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

The National Science Digital Library Whiteboard Report

August 2008 Issue #138






Keeping a Digital Promise

On Thursday, July 31, 2008, Digital Promise, a fund to keep America competitive in this digital century by transforming education, workforce training, and lifelong learning, was passed by both the U.S. House and Senate as part of the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. It is expected to be signed into law by President Bush. Digital Promise will establish the National Center for Learning Science and Technology Trust Fund based on the principles of Digital Promise. The Trust's goal is to transform America's education at all levels through the development and use of revolutionary advanced information technologies comparable to those that have already transformed the nation's economy, its communications system, media, and the daily lives of its people.

The Trust will enable the nation's schools, universities, libraries, museums, and public broadcasters to reach out to millions of people in inner cities and remote regional areas, no matter how poor or deprived, in the U.S. and throughout the world, with the best of the educational and informational content now locked inside their walls. It will support the research and development of new models and prototypes of educational content, taking full advantage of the Internet and other new digital distribution technologies. For example, the Trust will commission pre-competitive research and fund the development of prototypes to:

- Demonstrate computer simulations that let learners tinker with chemical reactions in living cells, practice operating and repairing expensive equipment, or practice marketing techniques, thus making it easier to grasp complex concepts and transfer this understanding quickly to practical problems.
- Demonstrate sophisticated help systems that provide accurate answers to questions using a combination of artificial intelligence and live operators.
- Demonstrate new communication tools that could enable learners to collaborate in real-time on complex projects and ask for help from teachers and experts from around the world.
- Demonstrate learning systems that could adapt to differences in student's personal interests, backgrounds, learning styles, and aptitudes.
- Demonstrate tools that provide successively more difficult challenges with appropriate levels of scaffolding that motivate the learner while avoiding frustration or boredom.
- Explore learning opportunities present in persistent, online learning environments.
- Provide continuous measures of competence-integral to the learning process-that can help teachers work more effectively with individuals and leave a record of achievement that is compelling to students and to employers.
- Demonstrate new tools that could allow continuous evaluation and improvement of the learning systems themselves.
- Digitize America's collected memory stored in our nation's universities, libraries, museums and public television archives to make these materials available anytime and anywhere.

Join the Digital Promise Coalition.

New Features, Functionalities, and Fun Stuff from the Beyond Penguins and Polar Bears Project

Come see the Beyond Penguins and Polar Bears online magazine's new features and functionalities. You can now Browse Columns and access the Archive. Browse Columns allows you to view a particular column across all magazine issues. Archive allows you to view all past magazine issues. A new Google customized search of the magazine and Expert Voices Polar blog returns resources from both.

The BPPB team has also started a Beyond Penguins and Polar Bears group in Shelfari-- a virtual bookshelf were people can get together online and discuss books they've read or want to read. Through the Beyond Penguins Shelfari, users have access to selected polar children's books from the Virtual Bookshelf column of the magazine. The team looks forward to user discussions about the books and comments, especially once they have used them in their classes. A widget on the BPPB blog allows users to scroll through the book selections or click on the word Shelfari and to go to the Beyond Penguins and Polar Bears Shelfari bookshelf.

New Additions to the MicrobeLibrary

The American Society for Microbiology's MicrobeLibrary continues to grow. Recent additions include a new issue of Focus on Microbiology Education (FOME) newsmagazine featuring over 30 reviews of educational materials including textbooks, websites, and electronic materials; a new article in the Journal of Microbiology & Biology Education that reports on benefits gained by students who participated as undergraduate teaching assistants at the University of Maryland-College Park; and a new curriculum activity on constructing nucleotides.

NSDL Pathways Featured at the NSF Course, Curriculum and Laboratory Improvement (CCLI) Meeting

Principal Investigators from the NSF CCLI program met at the Renaissance Hotel, Washington DC, from August 13-15, 2008. The meeting was hosted by AAAS.

Three poster sessions, where NSDL posters were grouped together were part of the meeting. NSDL resource tables, where CCLI participants could meet and talk with NSDL representatives, have their questions answered, try out sites, and pick up handout materials were grouped together in a high traffic area outside the plenary session meeting room.

Eileen McIlvain presented a brief overview of NSDL during the opening plenary that detailed the dimensions of NSDL resources/collections; tools; services; partnership infrastructure, and opportunities to contribute to Pathways and NSDL which generated interest from meeting participants. NSDL representatives staffed both the NSDL resource area and the poster sessions. Thanks to the following Pathways for their participation: Rachael Bower, AMSER; Bruce Mason, ComPADRE; John Moore, ChemEd DL; Ingrid Burbey (Virginia Tech) for Engineering Pathway; Laura Bartolo and Cathy Lowe, MatDL; Lang Moore, MathDL. Brian Jersky of the NSDL CauseWeb project also participated in poster sessions. CCLI participants were encouraged to contribute to Pathways and NSDL and there was lots of good connection-making at the event.

Teachers' Domain Pathways to Digital Media for Education Launch New Editions!

Watch for the launch of Teachers' Domain College Edition in the coming week! Selected STEM media resources from TD collections will be catalogued according to topics and commonly taught courses in Astonomy, Biology, Chemistry, Engineering, Geoscience, Health Science, and Physics. Go to, and click the Change Edition link in the footer to select the College Edition.

K-12 users will find many new resources and content areas in the K-12 edition, and New York K-12 users will be directed to VITAL New York, customized to the New York State Core Curriculum.

Summer Travel Review in Expert Voices Road Reports

Reports from summer travels to the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT)Meeeting; RepoCamp at the Library of Congress plus a view from SIGGRAPH 2008 in LA are all available on NSDL Road Reports.

Now Available: Production-Ready Fedora 3.0 Fits With the Web

Fedora Commons released version 3.0 of the popular Fedora software that completes all general release features on July 30, 2008. Dan Davis, Chief Software Architect, Fedora Commons, explained, "We are pleased to offer a Fedora 3.0 that is a foundational step towards a model-driven content architecture." He went on to say, "Users will find it simpler to maintain and operate their repositories with version 3.0-it's more scalable and fits better into the Web."

Fedora 3.0 features the Content Model Architecture (CMA), an integrated structure for persisting and delivering the essential characteristics of digital objects in Fedora. The software is available at and at The Fedora CMA plays a central role in the Fedora architecture, in many ways forms the over-arching conceptual framework for future development of Fedora Repositories.

Overview of New Features in Fedora 3.0 Release
-Content Model Architecture--Provides a model-driven approach for persisting and delivering the essential characteristics of digital content in Fedora
-Fedora REST API--A new API that exposes a subset of the Access and Management API using a RESTful Web interface contributed by MediaShelf
-Mulgara Support--Fedora supports the Mulgara 2.0 Semantic Triplestore replacing Kowari
-Migration Utility--Provides an update utility to convert existing collections for Content Model Architecture compatibility
-Relational Index Simplification--The Fedora schema was simplified making changes easier without having to reload the database and significantly increasing scalability
-Dynamic Behaviors--Objects may be added or removed dynamically from the system moving system checks into run-time errors
-Error Reporting--Provides improved run-time error details
-Multiple Owner as a CSV String--Enables using a CSV string as ownerID and in XACML policies
-Java 6 Compatibility--Fedora may be optionally compiled using Java 6 while retaining support for Java Enterprise Edition 1.5 deployments
-Relationships API--API-M has been extended to enable adding, removing, and discovering RDF relations between Fedora objects
-Revised Fedora Object XML Schemas--The new schemas are simpler, supporting the CMA and removing Disseminators
-Atom Support--Fedora objects can now be imported and exported in the Atom format
-Messaging Support-- Integrates JMS messaging for sending notification of important events
-Validation Framework--Provides system operators a way to validate all or part of their repository, based on content models
-3.0-Compatible Service Releases--New versions of the OAI Provider and GSearch services are compatible with Fedora 3.0. The GSearch release also enables messaging support for GSearch, which allows for more robust and seamless integration with the Fedora repository.
-Many new enhancements--see the Release Notes here.

The Fedora CMA builds on the Fedora architecture simplifies use while unlocking potential. Dan Davis explains the CMA in the context of Fedora 3.0, "It's a hybrid. The Fedora CMA handles content models that are used by publishers and others, and is also a computer model that describes an information representation and processing architecture." By combining these viewpoints, Fedora CMA has the potential to provide a way to build an interoperable repository for integrated information access within organizations and to provide durable access to our intellectual works.

Please continue to contribute your observations and comments to or Fedora 2.2.2 will continue to be supported for production repositories.


The release of Fedora 3.0 is made possible by a collaborative partnership with community developers and the Fedora core software development team that include: Chris Wilper (Fedora Commons), Eddie Shin (Fedora Commons), Bill Branan (Fedora Commons), Paul Gearon (Fedora Commons and Mulgara), Robert Haschart (Fedora Commons), Ross Wayland (Fedora Commons), Aaron Birkland (Fedora Commons and National Science Digital Library), Jim Blake (Fedora Commons and National Science Digital Library), Matt Zumwalt (API-M LITE, Media Shelf), Gert Schmeltz Pedersen (GSearch), Cuong Tran (API-M LITE, Digital Innovation South Africa), Pradeep Krishnan, Ronald Tschalar, Bill Arrow, Jim Paul and many others.

About Fedora Commons

In 2007 Fedora Commons was established as the permanent home of Fedora open source software which is a robust, integrated, repository platform that enables storage, access and management of virtually any kind of digital content. Fedora has been downloaded 25,000 times in the last year, and is used by over 125 national libraries, institutions, and businesses worldwide to do more with their digital collections, enable long-term preservation of digital assets, build on a flexible and extensible, modular architecture, keep control of their data, and participate in Fedora's innovative community. To find out about Fedora organizations, institutions and projects please visit the Fedora Commons Community Registry.


NSDL Launches Third Series of Web Seminars This Fall

NSDL Web Seminars 2008-2009 Series begins September 25, 2008. NSDL has partnered for it's third year with the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) as a part of their online professional development programs. These free, 90-minute seminars allow educators to interact with experts in the NSDL community from a desktop.

Here's the fall schedule with NSDL experts providing background content and highlighting online resources available to you from the NSDL collection:

Sept 25th: Celebrating Astronomy: A Star's Story
Learn about the life cycle of a star, dark matter and other concepts related to 5th-12th grade astronomy.

Oct 29th: Beyond Penguins and Polar Bears Series: Physical Science from the Poles
Beyond Penguins and Polar Bears Magazine
Integrate science and literacy strategies by exploring physical science through studying the poles. This seminar is for elementary level educators.

Nov 13th: Beyond Penguins and Polar Bears Series: Energy and the Polar Environment
Beyond Penguins and Polar Bears Magazine
Integrate science and literacy strategies by studying concepts of energy resources and how they relate to the poles. This seminar is for elementary level educators.

Dec 9th: Chemistry Comes Alive: III---Water

Registration opens in September. More information coming soon.
How to register:
1. Read the list of programs available
2. Click on the link of the program for which you would like to sign up
3. Click on the registration link:
You'll receive login info that you will need to log on on the day of the seminar.

NSDL Annual Meeting Details for Presenters--Sept. 30-Oct. 2 in Washington, D.C.

Due Dates and To Do's
August 29--all presenters:
final changes due for the printed program: session title, abstract and presenters. Make changes at the meeting website in the registration section (more details below).

Sept. 5: Register a poster--It's free, it does takes a few moments, but it's one of the best ways to share your work with the NSDL community. (Read the call for proposals here).

September 4-8: All presenters review a draft of the printed program and submit any corrections for your session by 12pm MT, September 8 to Robert Payo.

September 10-30: Optional, all presenters: make further changes to online session information. These will not be reflected in the printed program.

What To Do?

For example, Presenters A, B, and C will make a presentation together that is different from their original individual presentation proposals. Together, presenters should agree on the revised session description, abstract and list of presenters. To make changes for the program, one presenter will modify their session description, abstract and presenters online to reflect the changed presentation, then notify Sharon Clark that changes are complete and that the other two session descriptions can be removed from the meeting website. Remember to include the names of all presenters in the changed session description. End result: one session description, one abstract and a presenter list that reflects a combined session - due August 29

For example, Presenters A, B, and C have decided to do individual presentations on their topics but then participate in a panel discussion. Each presenter should modify their session description to reflect any changes. All presenters should agree on a revised abstract that reflects the session changes and notify Sharon Clark when changes are complete. End result: three separate session descriptions, one combined abstract that reflects session changes, and a presenter list that reflects any changes - due August 29.

For example, there is only one presentation in your time slot or Presenter A has a completely different presentation from Presenter B. Complete any modifications by August 29.

How To?

Make sure you are the primary contact for the proposal. Login to the Annual Meeting registration page to view and edit your session information here.

Who To?

Sarah Holsted:
Robert Payo:
Sharon Clark:

Free Webinar: Find Out Why Online Learning is One of the Top Five Tech Trends in Education

Will your students and educators benefit from this trend or be left out? Join Net Day Project Tomorrow on Wednesday, Sept 17th for a free webinar where we will share the updated online learning trends from Speak Up 2007 and our report "Learning in the 21st Century: A Trends Update." The webinar will include a presentation by Julie Evans, CEO-Project Tomorrow and include a panel discussion featuring: Janet Herdman, Executive Director-IT, North Kansas City School District, and Ann McMullan, Executive Director Educational Technology, Klein Independent School District.

TODAY: Scientific Visualization using Tecplot from the San Diego Supercomputer Center

At the San Diego Supercomputer Center visualization techniques are applied to a variety of interesting scientific domains. Remote participants can join and interact by using a web browser for viewing and a telephone for audio for this lecture scheduled for Aug. 27 from 9 a.m. - 1 p.m. (PT) where three case studies of how HPC resources were utilized to create visualizations in Seismic Research, Astrophysics, and Cellular Imaging will be presented.

Free Workshops for Education and Outreach Professionals

NSF is sponsoring three workshops for education and outreach professionals and NSF Research Centers Educators' Network (NRCEN) members. The purpose of the workshops is to build the community of participants using and contributing to the web site by offering an introduction to the resources on the site and guided instruction in adding and accessing these resources. (More information about is below.)

There is no fee to attend the workshop, and a small stipend will be provided to defray travel costs. Space is offered on a first-come, first-served basis, and preference will be given to NSF Research Center Educators.

These 4-hour workshops will be offered in convenient locations across the country. Two workshops will coincide with the upcoming national ASTC (Association of Science-Technology Centers) and NSTA (National Science Teachers Association) conferences. Bonus presentation: The ASTC and NSTA workshops will also include a presentation about the resources available through the National Science Digital Library (NSDL).

-- October 21, 2008 (Tuesday, 1:30-5:30 pm), Philadelphia, PA, following the National ASTC Conference
-- January 9, 2009 (Friday, 1:00-5:00 pm), Los Angeles, CA, at the Southern California Earthquake Center
-- March 18, 2009 (Wednesday, 1:00-5:00 pm), New Orleans, LA, prior to the National NSTA Conference

The registration deadline is one month in advance of each workshop. We cannot guarantee availability after that date. Register at:

The ideal participant in this workshop would be an education and outreach professional who serves as the link between basic research projects and the public, whether at a research center, a museum, or a university. Please feel free to share this invitation with your colleagues.

To make this short workshop as productive and engaging as possible, we will require attendees to bring copies of at least 2 or 3 electronic documents or web resources. This will help participants gain hands-on experience using the website and allow them to share information with colleagues at the workshop.

The workshop will be conducted by Katherine Lawrence of the University of Michigan. If you have questions about this workshop, please contact Katherine (; 734-994-7904).


The website serves the NSF (National Science Foundation) Research Centers Educators' Network (NRCEN) and a broader, diverse group of education and outreach professionals with similar job responsibilities. This growing, emerging profession provides the necessary assistive link between basic research projects and the public.

NEO-Sphere is an interactive online resource with tools providing communication, collaboration, and access to resources. Funded by NSF, NEO-Sphere is designed to provide both mechanism and means to help education and outreach professionals address common concerns, issues, and goals and more effectively reach larger, broader, and more diverse audiences.

NEO-Sphere encourages member-motivated contributions. Contributions may include excerpts from members' education, outreach, and diversity-related strategic plans; success stories; reports and statistical data; publications; best practices; and shared evaluation tools and instruments. The site also provides member-driven mentoring, news, events, and links to resources.

Immediate benefits to users:
-accessing methods and models of best practices
-minimizing duplication of effort
-learning how to create and sustain internal and external partnerships
-extending Centers' reach to broader and more diverse audiences
-increasing Centers' ability to attract supplemental funding for their programs and projects


Participatory Learning Competition

The second HASTAC/MacArthur Digital Media and Learning Competition is now open! The focus is participatory learning. Awards will be made in two categories:

-Innovation in Participatory Learning Awards support, large-scale digital learning projects: $30,000-$250,000
-Young Innovator Awards, targeted at 18-25-year-olds: $5,000-$30,000

Learning in the 21st Century: A Trends Update

The report Learning in the 21st Century: A Trends Update highlights the results of the most recent Speak Up online survey (fall 2007), in which Project Tomorrow probed deeper on this important national topic. The report provides new and timely data on the growth of online learning in America's schools for both student learning and teacher professional development, and the challenges faced by school and district leaders in regards to technology and learning.

A sampling of key findings in the report:
-Over 41% of students believe that online classes will have the greatest positive impact on their learning, a growth of over 20% from the 2006 data findings.
-Over 20% of teachers chose online classes as a key element for increasing student achievement in the 21st century school an increase of almost 28% over the 2006 data findings.
-Over 26% of teachers chose online learning as their first choice for training.


Quasi the Robot

"Like, you should totally check it out," is a phrase that your teenage daughter might use in getting you to pay attention to a cool web site, or perhaps to an unwanted piece of fashion advice. This phrase was also uttered by that Quasi the Robot at SIGGRAPH 2008 in encouraging conference-goers to be sure to see the Animation Festival. Quasi the Robot (2.0) is a friendly animatronic (a robot that is not artificially intelligent) figure who makes natural conversation, sometimes remembers if she/he has met you before, gets embarrassed, and communicates other subtle characteristics of emotion, speech and human behavior common in face-to-face encounters. Humans may not like it when robots look and act too much like us, but this little hunk of metal and blinking lights who is part of the Interbots series of robots has been engaging audiences at conferences and events all over the country since last year. What do you think? Add your comments to Whiteboard Report Talk Back.

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