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Category: Websites

Sep 01 2016

Websites of Interest

Biocubes: Life in One Cubic Foot: What can we learn about diversity in our ecosystem by examining and comparing different sites, one cubic foot at a time? The Smithsonian Museum of Natural History’s educational web page Biocube: Life in One Cubic Foot (which accompanies an ongoing exhibit of the same title at the museum) is a resource designed to help science educators facilitate student exploration of this question. On this site, visitors can learn about the current Biocubes exhibit, which emerged from a partnership between a group of Smithsonian scientists – including biodiversity scientist, Chris Meyer – and photographer David Liittschwager. Liittschwager and this team of scientists set up one hollow cube around the world and examined and photographed all the species that appeared in this cube throughout the day. These gorgeous photographs were featured in National Geographic and, eventually, published as a book. On this website, educators can find lesson plans and teaching resources to lead their own biocube projects in the science classroom. This site also contains an online interview with Meyer and a link to an article in Smithsonian that features Liittschwager’s photographs.

F1000Research: F1000Research is an online journal that publishes articles, opinion pieces, posters, and slides relating to life science and medicine. Topics addressed in this journal include health, nutrition, disease, and ecology. As part of the open science movement, which seeks to make new scientific research quickly accessible to all, F1000Research publishes new articles within seven days of submission and allows visitors to read through the open peer review process themselves. This format allows science students and researchers to quickly engage in new publications and also, at times, explore conversation and critiques of recent studies. Visitors can browse recently published articles or conduct a text search for papers of interest. The Channels feature is another great way to explore published research. These thematic collections have been curated by institutions and context experts and include articles, posters, and slides – often from conference presentations.

Nova Labs: Evolution: The team behind the popular PBS series NOVA, produced by WGBH in Boston, has created a collection of online Labs that provide interactive learning experiences relating to a number of scientific topics. The most recent addition to the series is the Evolution Lab. In this engaging resource, learners can participate in two activities: Build a Tree and Deep Tree. In the Build a Tree activity, students create an evolutionary tree by reading about a variety of species and identifying the traits that connect them to one another. Meanwhile, Deep Tree is an interactive chart that demonstrates the connections between 70,000 species, from algae to bananas to human beings. Visitors can search for any species to learn about their classification and characteristics or to explore how any two species are related to each other. These two interactive activities are accompanied by an educator’s guide, which includes lesson plans and worksheets for the classroom. In addition, this page includes Videos, an Evolution Quiz, and a Meet the Experts component.

Sciblogs: Funded by the Science Media Centre, a science and technology journalism organization in New Zealand, Sciblogs is a collection of multiple science blogs addressing all aspects of science, including health, technology, and the environment. Visitors to this website can browse for blog entries of interest across all affiliate blogs via general topics. Alternatively, users can explore individual blogs at their leisure, such as Mind Matters, a blog focused on brain science; Nano Girl, a blog dedicated to nanotechnology; and Physics Stops, about all things physics. Each blog is authored by a different scholar, journalist, or research scientist, resulting in a multitude of voices and perspectives. Sciblogs publishes new entries from all of its affiliate blogs on its homepage, facilitating browsing and allowing visitors to quickly stay up-to-date on their favorite topics.

Aug 01 2016

Websites of Interest

Data.gov: Data.gov is part of the U.S. government’s ongoing efforts to make government agency data accessible to the general public and available for use by individuals, businesses, non-profit organizations, and web developers. This site contains over 183,000 data sets from 77 different agencies and sub-agencies of the government, including the Department of Labor, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of Education. Anyone can search the data sets or browse for data by agency or topic. Data.gov is designed to encourage the practice of “civic hacking,” a practice of using open government data to increase civic engagement and connect citizens with useful information. Data.gov provides examples of how citizens, local governments, businesses, and consumer organizations have used their data. In addition, the site includes links to a variety of software applications that utilize this open government data that may be of interest to citizens.

HHMI BioInteractive: Diversity of Organisms: BioInteractive is a website created by science education specialists at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) and hosts a rich collection of award-winning online resources for the biology classroom. Its Diversity of Organisms page contains a number of resources about characteristics, classification, and evolution of different organisms. One highlight of this page is its engaging short films: Popped Secret explains how scientists identified that modern day corn was cultivated from the teosinte plant and The Guide: A Biologist in Gorongosa, directed by Academy Award winner Jessica Yu, is a portrait of a young Mozambique boy who decides to pursue a career in biology in order to preserve Gorongosa National Park. BioInteractive also excels at providing accessible visualizations that illuminate biological processes, such as the lifecycle of a virus. Finally, BioInteractive includes an innovative, interactive activity called “WildCam Gorongosa” where students can examine 52 photographs from Gorongosa National Park and, with the aid of some online tools, see if they can identify animals.

Open Syllabus Project: Launched in January 2016 by a group of scholars at the American Assembly at Columbia University, the Open Syllabus Project contains data from over one million university syllabi. Using publicly available syllabi along with faculty contributions, the Open Syllabus team enters every text assigned to students into a database. Faculty, librarians, and students can then search for a text using the Syllabus Explorer tool to see a list of other works assigned alongside that text and discover its “Teaching Score” – a score developed by the team to reflect how frequently a text is assigned. While this tool is useful for university instructors considering what to include on their own syllabi, it also provides insight for anyone interested in examining trends in scholarship and higher education. Open Syllabus team members David McClure and Joe Karaganis noted in a recent New York Times article about the site’s launch, “Teaching captures a very different set of judgments about what is important than [scholarly] publication does.” The Open Syllabus Project provides insight into what faculty judge important to teach to undergraduate students.

ScienceOpen: Launched in 2014, ScienceOpen is more than just an open access journal. Rather, this publishing network strives to facilitate open and public communication by connecting scientists, encouraging collaboration, and facilitating open-source peer review. To this end, ScienceOpen employs a unique “post-publication peer review process” that allows researchers to publish papers after a brief, one-week general review. This serves to ensure that the research meets basic ethics requirements. Once published, other researchers can provide feedback to authors. The original authors, in turn, are invited to post revised versions of their papers. ScienceOpen currently hosts almost 15,000,000 articles, which visitors may browse by discipline. In addition, ScienceOpen editors have compiled collections of articles by topic. Researchers are also invited to create a personal profile in order to participate in public forums with peers.

Jul 01 2016

Websites of Interest

Digital Media and Learning Research Hub: The Digital Media and Learning Research Hub is an international research center based at the University of California Humanities Research Institute at UC Irvine. Funded by the MacArthur Foundation, the DML Research Hub has three stated goals: to examine how digital technology has altered education (including formal and informal educational sites); to support innovations that use digital media to enhance education; and to research and promote best practices for facilitating education through digital media. The Hub is especially interested in how digital media can enhance civic participation. On its website, visitors can read about the team’s research and watch video presentations about how to incorporate digital media into instruction. Visitors will also find a curated set of free and open resources, culled from websites, webinars, publications, and blog posts. Entries from the collaborative blog, dmlcentral, are most prominent. Authored by a diverse group of academics, blog entries include reflections about online youth activism, disparities in access to digital media, and how digital media is shaping conceptions and experiences of adolescence. New digital media tools for educators are also regularly profiled.

Evolution of Terrestrial Ecosystems Program: The Evolution of Terrestrial Ecosystems (ETE) Program, which is housed at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, works to understand the development of ecosystems over very long periods of time – hundreds of millions of years, in fact. Using fossil records, ETE scientists use paleoecological analyses to uncover a host of different patterns, evolutions, structures, and compositions of ecological communities and their ever changing dynamics. Readers may peruse the history of the ETE program, which dates back to 1990, as well as the fascinating people behind it, such as researcher A. Kay Behrensmeyer. Under the Research tab, readers will find a helpful Glossary, as well as additional information about ETE projects and research in Kenya, Central Asia, South Africa, Wyoming, and other locales. An extensive list of ETE Publications is also available, and while complete articles are not accessible from the site, the reference list offers a look at the range of research that has been conducted over the years.

Expii: Expii functions as an interactive series of math and science textbooks. Po-Shen Loh, a math professor at Carnegie Mellon University, created Expii with the aim of making math and science instruction more interactive and collaborative. The resource can be navigated in one of two ways: users may either search for a specific topic, such as “quadratic equations” or “Newton’s first law,” or they may use the Topic Map for game-like exploration. This second approach reveals the many connections between math and science and allows users to create their own journey through a variety of subjects, such as algebra, physics, astronomy, and calculus. Topics are accompanied by short explanations of concepts and often include complete practice problems. Notably, Expii is a crowdsourced learning site; contributors from around the globe can add their own definitions, create new problems, or update problem explanations.

SciStarter: Citizen science is the idea that anyone, any citizen, can volunteer their time for the good of scientific research and discovery without having to be formally trained. SciStarter is the place to find and participate in citizen science projects, whether that be an extension of one of your current hobbies, like collecting data while bird watching (The Great Backyard Bird Count), or a fun educational activity to do with a child, like collecting bugs (Urban Buzz). As a repository for citizen science projects, the SciStarter Project Finder lets users search for projects and opportunities by type of activity, such as something to do exclusively online, or by topic, such as animals, geography, or health and medicine. There are also ways to limit your search by location, by free or low cost projects, or by projects suitable for students. Each entry includes general information about the project and a link to more information about how to participate. If you’re looking to contribute a project to the database, the For Scientists section of the website offers an easy way to add suggestions, while the blog discusses news and outcomes of current citizen science fueled projects.

Jun 01 2016

Websites of Interest

Audubon: Birding Without Borders: The “Big Year” is a concept unique to the birding community, centering around an informal competition among birders to see who can identify the largest number of species of birds within a single calendar year. This site, hosted by the Audubon Society, follows Noah Stryker, a writer, photographer, adventurer, and birder, as he criss-crosses the globe, searching out rare and common bird species in cities, forests, plains, and just about every other conceivable geography. Along the way, readers may enjoy the author’s adventures with friendly locals almost as much as his identification of Buff-collared Nightjars and Barn Owls. Spoiler alert: Stryker manages to identify over 5,000 unique bird species during his 365 day trek.

BioDitigal Human: BioDigital’s interactive, medically accurate Human platform has been designed to educate the average person about human anatomy and their own health through the use of dynamic 3D graphics and simulations. Available as a web-based or mobile app, readers must first sign up for an account to begin. From there, the system opens up to an image of the human skeleton. Readers may then select from over a dozen options to show and hide the skeletal, ligament, digestive, urinary, reproductive, respiratory, endocrine, nervous, cardiovascular, lymphatic, viscera/fascia, and muscular systems. The program also allows readers to explore in depth conditions related to various anatomical systems, including Blood, Heart, and Circulation, Brain and Nerves, Digestive System, and half a dozen others. The information here strikes an excellent balance between accessible and medically erudite.

DNA Barcoding 101: With a budget of 150 million dollars a year and a history dating back to 1890, Cold Spring Harbor (CSH) Laboratory is one of the nation’s most respected private, non-profit research institutions. Now, the Lab has given the world an excellent educational website on the topic of DNA Barcoding, a method that allows experts and non-experts alike to objectively identify species based on their unique pattern of DNA sequence. The Introduction page outlines the methods and applications of DNA Barcoding. From there, educators may want to download “Using DNA Barcodes to Identify and Classify Living Things,” the PDF document that outlines the experimental methods used to document species. Here readers will learn how to gather samples, use a smartphone to take photographs, drop a pin for location, use a field guide to identify the specimen to the degree possible, and then label and analyze the DNA. All the necessary equipment is listed in the document.

Global Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet: NASA’s Global Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet website features a diverse set of resources related to the measurement, analysis, and dangers of global climate change. Here readers will find a collection of Interactive Features all designed to bring to life the sometimes abstract conclusions of scientific articles on climate and its effects on human and other life on Earth. For example, the Climate Time Machine allows readers to go backward and forward through four different key climate indicators, including Sea Ice, Sea Level, Carbon Dioxide, and Global Temperature. Perfect for educators who are looking for impactful visual representations of the rising temperatures on the planet, the interactive makes these measurements visceral in a way that charts and graphs are seldom able to do. Other interactives on the page include the Global Ice Viewer, Quizzes, The Sun: A Virtual Tour, The Water Cycle, and others.

May 02 2016

Websites of Interest

Big Business: Food Production, Processing & Distribution in the North 1850-1900: This online exhibition from the American Antiquarian Society (AAS) takes readers deep into the workings of American food production between the years 1850 and 1900. Here readers may scout chromolithographs, trade catalogues, trade cards, and product labels to better understand the rapidly changing world of agricultural practices in the late nineteenth century, as well as the shifting technologies that led to innovations in manufacturing, transport, refrigeration, and other game changers. After reading the erudite introduction on the home page, readers may like to browse through sections dedicated to Farming, Seed Catalogues, Manufacturing, Trade Cards, Shopping, and Food Labels. Each section is packed with excellent overviews paired with original source materials.

Carbon Footprint Calculator: For readers who wonder about their carbon footprint, but don’t know quite how to calculate the long and short of it, this Carbon Footprint Calculator from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will arrive as a welcome resource. The site takes users through several steps. First, readers enter the number of people in their household, as well as their zip code. Next, they enter their average monthly bills for natural gas, electricity, fuel oil, and propane. From there, they enter the number of vehicles their household owns, and how many miles household members drive per year. Finally, readers enter how much their household recycles. At the end, the program tells users what their approximate carbon footprint is. Along the way, readers will be introduced to suggestions about how to reduce their carbon footprint.

HHMI BioInteractive: Patterns and Processes in Ecology: BioInteractive, an innovative educational resource from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), features a plethora of award-winning multimedia resources related to science education, from short films to virtual labs to holiday lectures. This collection of lectures by Princeton University professors Dr. Robert M. Pringle and Dr. Corina E. Tarnita focuses its attention on the sometimes surprising patterns and processes in ecological systems. Here readers may scout lectures on Communities as Ecological Networks, The Science of Camera Traps, Africa’s Savanna Ecosystems, and Modeling Populations and Species Interactions, among other topics. Lectures are between 20 and 40 minutes long and feature excellent visual effects to support the cogent analyses that the researchers present. For readers who are looking for real depth of thinking about ecological systems, these lectures will provide hours of edifying entertainment.

Pew Research Center: Major Gaps Between Public, Scientists on Key Issues: This fascinating study of discrepancies between the general public and scientists on a host of science-related issues can enrich classroom discussions of political science, biology, chemistry, physics, agriculture, astronomy, geology, and other subjects. Originally released by the Pew Research Center in July of 2015, the study opens with a pithy graph detailing the divide between scientists and the public on issues such as evolution, animal testing, overpopulation, and other quandaries. For instance, approximately 100 percent of scientists agree that humans and other living things have evolved over time. However, only 65 percent of the public agrees with this statement. In addition to a general overview, the site links to An Elaboration of AAAS Scientists’ Views and a PDF of the complete report.

Apr 01 2016

Websites of Interest

Birds-of-Paradise Project: 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.

Creative Commons: Creative Commons is a nonprofit that offers free legal tools to creative people who would like to share their work under specified conditions. On the site, readers may like to start by searching the commons, which they can do using the convenient search feature. A search turns up results from the OpenClipArt library, Google, Wikimedia Commons, SoundCloud, and other sources – all of it pre-approved for legal use. The site also features a number of compelling features for users who would like to license their own content. For example, under Licenses, users will find categories such as About the Licenses, Choose a License, and Things to know before licensing to understand available licensing options for particular products. On the other hand, readers who would like to use the work of others may also read about Best practices for attribution and Getting permission. Finally, the Creative Commons blog is a regularly updated source of information about licensing, public domain work, and the various artists and others that use Creative Commons to license their work.

Fair Use Evaluator: In the United States, use of copyrighted material is considered fair when it is done for a limited and transformative purpose. Knowing what is determined fair use and what isn’t, however, is not always as easy as it sounds. The Fair Use Evaluator, which was created by the American Library Association’s Office for Information Technology Policy, helps readers through the process of deciding what is and isn’t fair use under the U.S. Copyright Code. To use the evaluator, select “Make a Fair Use Evaluation.” The program will then take readers through five steps, including Getting Started, The Fair Use Evaluator, Provide Additional Information, Get a Hard or Electronic Copy, and How to Use Your Analysis. In addition, on the homepage readers may also select Learn More About Fair Use, for basic information about fair use guidelines. As an interactive tool, the Evaluator is a helpful resource for anyone unsure about fairness of use.

Neuroline: This publication from the Society for Neuroscience may be targeted at those in neuroscience and related fields, but anyone with an interest in the practicalities of academia and the sciences will find parallels to their own interests and preoccupations. For example, posts in the Diversity section (Explore by Topic) include such articles as “Mentors: Here’s How You Can Encourage Women to Stay in Science” and “On Speaking Up: Why Your Voice is Needed to Increase Women in Neuroscience.” Site content has been organized into Categories, such as Career Advice, Professional Development, Scientific Research, and Outreach, so that staying on top of relevant issues is easy. The Scientific Research category, in particular, holds many interesting wonders, such as “Why is the Size of an Object Unchanged Regardless of Changes in Viewing Distance?” and “The Drowsy Effect of Sugar.” The site may also be Explored by Audience, including Undergraduate, Graduate Student, Postdoctoral Fellow and Trainee, Early Career, Mid-Career, Advanced Career, and others.

STEM Career: Many educators, counselors, and parents are aware of the growing demand for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skills. For those searching for STEM-based resources, STEM Career may be of interest. Developed by Rich Feller, professor of counseling and career development at Colorado State University, STEM Career serves as a “brokering site to support STEM advocates.” Resources have been organized by audience, such as Students, Counselors, Educators, and Parents. For instance, Counselors will find resources sorted into three categories (Programs To Encourage Students To Participate In, Scholarships for Students, and Guides to Make You A Better Counselor In STEM), while the Educators will find five categories (Extracurricular Activities, Lesson Plans, Free Software, Classroom Resources, and Other Resources). Whatever sections readers choose, there is an abundance of STEM-related material on the site.

Mar 01 2016

Websites of Interest

Biodiversity in Focus: This fact-filled, science-nerdy blog by entomology graduate student and amateur photographer, Morgan Jackson, considers the complexities of biodiversity with a special focus on insects. While some of the blog posts concentrate on vacations, conferences, and other marginalia, most take great care to elucidate the wonders of the Chinese Scorpion, Mesobuthus martensii, or the ethics of selling the naming rights of newly discovered species to the highest bidder on eBay. Still other entries offer career-related musings, such as thoughts about The Royal British Columbia Museum’s decision to discontinue its entomology curator position, or discuss the ins and outs of science writing and communication. In addition to the excellent and informative blog posts on Biodiversity in Focus, the well-organized list of Entomology-related websites is worth the price of admission (free). From the list, readers may link to other blogs and resources around the web, from a site dedicated to American Beetles to the Canadian National Collection of Insects, Arachnids and Nematodes.

Fundamentals of Neuroscience: Students at Harvard University who are interested in neurobiology have a number of resources at their disposal, including this joint online/on-campus class on the Fundamentals of Neuroscience. Lucky for the rest of us, the online version of the course is available here for free. Interested readers may like to begin by perusing the many course materials on the landing page, including two introductory videos to the course; featured trailers on the subjects of Optogenetics, MDMA + PTSD, and Deep Brain Stimulation; and module lesson excerpts about Excitation and Inhibition, The Synapse, and others. The full course is available after an easy sign-up and includes engaging lectures and assignments from some of the most qualified instructors in the world.

Wired: Science Blogs: Wired has been covering technology, tech business, tech lifestyle, and tech products with its special brand of techno-utopianism and hacker wit since its inception in early 1993. It’s Science Blogs section, however, is a relative newcomer. Here readers will find the latest in the science of natural disasters, the ins and outs of everyday physics, and explanations of everything from how to race a motorcycle across the United States to what it takes to put rockets into space. Recent articles have presented a vision for a better, realities-driven higher education system, coverage of volcanoes in Chile and Indonesia, a philosophic treatise on the new Star Wars, and some erudite thoughts on how to measure the speed of light. For educators looking for ways to enliven class discussions and inspire students to think again about basic science concepts, these Science Blogs can be an inspiring resource.

YouTube: Sick Science!: Steve Spangler started creating do-it-yourself, at-home science projects for kids in 1991. Since then, he has appeared on Ellen, the History Channel, the Food Channel, the Today Show, Good Morning America, and many other television networks and shows. He also has a YouTube channel where he introduces experiments for free, with well over 200 at the time of this writing. Here readers will find one- or two-minute how-to videos describing how to make a sugar kaleidoscope, perfect fake blood, a musical straw, ink, magnetic slime, vampire slime, an ice tray battery, a coin tower, a homemade lung, a magic color changing flower, and many, many more – all utilizing simple chemistry and ingredients that most kids can find around the house. The videos are also arranged by categories. Under the Playlists tab, readers will find lists such as Science with Sugar (6 videos), Food Science (20 videos), Summer Science Fun! (33 videos), Chemistry (55 videos), and others.

Nov 02 2015

Websites of Interest

Enhancing Humane Science – Improving Animal Research: This course from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health focuses its substantial intellectual prowess on the topic of improving animal research so that it can meet its empirical goals while maintaining high standards of humane treatment. The 12 audio lectures with accompanying slides are free, and readers may proceed at their own paces. Along the way, they will learn about experimental design, humane endpoints, environmental enrichment, post-surgical care, pain management, and the impact of stress on the quality of data. Readings, which include several books and dozens of journal articles, are available from the landing page, as well as Lecture Materials, including MP4 movies, MP3 audio, and PDF slide presentations to convey the information of the course.

Explore the Nobel Prize Talks Podcast: There are few honors on earth as significant as winning a Nobel Prize. For readers who are curious about the scientists, authors, thinkers, and doers who have been awarded Nobels, this site provides the perfect window into the characters and curiosities of these most unusual women and men. For instance, May-Britt Moser, the 2014 Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine, describes her passionate co-investigation with her co-Laureate and husband, Edvard Moser, saying, “We didn’t care about salaries and having a nice car. We just cared about science and were really ambitious.” In fact, the passion for discovery runs through most of these narratives. As Tim Hunt, who won the prize for Physiology or Medicine in 2001, puts it, “If we really understood things, there would be no sense of discovery.”

JSTOR Daily: Science & Technology: JSTOR, an essential resource for students and scholars at colleges and university libraries for nearly two decades, launched JSTOR Daily in October 2014 to bring some of the wealth of research and primary sources in the database to the wider audience at no charge. Through weekly feature articles and daily blog posts, this online magazine mines the database for material that provides context and detail to current events and issues. The front page offers a small sampling of the most recent blog posts and long reads, while the archives can be explored through five topical headings: Arts & Culture, Business & Economics, Politics & History, Science & Technology, and Education & Society. Users can also sign up to have the Weekly Digest delivered to their inbox. For readers interested in delving deeper into those stories crossing their Facebook and Twitter feeds, JSTOR Daily is a fascinating must.

Microbe World: Podcasts & Videos: The Podcasts & Videos section of Microbe World, a website dedicated entirely to microbes and their interactions with humans, animals, plants, and the environment, are as entertaining as they are informative. Here readers will find six different podcast series: This Week in Microbiology, This Week in Virology, This Week in Parasitism, MicroWorld Video, BacterioFiles, and the Spanish-language educational program, Mundo de los Microbios. In addition, readers will find much to explore in the two documentaries on the site, including the four-part series Intimate Strangers: Unseen Life on Earth. Educators teaching microbiology and related subjects will find hours of audio and video resources perfectly suited for use in lesson plans of all kinds.

Oct 01 2015

Websites of Interest

Authentic Assessment Toolbox: In his introduction to this useful site, psychology professor Jon Mueller presents two arguments. First, he claims that our current educational system fails to teach the need for critical skills for success in the 21st century. Second, he posits that the reason for this is, at least partially, due to confusion about how to assess those skills. The website is an answer to that confusion. Here educators will find Mueller’s program of Authentic Assessment. Readers may like to begin with the first three sections of the site, “What is it?,” “Why do it?,” and “How do you do it,” before moving onto sections that explain such topics as Standards, Rubrics, and Tasks. Throughout the site, Mueller makes a genuine attempt to provide both a philosophical backdrop for his assessment techniques and the sorts of down-to-earth tools that educators can easily use in their classrooms.

Center for Genomic Gastronomy: The Center for Genomic Gastronomy thinks of itself as “an artist-led think tank that examines the biotechnologies and biodiversity of human food systems.” As such, it hopes to provide readers with information about food controversies, offer alternatives to our culinary cultures, and “imagine a more just, biodiverse, & beautiful food system.” The site has a youthful, tech-savvy feel. Here readers will find lectures about food politics (under the Talks tab), tracts dedicated to “experimental eating” and other tropes (under the Texts tab), and a backlog of hundreds of Blog entries that outline the activities of the Center, from presentations in Moscow to hosted dinners in Sausalito. For readers who are fascinated by the cutting edge of food culture, the Center for Genomic Gastronomy is worth exploring.

Data Snapshots: Reusable Data Maps: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s climate education site provides “timely and authoritative scientific data and information about climate” in order to “promote public understanding of climate science and climate-related events.” While NOAA provides a wealth of information on its site, the Maps & Data section is unique for its visual representations of complex patterns. Here readers will find continually updated maps of the United States, including depictions of average monthly temperatures, temperature outlook, severe weather climatology, and a drought monitor. The color-coding makes interpretation relatively easy, while the explanations that accompany each map fill out the story of what is happening around the nation. Readers will also find four data-related sections (Data Snapshots, Dataset Gallery, Climate Data Primer, and Climate Dashboard), each of which explicates the interpretation of climate data from a different perspective.

Medical Dictionary: Comprehensive Medical Terminology Search: While this visually simple service leaves something to be desired in terms of aesthetics, it is a powerful tool for readers who may sometimes find themselves befuddled by the multitude of terminologies in the medical world. Readers who have a confusing medical word or phrase that they want to understand may simply type or paste it into the search box. For instance, entering “kainic acid” returns the explanation that this substance is “a glutamate analogue that exhibits powerful and long-acting excitatory and toxic activity on neurons.” The search engine also allows readers to select “fuzzy search” when they are not certain how to spell a term. This activates an Internet-wide search that clarifies the search. In addition, readers may scout the dictionary by letter, which can make for hours of entertainment as one scrolls through definitions of C factors, C fibers, C genes, C group viruses, and so on.

Sep 01 2015

Websites of Interest

The Plant List: As the website rather modestly states, The Plant List is “a working list of all known plant species.” In other words, botanically inspired readers will find on this site basic information about 1,293,685 (and counting) different plants. Readers may like to begin with How to use this site, a comprehensive section that describes how to search The Plant List, when it is useful or not useful to conduct a search, when it is more helpful to browse, and other tips and tidbits. After getting their bearings, readers may then want to delve into the list itself. For instance, the Browse tab allows readers to look into the four major groups (flowering plants, conifers, ferns, and mosses), and then dig down into family, genera, and species. For science teachers looking for new resources to offer their students, or for anyone fascinated by plants, this collaboration between the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, and the Missouri Botanical Garden is a truly comprehensive resource.

Social Media for Teachers: Guides, Resources, and Ideas: For educators who are searching for ways to harness the power of social media in their classrooms, this Edutopia article by writer Matt Davis will pay dividends. Davis begins by making a case for social media use, then launches into a resource-packed review of 33 Internet articles that offer tips on integrating Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest into a variety of curricula. Highlights include articles, such as Education Week’s “New How-To Guide for Using Facebook in the Classroom” and David Truss’ “One-Stop-All-You-Need-to-Know-Guide to Twitter.” With only one in five teachers regularly using social media with their students, this site could boost confidence and help utilize these powerful tools.

TED-Ed: Lessons Worth Sharing:
TED-Ed is a multifaceted educational platform based on the knowledge-proliferating philosophies of TED, the organization made famous by its renowned TED talks. To take full advantage of TED-Ed, educators will first want to explore the existing Lessons, of which there are thousands. A drop down menu reveals a dozen subjects, including The Arts, Business & Economics, Health, Mathematics, and others. Various filters, including Content, Grade Level, and Duration, help narrow down to a specific topic. Some of the best lessons, such as “The Benefits of Good Posture,” have been viewed hundreds of thousands of times, and include thought provoking, ready-made multiple choice and open-answer questions and prompts for student discussions. Educators who would like to use the platform to build their own lessons around web videos (from TED, YouTube, or Vimeo, for example) will need to create an account. Registration is easy, however, and only requires an email and password before creation of video-based lessons can occur.

What’s Cooking Uncle Sam?: Based on a 2011 exhibit at the National Archives Museum in Washington, D.C., this resource-packed site is a true boon for educators and all those fascinated by how the U.S. government has attempted to influence the ways its citizens think about food. Readers may want to start by selecting the “What’s Cooking Uncle Sam online exhibit on Google Cultural Institute” link to view images and text from the original exhibit. Next, explore the featured Activities, such as “Effects of Food Regulation in the Progressive Era.” This engaging activity invites students to learn about new food laws passed in the early 1900s and how they impacted the safety and quality of consumer goods. Readers will also find much to explore in the Primary Sources section available on the homepage. For example, “School Lunches” opens to many original documents, from recipes used between 1965 and 1987 to a 1946 letter advocating for subsidized school lunches in public school cafeterias.