So much energy has been devoted in recent years to connecting schools to the Internet, and keeping score of which are and the few that still aren't, that it is easy for districts to lose sight of the bigger picture. "For these connections to truly make a difference, teachers must be trained and students must have access to quality educational content," says John Bailey, director of the federal Department of Education's office of educational technology.
Equipping educators with up-to-date information is a huge task and a moving target. New material is added to the Web at the rate of 25 pages every second, according to Nancy Willard of the Responsible Netizen Institute. It would take 750 people working 24 hours a day seven days a week just to keep up with developments. "It is easy for educators to rely on a few familiar sites-usually those recommended by a nearby colleague-if they aren't aware that superior online curriculum models and applications exist," says Conrad Berdeen, principal of the Butler School in Avon, Mass.
THE INDUSTRY MOVES FORWARD
The Curriculum Web Site Awards were launched in 1998 to identify exemplary K-12 online curriculum material in every content area. The competition includes free and subscription-based sites. In the course of reviewing more than 800 education-related sites, the following trends are apparent:
? The best education sites continue to get better, and many online curriculum leaders have added new options and expanded into new areas. Last year the magazine established a Hall of Fame to recognize continuing superior achievement, and this year inducted six new honorees.
? Key companies extended their reach with acquisitions. For example, Plato Learning acquired Netschools and its Orion online curriculum product; Pearson Education added the resources of the Family Education Network; and Scantron acquired EdVision, developer of online assessment tools.
? There was continued growth in cooperative partnerships with developers of specialized online content. For example, Nationalgeographic.com signed a multi-year deal with Encyclopaedia Britannica to add the Britannica Concise Encyclopedia to its Homework Help site, and AOL@School established more than 30 partnerships with companies including Apex Learning, BoxerLearning and Riverdeep.
? Growing numbers of companies committed to delivering high-bandwidth multimedia content. AIMS Multimedia established DigitalCurriculum.com as “a true video-ondemand system providing instant access to nearly 20,000 full video programs,” says company President David Sherman.
? Most sites added features beyond curriculum products to attract potential users and contribute to the education community. “Through our new section called Educator Resources, we provide critical information about education technology, funding resources, best practices and research studies, and will continue to enhance this section,” says Ileana Rowe, marketing manager of Learning.com.
? Increasing numbers of companies provide professional development options through their sites. “This coming year [we plan to] integrate online professional development content with our face-to-face staff development programs,” says Pat Harrigan, CEO of Classroom Connect.
? Several companies now offer online projects that engage learners in longer-term activities.
American Memory, maintained by the Library of Congress, is an online gateway to unique primary source materials that relate to the history and culture of the United States. The site offers seven million digital items including manuscripts, sheet music, photographs, films and sound recordings, that are organized in more than 100 collections, such as Civil War Photographs, History of the American West, and Voices from the Dustbowl. The searchable content areas include economics, geography, social sciences and technology. The site also provides activities and lesson plans for using the collections in classrooms.
BrainPOP is a producer of original animated K-12 educational movies that explain concepts in English, math, science, health and technology. This subscription-based site offers more than 300 colorful narrated films on topics such as asthma, atoms, digestion, static electricity, photography and robots. It is all correlated to national standards from NCTM, NCTE and NSTA. The site also provides related educational content including games, quizzes, puzzles and activities, with opportunities for students to get questions answered and exchange e-mail with BrainPOP characters.
Crayola Creativity Central
This content-rich, free multimedia site presents art resources that are applicable to every curriculum area from pre-K through high school. Crayola offers craft and projects ideas for each grade level, instruction on art techniques for using different types of media, lesson plans and classroom teaching tips. It includes related content with games, quizzes and an online calendar featuring daily art ideas. The site has several search engines for finding topics easily, and hosts an online gallery that is one of the largest collections of student art on the Web.
Education World was developed in 1996 as a free resource guide to make it easy for K-12 educators to integrate the Internet into the classroom. It has now become one of the most comprehensive sources of curriculum materials on the Web, offering a safe search of more than 500,000 resources, with original content that is not available elsewhere. This material includes lesson plans, teaching units, curriculum guides in every subject area, special features tied to the calendar, school reports, site reviews, professional articles and related resources.
Sponsored by the Nemours Foundation, KidsHealth provides accurate, doctor-approved, jargon-free health information about children from birth through adolescence. The site offers separate areas for kids, teens and parents. Each section has its own design, age-appropriate content and instructional tone, and offers thousands of original articles, animations, interactive activities, games and resources developed by health experts.
The New York Times Learning Network
This is a news-centered multimedia education site for grades 3-12, with up-to-date features that change daily. These includes stories and photographs from the world-famous newspaper with related activities, guided Web tours on topics such as The Presidential Cabinet or Westward Expansion, news summaries and quizzes, and a variety of free question services. The network also maintains an excellent collection of curriculum materials in every content area.
Grade Level Gold
This site is a goldmine of free, teacher-selected online curriculum sites and materials targeted for each K-12 grade level and subject area. It includes resources for teachers and parents. Identified teacher advocates update the content in each area regularly, and send out weekly grade-specific e-mail identifying curriculum-rich online resources.
The WebQuest Page
The WebQuest model, developed by Bernie Dodge with Tom March at San Diego State University, is an inquiry-centered learning investigation where most or all information is drawn from the Web. This Dodge-hosted site is a forum for exchanging WebQuest ideas and resources, with examples at every grade level and content area.
The mission of this site is "to unleash the creative potential of young artists throughout the world, and empower them with a voice." It provides an online art museum where students can display their work electronically for global audiences. Exhibits are searchable by school name or zip code, and Artsonia also sponsors art projects and contests, with weekly awards for students and teachers.
Music Education Online
Music Education Online is one of the most comprehensive collections of music-related resources on the Web, organized by topics that include brass, string, percussion and woodwind instruments; orchestras, bands and classical music; and vocal music.
LANGUAGE ARTS AND LITERATURE
Bartleby-named after a character in a Melville short story-is one of the largest up-to-date and comprehensive full-text free public reference libraries published on the Web, with online references including Bartlett's Familiar Quotations and Gray's Anatomy, as well as major works of fiction, nonfiction and verse. The site was started in 1993 as an electronic publishing research project, and now attracts 40 million users annually.
These related sites are outstanding places for students to find information about their favorite books, series, authors and characters. Each site offers reviews of the newest titles, in-depth author profiles, interviews, announcements of book awards, games, puzzles, contests and opportunities for readers to write book reports and post ideas.
The Eisenhower National Clearinghouse developed one of the best collections of K-12 math, science and technology education resources on the Internet, offering curriculum materials and services for educators, parents and students. These include thousands of online teaching materials and lesson plans categorized by topic, featured sites and related curriculum resources.
The Math Forum @ Drexel
The Math Forum, now housed at Drexel University, is truly the "last word" for in-depth online resources for any topic in mathematics from K-12 through college and advanced math. The site offers teaching and learning materials for arithmetic, algebra, geometry, probability/statistics and calculus, with weekly and monthly challenges, online discussions, a question-answering service and presentations on key education issues.
This comprehensive nature resource sponsored by the National Wildlife Federation, offers free illustrated field guides to more than 4,800 plants and animals, including amphibians, reptiles, insects, mammals, trees and wildflowers. The site also provides opportunities to learn about various habitats, keep online field notes, ask questions of experts, participate in discussions, hear bird songs and receive related newsletters.
This site offers a wealth of free resources to support K-12 science, including standards-based lesson plans, recommended resources grouped by grade levels, and curriculum "benchmarks." The site also uses multimedia technologies, such as radio updates on science topics.
This information-rich multimedia site relates daily news stories to middle and high school curriculum content to help learners keep pace with world events. It offers a variety of teaching and learning resources, including background articles, online forums, films, sound clips and animations, and a powerful search engine for finding specific topics.
This site is a school research portal with free and subscription-based resources on world regions including Russia and the newly independent states, the Middle East and North Africa. The site is designed for interactive learning about individual countries and their social, political and economic structures, with curriculum activities and related resources.
HEALTH, NUTRITION AND PHYSICAL EDUCATION
MEDLINEplus presents authoritative and up-to-date health information from the National Library of Medicine that is usable by health professionals and consumers alike. Its many online resources include health news, presentations on more than 500 wellness topics, multimedia tutorials, drug information, a medical encyclopedia, dictionaries, and a research tool for locating specific content.
Sports Media provides a platform where athletes, coaches, teachers, students and instructors can learn and exchange ideas. It offers links to an extensive collection of online lesson plans and activities on various PE topics, coaching materials and resources for every sport, with opportunities to get questions answered by experts.
Odvard Egil Dyrli, firstname.lastname@example.org, is senior editor and emeritus professor of education at the University of Connecticut.
AWARD CATEGORIES AND THE JUDGING PROCESS
The annual Call for Entries is published in the fall issues of DISTRICT ADMINISTRATION and placed on www.districtadministration.com. The four criteria used in selecting awards are: appropriateness of content, instructional design, quality of the interaction with the learner, and the creative use of online technologies. This year two content-specific awards were given in each of the categories of General/Interdisciplinary Curriculum, The Arts, Language Arts and Literature, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies, and Health, Nutrition and Physical Education. Premium awards were given to six exemplary sites that addressed several curriculum areas.
DA editors reviewed more than 800 K-12 education-related sites over a period of several months, and evaluated each finalist multiple times. In addition, six additional sites were inducted into the HALL OF FAME, established to honor premium award winners from previous years for superior online curriculum applications and use of Web technologies.