is then rounded out by 800 hours of real-world web development work for participating non-profits. Along the way, users connect with other "campers," and learn applicable skills. An email address or social media account (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, etc.) is needed to create an account, but the site is well-organized, user-friendly, and, best of all, free.


Birds-of-Paradise Project
birdsofparadiseproject.org

A rare and fascinating look at all 39 species in the birds-of-paradise family, this site leaves little to be desired with its vast collection of images, sounds, and high quality videos that was eight years and eighteen expeditions in the making. From scientific resources to highly entertaining footage of elaborate mating dances, this website is as colorful as it is informative and has something to offer Ornithologists and laymen alike.

The birds-of-paradise have enthralled Western science for centuries, ever since Ferdinand Magellan's crew encountered them in the sixteenth century. Yet, as the Birds-of-Paradise Project reveals, new discoveries are continually being made about the habitat and behavior of these spectacular birds. Their brilliant colors and extravagant courtship displays provide amazing examples of two evolutionary forces at work: sexual selection through female choice and geographic isolation. With funding from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the National Geographic Expeditions Council, and Conservation International, Evolutionary Biologist Ed Scholes and Wildlife Photojournalist Tim Laman have spent years capturing images and videos that shed light on this species of bird found only in New Guinea, some nearby islands, and parts of eastern Australia. From analyzing the dance steps of the Parotias to documenting their quest to film and photograph all 39 species of bird-of-paradise, this site features numerous engaging visual resources and tools. Readers may also be happy to note that the Project's sound and video recordings have all been scientifically archived and can be found within the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Macaulay Library.


Home Movie Registry
homemovieregistry.org

When it comes to archival material, most people think of documents, photographs, or the occasional news clip. Rarely, however, do home videos come to mind. We love that the Home Movie Registry not only directs its attention toward the preservation and collection of amateur films, but that through the collaborative efforts of archives and museums across the country, material in the HMR may be easily accessed by anyone. We encourage readers to explore the intimate family moments captured here, and the many ways that home movies can be used to shed light on important components of American culture and history.

Since the 1920s, home movies have been produced by everyday people, documenting daily activities and offering a wealth of information about twentieth century American life. The Home Movie Registry, a curated search engine from the Center for Home Movies (CHM), is an innovative project designed to bring together the swarth of amateur films digitized and collected by participating archives. The About section of the site details the portal's extensive efforts and provides useful context. From there, readers may like to explore the two Exhibits currently featured on the site, one of which highlights Home Movies and the African American Community, while the other provides a look at Home Movies and Television. Readers may also simply scroll down the fascinating list of amateur-made films on the home page, which illuminate such ephemera as a 1950s Chicago picnic and a 1975 homemade travel documentary. For more targeted research, historians, artists, documentarians, students, and others will find an excellent search bar for easy filtering through the Registry's video troves.


ScienceBlogs
scienceblogs.com

ScienceBlogs does not rely on astounding graphics or an elaborate interactive feature for popularity. Rather, its undeniable utility and quality of content are what set this science blog apart from others. Its expansive database is consistently up-to-date with the newest blog postings from the humanities to the physical sciences, and everything in between. It's virtually a one-stop shop for finding news and information of all sorts, even devoting a tab for pieces posted in the Last 24 Hours.

This virtual warehouse of science-related blogs covers a staggering range of topics, from health habits to exoplanets. Readers may like to scout the site by subjects, which include Life Science, Physical Science, Environment, Medicine, and others. Contributing bloggers are culled from a wide array of scientific disciplines and write about a range of topics that they find most interesting. Greg Laden's popular entries, for instance, can be found under Life Science one week, Physical Science the next, and Environment the week after that, depending on the topic he tackles. Laden's most recent writings have examined the history of neuroscience, dark energy, and even Einstein's Theory of General Relativity. Educators are sure to find much to enliven their lesson plans within this excellent, variegated, "digital science salon."


Yummy Math
yummymath.com

Here at the Scout Report, we are routinely on the lookout for resources that bridge the gap between learning and fun. Yummy Math is an excellent resource and its collection of math-based activities is updated frequently. Not only do entries correspond to K-12 curriculum standards, but they integrate real world examples that often involve food, film characters, professional sports players, and the occasional historical figure. There is lot to offer students across many interest areas here, which is why Yummy Math is a treasure trove for educators and parents looking to enrich math learning.

For educators who are continually looking for up-to-date, real-world examples of how mathematics impacts daily life, Yummy Math is a welcome ally. In fact, every article on the site seeks to link math to what is "relevant to our world today." For instance, a recent article presented some of the math-related possibilities for the upcoming release of the new iPhone 6S and 6S plus, suggesting that students explore past iPhone launch sales data in order to predict sales for the new model using bar graphs and scatter plots. Educators can scout the site by Genres (Holidays and Annual Events, Math and Food, Math and Science, Math and Social Studies, and others), as well as by grade level. While all activities are freely accessible, some educators may select to sign up for a membership, which provides extra services, such as solutions to activities, access to a wider variety of resources, and access to teaching tips.


MoEML: The Map of Early Modern London
mapoflondon.uvic.ca

Venturing from the twenty-first century into the streets of early modern England hasn't always been easy, but thanks to this intricately detailed interactive Map, that is no longer the case. Users can search by street name or category of location, and by clicking on a particular building or street, the user is linked to a series of documents detailing its history and role in society. We appreciate the work that went into each component of this project, including the detailed Encyclopedia and the Library of primary sources that helped recreate this glimpse into the world of William Shakespeare, Queen Elizabeth, and London's many lesser-known inhabitants.

MoEML, the Map of Early Modern London, uses modern technology to recombine and present centuries-old data in new ways. Based on the Agas Map, a woodblock-printed 16th-17th century bird's-eye view of London, MoEML encompasses four separate related projects: a digital edition of the Agas Map; an Encyclopedia and Descriptive Gazetteer of London people, places, topics, and terms; a Library of digital texts, marked up in TEI, an XML format for text encoding; and a digital edition of the 1598 text of John Stow's A Survey of London. Information is still being added to the MoEML, but it is already possible to start a search at the gazetteer and be referred to more information and a location on the Agas Map. For example, after searching "Tower of London," you can locate the Tower on the Agas Map, be referred to MoEML digital texts mentioning the Tower, and see variant spellings. In addition, there is a list of lines in Shakespeare where mention of the Tower of London occurs, which in turn link to the digital editions of each play.


Atavist
atavist.com

It's easy to see why readers were immediately drawn to Atavist with its sharp aesthetic appeal and integrative approach to graphic storytelling. Its user-friendly interface synthesizes narrative methods developed by predecessors such as Youtube, Instagram, and Wordpress, offering exciting new directions for creative projects like longform essay writing. We think Atavist just may become a staple for anyone looking to create visually appealing and impactful presentations or projects.

Atavist advertises itself as "a simple web tool for powerful storytelling." For those readers who love to write - and write online - it may be just the service they have been searching for, as it allows authors to upload photos, video, and audio to create an immersive experience. The best way to form a sense of what can be done with Atavist is to select the menu on the top right hand side of the screen and then go to Examples to peruse creative articles that integrate a variety of multimedia possibilities. Interested readers will then want to create an account using Facebook or their email address. From there, the instructions walk through the steps of creating a New Project, including writing text and using the convenient drag and drop functions for various media. Many readers will want to take the Tour, which can be located on the top of the screen after selecting New Project.