Research news and notes from the National Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Education
Digital Library (NSDL) Program [Back Issues]

The Whiteboard Report
September 2006, Issue #100



One Hundred And Counting . . .
One Hundred And Counting . . .

Since December 2000 NSDL Whiteboard Report has circulated news about community events, achievements, initiatives and priorities that emerged on the way to creating a national education library focused on science, technology, engineering and mathematics. As Henry Ford observed: "Coming together is a beginning; Keeping together is progress; Working together is success." In 2006 NSDL is a just such a success woven from a network of people, technology, resources, institutions and organizations. Kaye Howe, Dean Krafft, John Saylor, Kate Wittenberg, Bill Arms, Dave McArthur, are six among many individuals who have contributed to weaving a strong yet unfinished fabric that is the National Science Digital Library. Whiteboard Report asked them to reflect on four themes for this issue--Tackling Educational Standards, Increasing Use, Putting Content in Context, and Pulling Together--as NSDL looks towards a fast-changing future and the next one hundred issues of Whiteboard Report.

You may note that the format of Whiteboard Report format has been updated with this issue. An annotated table of contents will continue to arrive twice a month via email. To read the issue, or any item in its entirety, click on the "read more" link in the email. You will find longer stories and even some pictures online. Please share your reactions to both the new format and opinions expressed in this issue at NSDL Whiteboard Talkback, and thank you for reading! --Carol Minton Morris
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The Glory of the Single Mind is Limited
The Glory of the Single Mind is Limited

Everything is always more than itself; it is also what it signifies.

I was asked to write about NSDL and educational standards--one of those apparently straightforward and practical ideas that immediately bursts into overwhelming complexity. I can hear the revered and gifted Stuart Sutton detailing the number of states x the number of standards x the number of topics and grades + plus constant change--well, the ordinary mind (mine) goes to mush.

Nevertheless, every teacher in America is faced with teaching to those standards and, if we are to truly serve educators, we must find the ways to help. How to match all those NSDL resources to all those standards. . . . "The glory," Descartes said, "of the single mind, is limited."

In the evolution of an institution, the greatest pleasure is the emergence of a problem solving community (powerful beyond even the finest single mind), engaged in the recognition of patterns and insights, and the solutions they suggest. So, to this particular conundrum (both itself and what it signifies), come Stuart and Ann Diekema and Diny Golder and Liz Liddy, and countless others--all in the service of that iconic third grade teacher, struggling every day to keep the Republic educated and flourishing. What could be more satisfying?

Kaye Howe is currently Executive Director of the Core Integration group of the National Science Digital Library. She has held that position since May of 2004 and joined NSDL in October of 2001. She was a long-time faculty member and administrator at the University of Colorado at Boulder, serving as Chair of the graduate program in Comparative Literature and Vice Chancellor for Academic Services. She was President of Western State College in Gunnison. Colorado and was also President of Jones International University, a regionally accredited distance learning organization. Dr. Howe received both her B.A. and her Ph.D., in Comparative Literature, from Washington University in St. Louis and has served on the National Council of the National Endowment for the Humanities and the board of the Association of American Colleges and Universities.
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NSDL 2.0: Users As Makers and Doers
NSDL 2.0: Users As Makers and Doers

We are standing at a dramatic pivot-point for NSDL. Until now, the library was a collection of catalog records, pointing to exemplary STEM resources on the web. With the introduction of our new Fedora-based NSDL Data Repository (NDR) on October 1st, the library becomes a repository and focal point for content, context, contribution, and collaboration, for everyone interested in STEM education, from K-gray.

The NDR allows us to integrate the full range of Web 2.0 tools, such as wikis, blogs, and community tagging, into the framework of the library, allowing users to classify, organize, annotate, and create library resources. Moreover, it supports the integration of new tools, such as electronic lab notebooks and course management systems, specialized for the needs of scientists, engineers, teachers, and students. With the NDR, every annotation of, reference to, or search of library resources by any user will add to the context and value of the library resources for all our users.

As a technologist, my view of the technology path is clear: we can build these tools, and we can create a dynamic living library of science, to the benefit of everyone. But the really exciting and daunting challenge is at the interface of the technical and the social. The tools must support the needs of the STEM education community, and they must do so very, very well. With the right tools and the wealth of available resources, we can succeed in creating passionate users of the NSDL. If the tools and capabilities aren't right-- well, to paraphrase Mark Twain, it will be like the difference between the iPod and the I plod.

Fortunately, I am an optimist. I believe that we have to tools, the momentum, and the community to make NSDL a new, vibrant, and transformative digital library, and a critical resource for everyone who teaches, uses, or learns about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. By issue 200 of Whiteboard Report, I think that the world will agree.

Dean Krafft currently serves as both a researcher and administrator in Computing and Information Science at Cornell. On the research side, he is the principal investigator for the NSF-funded National Science Digital Library Project at Cornell. Dr. Krafft leads the effort to develop key components of the Core Integration Technology for the library and manages the team that maintains the production library services. He also works with other institutions involved in the Core Integration effort to specify, develop, and provide new digital library technologies to the many projects involved in the NSDL program. As an administrator, he serves as Director of Information Technology for Computing and Information Science. He helps provide oversight for the Computer Facilities Support group, represents CIS to the campus-wide IT Managers Council, and focuses on a number of issues including IT policy, software acquisition, and computer security. He received his Ph.D. in computer science from Cornell University in 1981.
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Built From Scratch
Built From Scratch

The 100th issue of Whiteboard Report is not only a landmark for the NSDL but It's also a landmark for me as it appears in my last formal month as member of the NSDL Core Integration Team (CI).

I have been on leave from the Cornell University Library since the beginning of funding for Core Integration in 2000 as Director of Collection Development, and return to my position as Director of Cornell University's Engineering Library on October 1, 2006 with mixed emotions.

I was lucky enough to have been recruited by Bill Arms for this role as one of the NSDL's imbedded librarians, and have thoroughly enjoyed and learned from my experiences with the NSDL community including Lee Zia and the NSF folks, my CI colleagues at UCAR and Columbia (especially Kaye Howe, Susan Jesuroga and Dave Fulker) and all the wonderful and talented members of the Cornell CI Team, past and present.

I have participated in the growth of the NSDL community while also encouraging others to become part of it, and then watching them prosper. I am extremely pleased to have been part of the effort that created a digital library collection from scratch that has now grown to over 1.5 million records. Working with other collection providers such as Walt Warnick, Gail Hodge and others to bring exemplary collections of interest to users such as First Gov for Science into the NSDL has been personally and professionally very rewarding.

The NSF-NSDL Pathways funding strategy to ensure quality collection growth across STEM disciplines is especially important for the future sustainability and growth of NSDL, and I am pleased to have been part of this development.

The role out of NSDL 2.0 functionality is very exciting, and makes me certain that the NSDL CI team along with the NSDL community will continue to lead the way in Digital Library development. I intend to stay involved in the NSDL not only as the Collection Curator for the NSDL Collection known as KMODDL (Kinematic Models for Design Digital Library) but also a member of the NSDL Collection Development Advisory Board. Congratulations and thank you to you all.

John Saylor returns to his position as Director of Cornell University's Engineering Library on October 1 where he has served as Director since 1988, after a six year term as Director of Collection Development for NSDL. He also currently serves as Cornell University Library's system-wide Coordinator for Collection Development. He is the curator of the Kinematic Models for Design Digital Library (KMODDL), and was Principal Investigator for this digital collection which received NSF-NSDL funding from 2002-2004, and Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) funding from 2004-2006. Saylor received his B.S. in Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania in 1969 and his MLS in Library Service from Rutgers University in 1971.
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Content and Tools for Effective Education
Content and Tools for Effective Education

To realize fully the editorial possibilities of the NSDL, it is necessary to think broadly and creatively about the value of digital content for education and the value that is added to content through its position within a larger digital library environment. The online availability of selected, searchable, and contextualized content collections opens up important possibilities for teaching and learning by creating a trusted resource that can be used in innovative ways by teachers and students.

In our work on NSDL going forward, we will continue to explore the increasingly blurred lines between online teaching resources, digital libraries, and electronic publishing. One of our goals will be to explore the complex relationship between the "closed" world of the classroom and teaching tools, and the "open" world of the Web. How do we create digital resources that allow students to develop information literacy concerning the larger digital library environment? How can we allow students to explore freely the vast array of content and tools available through the Web, while still providing an appropriate level of guidance concerning how to select and evaluate the sources that they find? The vast amount of information now available can be either a benefit or an obstacle to effective education--and effective publishing--depending on how successfully we address the challenge of making this information meaningful to users with different expectations, skills, and needs. One important aspect of our work will involve exploring how to find the right balance between contextualized and unfiltered presentation of digital content, and the development of skilled, collaborative, networked communities of teachers, learners, scientists, and publishers.

Kate Wittenberg is the Director of EPIC, the Electronic Publishing Initiative at Columbia, and serves as the PI for Columbia University on the Core Integration Team of the National Science Digital Library. In addition to her work on NSDL, Dr. Wittenberg directs the digital publications Columbia International Relations Online, Columbia Earthscape, the Gutenberg-e Online History Project, and Digital Anthropology Resources for Teaching. She is particularly interested in collaborative organizational models for the development of digital resources and innovative business plans for sustaining electronic scholarly and educational publications.

Sustaining Imagination and Energy
Sustaining Imagination and Energy

In the beginning everything was new. Little was understood about how digital libraries could serve science education. Therefore, the NSF stimulated innovation with grants to a wide variety of independent projects. These projects were loosely labeled as "collections," "services," or "targeted research," but the definitions were vague and projects were encouraged to be creative. The NSF also knew that NSDL required integration and funded the Core Integration team, but eighty percent of the total NSF NSDL budget was for independent projects.

Experience showed that there was a gap. Independence and creativity--while vital at first--were at variance with the long-term goal of creating and maintaining a stable, widely-used digital library. Now the NSF itself had to be creative. How could it add more structure without stifling flexibility and initiative?

NSDL Pathways are the solution that the NSF came up with: large projects each taking responsibility for a specific area of science education. In exchange for multi-year funding, each Pathway agrees to cooperate with the others and with the Core Integration team. Nine Pathways have been funded by NSF. Each year an increasing proportion of the NSDL monies go to them. Is this the long-term solution? It is early to tell, but the indications are promising. Certainly the Pathways are a bold approach to a dilemma faced by many government-sponsored activities, how to be efficient and cost-effective while still appealing to the imagination and energy of the participants.

In its support for NSDL the NSF has been both persistent and flexible. Thank you NSF.

William Y. Arms is professor of computer science at Cornell University. He chaired the NSF workshop in 1998 that developed the plans for NSDL, and led the NSDL Core Integration activities at Cornell from 2000-2005. His career includes appointments at the British Open University, Dartmouth College, and Carnegie Mellon University, where as Vice President for Computing Dr. Arms led campus-wide networking and distributed computing, educational computing, and libraries. At Cornell, he was the first director of the Information Science program. He was one of the founders of D-Lib Magazine and Editor-in-Chief from 1998-2001. His book Digital Libraries was published by MIT Press in 2000. He received his B.A. in mathematics from Oxford University, an M.Sc. (Econ) from the London School of Economics, and a doctorate in operational research from the University of Sussex.
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Pathways in the National Science Digital Library
Pathways in the National Science Digital Library

Many NSF programs "let a thousand flowers bloom," meaning that they fund the top-rated proposals and let them operate relatively independently, relying on conferences, and electronic and traditional publications to foster cross-talk among researchers. But the main goal of the NSDL program is to develop a functioning digital library, and letting a thousand flowers bloom is not the best way to organize such a complex construction effort. NSF recognized this early on, but it was not until the Pathways idea was introduced, in FY04, that the program found a mechanism to encourage the strong cross-project collaboration that NSDL needs.

Having funded just the third round of Pathways grants, it is still early days for Pathways--however, the results so far are very positive. There are several reasons for this, but one, I think, has to do with the collaboration between the Pathways projects and the Core Integration (CI) team. This collaboration is codified in an Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that outlines the details of cooperation in a number of technical, marketing and evaluation areas. However, the key idea may be an effective division of labor. This means, for example, that the Pathways don't all reinvent the same tool, say a strand map service, but share one, which, ideally, becomes part of the NSDL infrastructure, managed by Core Integration. This division of labor may result in individual Pathways doing less independent development. But it also means that they can focus more on what they do best--provide the digital content and services needed by the developers and users in their particular STEM community.

There is a legitimate concern that the tight relationships between the Pathways and the CI will lead to the exclusion of smaller NSDL services and targeted research projects. However, I think this need not be the case. From a technical perspective, improvements in the NSDL's division of labor and collaboration have been greatly facilitated by the library's new FEDORA-based infrastructure. This provides a common platform on which the CI and the Pathways can construct shared digital services-- but it is also open to the other NSDL projects, and some of them are starting to use it. For instance, the Content Alignment Tool (CAT), developed by a services project, may soon be integrated into the NSDL. More generally, the new NSDL infrastructure encourages rather than discourages the development of innovative services by small projects, since if they build on the NSDL platform, rather than from scratch, they can reduce implementation costs and improve productivity.

In short, the NSDL program supports projects to pull together in several ways. It is managing projects more tightly than many NSF programs do, in order to build a functioning digital library. But through this process it is also building a platform that provides a testbed where the growing NSDL community of researchers and developers can try out new ideas--encouraging a hundred flowers to bloom, if not a thousand.

Dave McArthur came to NSF in November 2003 as a Visiting Scientist. In the Division of Undergraduate Education Dave works primarily on the Course, Curriculum, and Laboratory Improvement (CCLI) and National Science Digital Library (NSDL) programs; in the Division of Research Evaluation and Communication, he helps manage the Research and Evaluation on Education in Science and Engineering (REESE) program. Prior to his appointment at NSF, Dr. McArthur was a research professor at North Carolina Central University (NCCU) where he was part a team to establish a doctoral program in information sciences, one of the first in the history of the institution. He has also conducted research in information technology and educational technology at the RAND Corporation, Collegis, and UNC Wilmington. In the past several years he has worked on NSF-sponsored grants in the area of digital libraries, initiating a project that developed iLumina, a digital library of faculty-contributed resources for online and web-enhanced courses. He has also led a number of workshops and committees that are contributing to the continued growth of the NSDL. Dr. McArthur received a Ph.D. in cognitive psychology from the University of Michigan, and a B.A. from the University of Toronto.
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NSDL Online Science: Bringing the Field to the Classroom--Birds
Start the school year by reinvigorating your curriculum on the scientific method with a focus on the study of birds. NSDL's monthly series of free Web Seminars with the National Science Teachers Association begins again on September 26 with featured experts and resources from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. What can scientists learn about birds and other animals through observational field study? How can your students become citizen scientists, contributing to real research right from your own schoolyard?

The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) has teamed up with NSDL to present a series of free web seminars that showcase NSDL partner organizations, and provide professional development in science content and the use of digital libraries. The first seminar on hurricanes featured a spotlight on the resources of the Digital Library of Earth System Education (DLESE) in May 2006.

This September, join us for our next seminar in the series, as we use the study of birds as a context for understanding the scientific method. The scientific method is a dynamic process involving ongoing learning. Through the use of NSDL resources, we'll learn the basics of birdwatching and hone our observational skills in order to record our results for Citizen Science projects such as Cornell Lab of Ornithology's BirdSleuth and Urban Bird Studies projects, which collect data from students across the nation.

Educational experts Colleen McLinn and Jennifer Schaus of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology at Cornell University and NSDL's Educational Specialist Robert Payo will present this web seminar on September 26, 6:00-8:30pm EDT. This seminar is designed for educators of grades 3-8.

Registration for this free seminar is first-come, first-served on NSTA?s website. Be sure to check out NSDL's list of upcoming web seminars.
Related Link: Uptimes was up and visible to the outside world 99.9463% of the time from January 1, 2006 until early August. During a small amount of this time, either the web site was defaced or the search service was unavailable. Therefore uptime without problems was 99.4096% including search service availability.
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Register Posters for NSDL's Annual Meeting
Be sure to register posters for NSDL's Annual Meeting by September 15, 2006. The NSDL 2006 Annual Meeting: Leveraging Accomplishments Into New Opportunities, will be held from October 18th-20th at the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, DC.

The 2006 meeting theme was chosen to explore the ways in which the NSDL community is expanding the library through collaborations across NSDL's technical and educational dimensions. Registration for the NSDL Annual Meeting is now open.
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The Education Arcade
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology and University of Wisconsin-Madison have joined forces to catalyze new creative, teaching, and learning innovations around the next generation of commercially available educational electronic games. The Education Arcade, a two-year-old research and educational initiative established by leading scholars of computer and video games and education at both universities, plans to focus efforts by partnering with educational publishers, media companies, and game developers to produce new educational electronic games and make them available to a larger audience of students and their teachers, and parents.
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Published from 2000 to September 2009, NSDL Whiteboard Report Archives provide access to prior issues of the bi-weekly newsletter published by NSDL. To subscribe to current news and information about NSDL, go to the NSDL Community Network site, register as a user, subscribe to and participate in selected features found there. For more information contact Eileen McIlvain