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Hidden Gems: Online Websites to Discover


The sites below represent nearly a dozen of the most valuable -- or the most interesting -- treasures on the Web. Included: Eleven great sites to use in school and out.

When you spend as much time online as I do, you frequently stumble across online treasures -- Web-based resources that, buried among millions of other sites, dont always get the attention they deserve. Some are comprehensive resources created by experts in a particular field; others contain a single unique resource representing one Webmasters personal passion. The sites include commercial sites, government sites, organizational sites, school sites, and sites created by individuals who simply want to share the resources that are valuable to them.

The sites below represent a dozen of the most valuable -- or most interesting -- treasures that Ive unearthed on the Web. They include audio files of science songs for primary students, a free professional career interest inventory, a language construction kit, and the best district Web site Ive ever seen! Take a look, bookmark the sites you can use -- and then share the wealth.

TASK (Technology Advancing Student Knowledge)
TASK, a Web site created by the technology integration team of the Greece, New York, school district, is, without question, the best in-house teacher resource I have ever seen! The site includes four easy-to-navigate sections: Whats New? provides links to online educational technology journals, upcoming district technology training opportunities, and a few news items of current curricular interest. Internet Links offers a searchable list of links to Web sites containing teacher resources and curricular material, categorized by grade level and subject area. Each link is accompanied by a brief description of the site. Teacher Tools contains a number of resources, including tutorials created by the sites developers; links to Web sites offering worksheets, rubrics, reference tools, and other online teacher tools; and links to such downloads as Adobe Acrobat, Paintshop Pro, and ClassBuilder. My favorite section, however, is Class Activities. Here, the developers have provided technology-enhanced activities and lesson ideas for teachers to use in their classrooms. Most of the lessons, which are categorized by subject area and grade level, are provided by the sites creators. Some are links to activities at other sites. Some are contributed by the districts teachers. All, however, are complete lessons with all the necessary resources -- and all are doable by even the most tech-phobic teachers. This section also includes examples of completed activities, done by teachers and students in the Greece school system. If every district had a resource like this, every teacher would be a tech-savvy educator. If you dont have one, use theirs until you get one!

NCES Kids' Site
For a long time, the National Center for Education Statistics has been a tremendous resource for educators, providing every kind of education-related statistic you could possible need or want. The kids site, though relatively new, is an equally valuable resource for students. Start your tour of the site at Find Your School. Clicking a state, town, and school brings up such information as number of students, enrollment by grade, and enrollment by race and ethnicity. In College Search, high school students can select a state or region and then search for a college by type of school, available programs and majors, and enrollment. This is a resource previously only available on software for guidance counselors. The NCES Kids' Site also includes interactive quizzes related to mathematics and statistics, a word of the day, an interactive probability activity, and much more. My favorite part of the site is Create a Graph, in which students can use the interactive tools provided to create four different types of graphs.


Share Your Favorite Online Treasures!

If you know of a Web site thats worth its weight in gold, send the URL to [email protected] and well include it in our next Online Treasures feature.

Ology means the study of, and this American Museum of Natural History site offers excellent resources related to the ologies of several subject areas, including genetics, astronomy, biodiversity, and paleontology. Kids navigate each area accompanied by student ologists, who ask the questions your kids want answers to. Those answers -- and lots more information -- are provided by Museum scientists. Pages in the Biodiversity section, for example, include The Tree of Life, Saving Species, BioBenefits, Dzanga Sangha, Life in the City, Endangered Species, and Global Groceries. Each section also includes a section of Stuff to Do. This colorful, appealing, interactive resource makes science accessible to kids.

Singing Science Records
Jeff Poskanzer is a software developer, apparently with a nostalgic bent. When I was a kid, he says, my parents got this six-LP set of science-themed folk songs for my sister and me. They were produced in the late 1950s / early 1960sThe Singing Science lyrics were very Atomic Age, while the tunes were generally riffs on popular or genre music of the time. We played them incessantly. Now you can play them too. Poskanzer has put audio files of all 88 songs online. The songs are arranged in five categories: Space Songs, Energy and Motion Songs, Experiment Songs, Weather Songs, and Nature Songs. Topics include Why Does the Sun Shine? Whos Afraid of Thunder? How Does a Bird Sing? All are great sources of fun and information for elementary aged kids.

The Language Construction Kit
This site, intended for anyone who wants to create artificial languages presents linguistically sound methods for creating naturalistic languages-- which can be reversed to create non-naturalistic languages. Really! The site, at first glance, only of interest to language fanatics -- or gifted students with too much time on their hands -- is actually a terrific resource for any high school or college language or language arts teacher. The step-by-step process for creating artificial languages requires a thorough understanding of the structure of the English language, and reinforces the value in learning other languages as well. Whether you can actually use this site or not, it provides a fascinating insight into the vast variety of online resources.

Are you having trouble getting students to turn in their homework regularly? This free bulletin board game from TeachNet will solve the problem faster than they can say the dog ate it. The game, based on MBs Monopoly, includes a printable game board and Chance Cards; students choose clip art images to use as game pieces. Simply download and print the 35-inch-square Homeworkopoly game board and assemble it on a classroom bulletin board. Then play the game according to the rules posted at the site. (Note: Only kids who have completed their homework are allowed to play!) The game board is available in two versions, with street names and without. Chance Cards include Sit at the Teachers Desk, Be First in Line, Get a Homework Pass, and many more. Blank cards allow you to create your own Chance Cards as well. I wish this sure-fire motivator had been available when I was teaching!

The Learning Page for Teachers
The Library of Congresss American Memory Collections has long been one of my favorite Web sites. These collections of more than 7 million primary source documents, photographs, films, and recordings offer a first-person look at Americas past -- and provide an invaluable resource for educators. The site provides so many resources, however, that it can be overwhelming for a busy teacher to sort through. In order to make the task easier and the collections more accessible, the Library of Congress has created The Learning Page for Teachers. These pages provide a tour of the American Memory Collections and tips on how to use them. If you havent used the lesson plans in the American Memory Collections or used the Collections to create your own lesson plans, this is the place -- and the time -- to begin.

Video with Professor Monkey
Other than a few shaky camcorder shots taken at family functions, my experience with video production is virtually non-existent. After reading this tutorial, however, I feel more than ready to produce a professional-looking video on demand. Whether youre a teacher interested in producing a video with your students, a parent eager to competently record a childs milestone, or a middle or high school student interested in creating a bang up extra credit project, this is a site you wont want to miss. The tutorial begins with Pre-Production. This section contains directions for creating a storyboard, writing a script (So this is why we needed to learn about story elements and literary terms!) and planning your production. Also included is a checklist for successfully completing the pre-production phase. The Production section provides instructions for properly using the camera and other equipment and for creating effective lighting and clean audio. Post-Production offers information on tape logging, audio sweetening, and the use of graphics. This is a terrific tutorial! The clear, well-organized instructions make it easy to understand -- and the monkey makes it fun.

Have you received the e-mail warning about men outside malls spraying women with ether in the guise of a perfume sampling? Or the message that says that Bill Gates will pay you for testing his new e-mail tracing program? Or the one about the computer virus that will wipe out your hard drive? Have you been induced to delete a destructive virus from your computer -- only to learn that the virus was a harmless program, or worse, a necessary application? If youve been fooled once by an urban legend, dont let it happen again. Snopes offers clickable links to the most common or most recent legends and a search engine for the rest. This site is fun to visit even if youve never been fooled by an e-mail scam -- and are sure you never will be. It can also be the start of a great Web literacy lesson for your students!

The Career Key
Created by a professor in school counseling and career planning at North Carolina State Universitys College of Education, this site is a great resource for middle school, high school, and college students trying to plan a career or choose a major -- and for adults contemplating a career change. The sites primary resource is the Career Key, a free professional career interest inventory. (According to the site, this is the only free career interest test available online.) In addition, the results of the inventory are linked to the Occupational Outlook Handbook -- a source of occupational opportunities that includes information about promising career fields and the salaries and required training for those fields. The site also offers personality and work environment information, which allows users to project how their personality will affect their job success and satisfaction in various occupations. Even educators who dont teach career planning -- or arent interested in a career change -- will appreciate the page on high-quality decision-making. This is an extremely well organized and easy-to-use site, and most pages also are available in printable pdf format.

FirstGov for Kids
Today, most U. S. government offices, non-profit organizations, and schools and other educational organizations maintain their own Web sites; many include separate pages for kids. A number of commercial sites also provide kids pages that are free of advertisements or blatant sales pitches. The resources contained on those sites are generally excellent. The trick, of course, is to find them! FirstGov for Kids is a linked list of advertising-free kids sites - government, organizational, commercial, and educational -- categorized alphabetically by topic. In the Arts category, for example, youll find links to The National Gallery of Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Smithsonian, the Complete History of the Discovery of Cinematography, and more. Resources created by U.S. government, by the way, are copyright free.


Article by Linda Starr
Education World®
Copyright © 2009 Education World





Links Updated 11/13/2009