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

November 2008 Issue #141






Shodor's New Web Site Provides a Better Equation to Help Students, Educators

Please contact Mary Paisley, Communications Coordinator, Shodor at for more information. Durham, NC Things just became a lot better - and easier - for students and educators nationwide. Shodor, a non-profit organization based in Durham, has rolled out a major redesign and upgrade of its award-winning Web site to make it easier to navigate and explore its freely available resources that improve learning across the United States. The Web site is located at Shodor will have a formal announcement of the new Web site in Austin, Texas, this week as it leads several programs at SCO8, the International Conference for High Performance Computing, Networking, Storage and Analysis. "We wanted to make a better portal to our online education tools," said Shodor founder Dr. Robert M. Panoff. "We also wanted to change the format so visitors to our site, whether they are students, educators or anyone exploring it, are more easily able to find all that they need." Triangle area students working at Shodor as apprentices and interns played a part in redesigning the Web site, which garners about 3-million to 4-million page views per month. Shodor's model of involving students in the design of its online tools is unique. "This is participatory learning at its best," Panoff said. "We spend time teaching best practices and then our students apply what they have learned to improve our own materials, making our resources easier to find and use." Elizabeth Kelley, a sophomore at East Chapel Hill High School, was an apprentice working on a project setting up the monitoring infrastructure for the servers last summer. She and three other students were instrumental in this project for the new Web site. "I worked on Nagios, which essentially monitors the activity and up-time of the various servers," she said. Ada Taylor, currently a freshman at Durham Academy, was one of the apprentices also practicing her new skills on the project. "I've had a lot of great experiences at Shodor learning computer programming and modeling skills, communication and teaching skills, and teamwork and leadership skills, that help me in school now - and that I know will continue to be valuable in my education and whatever career I pursue in the future," she said. Shodor serves students and educators in the Triangle and throughout the country, using scientific computing to improve math and science education. Its online tools such as Interactivate ( and the Computational Science Education Reference Desk (, a Pathway Portal of the National Science Digital Library, help transform learning through computational thinking. In addition to developing and deploying interactive models, simulations and educational tools, Shodor serves students and educators directly through workshops and other hands-on experiences. Shodor offers innovative workshops helping faculty and teachers incorporate computational science into their own curricula or programs. For Triangle students from middle school through undergraduate levels of education, Shodor offers workshops, apprenticeships, internships and off-site programs that explore new approaches to math and science education through interactive computing. "Before our redesign, visitors to our Web site - particularly new users - may have had to hunt a bit to find what they were looking for," Panoff explained. "Now at your fingertips, you can find what you need, whether you're looking for the most basic information about Shodor or searching for an online tool that will demonstrate probability to your class in an interactive way," he added. Kaitrin Wilson, a senior communications major at East Carolina University, is an intern at Shodor and was one of the players who helped rebuild the Web site. "I don't think many people realize just how much work goes into a redesign for a Web site as massive as Shodor's," she said. "I know I had no idea until I was a part of it." "It's going to be so much easier to navigate, and people will be able to take full advantage of all the great resources Shodor has to offer." Shodor is located in the Durham Centre in the downtown area. The organization was founded by Panoff in 1994. Longtime users of the Shodor site were quick to notice the new design. "I just had a quick look at the site and can already say that the new format is much easier to use and find things," said Marian Houseman, a K-8 Independent Learners teacher at St. Pius X School in Urbandale, Iowa, where she noticed the changes. "I just happened to be looking for some ideas and resources to use with a group of gifted middle school students in science and math, and I think some of the activities you have under the curriculum link for that group will provide exactly what I need. This is great!" To arrange an interview with Panoff or to speak to those who directly rebuilt the site, contact Mary Paisley, Communications Coordinator, at 919-452-5334 or MORE INFORMATION: Shodor's website: About Shodor: - SC08 The International Conference for High Performance Computing, Networking, Storage and Analysis--- MARY PAISLEY Communications Coordinator, Shodor Office Hours Tues. and Thurs. Work: (919)530-1911

Breakthrough Update on the TeachEngineering Digital Library

After an enormous amount of sustained work and great collaboration with JES & Co. and the Center for Natural Language Processing (Syracuse University), on October 8, 2008, the TeachEngineering team released a new version of its K-12 engineering collection for which all 700+ curricular items are aligned to the K-12 math and science educational standards of all 50 states. This unprecedented multi-state alignment required more a year of nonstop nightly "mining" of CNLP's CAT (Curriculum Alignment Tool) and SAT (Standard Alignment Tool), and JES & Co.'s ASN (Achievement Standards Network) data--24 million (yes, million) alignments later, the goal was achieved.

This all-state alignment was an overarching TeachEngineering's objective since inception of the collection about five years ago; getting there was a bigger challenge than the five institution partners had ever imagined. The TeachEngineering team is excited about this and sees it as a breakthrough for NSDL as well, as it is an example of successful cross-project collaboration.

Lead systems designer René Reitsma of the College of Business at Oregon State University stated, "TeachEngineering could not have done this without the JES & Co. and CNLP tools and people, both funded through NSDL."

PI Jackie Sullivan of the University of Colorado at Boulder added, "Nor could we have done it without René Reitsma and his fabulous team of IS students at OSU." With this new version,TeachEngineering is able to support new content contributors with curricula meeting the educational standards from any state, which opens the door wide for growth of the collection.

Stay on Top of Trends and Tools with NSDL Resource Center Brown Bags

The NSDL Resource Center announces a new service that offers a way to stay attuned to developing trends in K12 and undergraduate STEM education and technology use;explore intersections between research and education in the NSDL community; and learn about emerging best practices across multidisciplinary communities.

Conducted monthly, NSDL Brown Bag sessions enable participants to pre-register for Brown Bag events, view the session via a Web browser, and dial in to the audio portion from their own phone. Sessions are recorded and archived for future viewing in case you can't make it to a scheduled event. NSDL Resource Center Deputy Director Susan Van Gundy kicked off the series on November 25 with a presentation on how to create and contribute multimedia content to NSDL on iTunes U. Coming up on December 11: Mary Henton, Director of Integrated Media Initiatives for the National Middle School Association, and Kim Lightle, Director of Digital Libraries at Ohio State University and NSDL's Middle School Portal Math and Science Pathways (MSP)2 project will speak on the topic: Middle School-What Do We Know?

New in 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 ideas on teaching microbiology with fun; four new articles accepted to volume 10 of the Journal of Microbiology & Biology Education; three new curriculum activities; and three new visual resources.

WGBH Teachers' Domain Reaches Out to Student Video Producers and Makes Media More Accessible

"Youth Voices" is an open call for ideas from 13-18 year olds who would like to produce video segments about climate change. "Youth Voices" will kick off in January, with a series of three informative webinars for student filmmakers. To find out more check out WGBH Lab for details.


How do you teach a blind child about the wonders of the solar system? Or the anatomy of a frog? Thanks to funding from the National Science Foundation's Research in Disabilities Program and additional funding from The Grousbeck Family Foundation, WGBH's National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM) worked with the Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, Massachusetts to create science curriculum units that are accessible to blind and low-vision students.

Teachers' Domain asked Veteran Perkins instructor Becky Hoffman who wanted science to come alive for her students: How will Teachers' Domain resources help your students? And how do you plan on using them in your classroom?

Hoffman responded: "One of my most time-consuming jobs is reformatting materials, so being able to turn to the Teachers' Domain website for accessible lesson plans will leave more time for teaching-a definite plus. I am also hopeful that other teachers of the visually impaired will find the modifications and suggestions helpful for their students."

"We feel that science should provide our students with concrete, functional lessons that they can relate to on a personal level, Hoffman adds. "Subjects such as growth and development, the weather, life cycles of plants and animals, nutrition, our bodies, basically things that affects their lives, are good topics to explore with our students. Teachers Domain covers these topics and with modifications and suggestions, we can use the website to enrich our science program."

Teachers' Domain hopes that these developments will enable teachers of the visually impaired across the world to make science come alive for their students.

NSDL Blogosphere Highlights

Thanksgiving Resources; Remembering the Invention of Push-button Phone Technology; Counting Every Glacier in Iceland; Online Scholarly Publishing Ideas; Turkey as Nuisance; and much more.

Traffic Report: Visits to increase 132%, Oct 07-Oct 08

The rise in traffic from October 07 (52,586 visitors) to October 08 (121,773 visitors) represents a 132% year-on-year increase of visits to NSDL. The increase in traffic was largely due to the addition of the NSDL landing pages. If the landing pages are factored out, the year-on-year increase to visits to NSDL would be 82%.

The NSDL landing pages were released in April 07 to make NSDL data repository resources accessible to search engines. The NSDL landing page is the most popular page on NSDL (607,838 page views) so far in 2008 and represents the top way that users enter NSDL. Traffic to the NSDL landing pages has also gained direct links from websites other than search engines.

Typically traffic to slows during the summer months, however, the traffic to starting from mid-June 08 through mid-August 08 showed an increase. Those months most likely reflected increased activity from previous summers due to the NSF reviewing process of the NSDL proposal. Contact Sharon Clark for more information.


Upcoming NSDL Web Seminars: Chemistry Comes Alive III!

Tuesday, December 9th, 2008
6:30 pm - 8:00 pm Eastern

Join us online for Seminar 4 in the NSDL Series for this free teacher professional development program in partnership with the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA).

Water is an important substance. Life, as we know it, depends on water. This Web Seminar will focus on resources you can use to teach your students about the chemistry of water such as the molecular structure of water and its behavior in chemincal reactions. We will explore a variety of resources including: Molecules 360, a collection of molecular structures; the Periodic Table Live!, an interactive periodic table; Multimedia Problems, questions based on videos that bring together diverse chemical concepts; DigiDemos, chemical demonstrations online; and molecular scale animations. We will also focus on cutting-edge research and learn about some aspects of water that are not yet well understood.

Join presenters Dr. John Moore, W. T. Lippincott Professor and director of the Institute for Chemical Education, and Dr. Lynn Diener, Assistant Professor, Mount Mary College in Milawaukee, Wisconsin and guests Jon Holmes, Editor of Journal of Chemical Education Online and Dr. James Skinner, Chemistry Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for this seminar for educators of grades 9-12.

CALL: Fourth Annual International Open Repositories Conference

Repositories are being deployed in a variety of environments (education, research, science, cultural heritage) and contexts (national, regional, institutional, project, lab, personal). Regardless of setting, context or scale, repositories are increasingly expected to operate across administrative and disciplinary boundaries and to interact with distributed computational services and social communities. It is the aim of the Open Repositories Conference to bring together individuals and organizations responsible for the conception, development, implementation and management of digital repositories, as well as stakeholders who interact with them, to address theoretical, practical, and strategic issues.

A program of papers, panel discussions, poster presentations, user groups, and workshops or tutorials will bring together all the key stakeholders in the field. Open source software community meetings for the major platforms (EPrints, DSpace and Fedora) will also provide opportunities to advance and coordinate the development of repository installations across the world.

Submission Instructions

Conference papers: We welcome two- to four-page proposals for presentations or panels that discuss theoretical, practical, or administrative issues of digital repositories that focus on areas represented by the conference themes. Abstracts of accepted papers will be made available through the conference's OCS site; all presentations and related materials used in the program sessions will be deposited in the upcoming Open Repositories 2009 community in Georgia Tech's institutional repository, SMARTech (

User Group Presentations: Two- to four-page proposals for presentations or panels that focus on use of one of the major repository platforms (EPrints, DSpace and Fedora) are invited from developers, researchers, repository managers, administrators and practitioners describing novel experiences or developments in the construction and use of repositories.

Posters: We also invite developers, researchers, repository managers, administrators and practitioners to submit one-page proposals for posters.

Workshops: Proposals for workshops for repository managers and developers can be accommodated on day four (May 21, 2009) of the conference. Please contact the local arrangements team for inquiries about workshop facilities at

Please submit your paper through the OCS system administered by Georgia Tech. The OCS system will be linked from the conference web site ( and will be available for submissions as of December 1, 2008.

Important Dates and Contact Info
2009-02-02: Submission deadline for Conference papers (presentations or panels)
2009-03-06: Notification of acceptance, Conference papers
2009-02-02: Submission deadline for Workshops
2009-03-06: Notification of acceptance, Workshops
2009-03-06: Submission of User Group Proposals
2009-04-03: Notification of acceptance, User Group proposals
2009-03-19: Submission of Poster Proposals
2009-04-10: Notification of acceptance, Poster proposals
2009-05-18 Conference
Inquiries to:
DSpace User Group meeting Chair
Fedora User Group meeting Chair
EPrints User Group meeting Chair
Program Committee Chair
Host Organizing Committee
Conference Themes
- Repositories and scientific workflows
- Managing the lifecycle for scientific data
- Repositories for qualitative data, the humanities, social sciences, virtual organizations, grid/cloud computing, etc.
- Integrating with publishing and publishing platforms
- Repositories and HPC applications (models and simulations; visualization)
- Integrating with other infrastructure platforms (e.g., SRB, iRODS)
- Scaling repositories to the demands of e-science
- Organizational and financial sustainability, business models
- Organizational and strategic context of repositories (libraries, archives, institutes, etc.)
- Challenges in staffing digital repository and cyberinfrastructure services: recruitment; professional education; professional development; defining the roles and expertise of data curators and data scientists; training the next generation of repository managers
- Organizational synergies and collaboration
- Sustaining content over time: preservation; audit; certification; assessment; demonstrating value
- Repository policies and governance
- Embedding repositories in business processes and workflows
- Repository services and organizational culture
- Strategies for engaging with science and social science communities
- Making the case for organizational investment in repository services
- Integration and interoperability issues among repository platforms
- Collaboration among repositories
- Integration of repositories with software tools and workflows
- Building federated repositories
- Developing computational services and interfaces across distributed repositories
- Achieving interoperability across administrative and disciplinary domains: technical and cultural challenges
- Middleware topics (integration with access management frameworks, workflow management systems, etc.)
- Content standards - discipline-specific vs general
- Metadata standards and application profiles

- Virtual organizations
- OAI services
- Social networking, annotation / tagging, personalization
- Searching / information discovery
- Multi-stakeholder value: preservation, open access, research, management, administration
- Multi-agenda, multi-function, multi-purpose repositories
- Usefulness and usability
- Interfaces between repositories and scholarly publications or publishing platforms
- Reference, reuse, reanalysis, re-interpretation, and repurposing of content
- Citation of data / learning objects
- Repository metrics
- Bibliometrics: usage and impact
- E- research/E-science (e.g., data and publication; collaborative services)
- E-scholarship
- Discipline-oriented repositories
- Scholarly Publishing
- Digital Library
- Cultural Heritage
- Scientific repositories / data repositories
- Repositories that operate across multiple disciplines, organizations, and sectors (private/public; higher education/government; etc.)

Developer Happiness Days (dev8D)

The next Fedora European Union meeting will be held in conjunction with Developer Happiness Days in London Feb 9-13, 2009. If you are interested in finding out what makes Developers happy, or in attending "Developer Happiness Days" (dev8D) please RSVP at the web site.


Teens Need Online Ed!

MacArthur Foundatation Press Release

Results from the most extensive U.S. study on teens and their use of digital media show that America's youth are developing important social and technical skills online - often in ways adults do not understand or value.

"It might surprise parents to learn that it is not a waste of time for their teens to hang out online," said Mizuko Ito, University of California, Irvine researcher and the report's lead author. "There are myths about kids spending time online - that it is dangerous or making them lazy. But we found that spending time online is essential for young people to pick up the social and technical skills they need to be competent citizens in the digital age."

Released here today at the American Anthropological Association's annual meeting, the study was supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation's $50-million digital media and learning initiative, which is exploring how digital media are changing how young people learn, play, socialize, and participate in civic life.

Together with the late Peter Lyman of the University of California, Berkeley, and Michael Carter of the Monterey Institute for Technology and Education, Ito led a team of 28 researchers and collaborators at the University of Southern California and the University of California, Berkeley. Over three years, they interviewed over 800 young people and their parents, both one-on-one and in focus groups; spent over 5000 hours observing teens on sites such as MySpace, Facebook, YouTube, and other networked communities; and conducted diary studies to document how, and to what end, young people engage with digital media.

The researchers identified two distinctive categories of teen engagement with digital media: friendship-driven and interest-driven. While friendship-driven participation centered on "hanging out" with existing friends, interest-driven participation involved accessing online information and communities that may not be present in the local peer group.

More information about the study and the MacArthur Foundation's digital media and learning initiative can be found online at Ito's research findings, among the first from the initiative, are part of an effort to inject grounded research into the conversation about the future of learning in a digital world.

"The NSDL Community at its Best," in DLib Magazine

As Congress debated the details of a financial bailout package, almost 200 National Science Digital Library (NSDL) partners and projects gathered in Washington, D.C., to celebrate a substantial national return on a very good cyberlearning investment and to discuss new directions for the 8-year-old National Science Foundation (NSF) NSDL program. The NSDL Annual Meeting was held September 30-October 2, 2008. Attendees participated in a day and a half packed with opportunities for networking, and sharing research results and accomplishments, project outcomes and good stories. NSDL is designed to leverage online educational Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) technology and resources for students and learners of all ages. Many partners and projects have been part of NSDL since 2000, and as usual, the conversations and collaborations in and around the annual meeting were highly valued by attendees as a way to catch up professionally and personally. Read more...

Mellon Foundation Funds Fedora Commons and DSpace Initiative "In the Cloud"

Ithaca, NY, Cambridge, MA The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded a planning grant to the DSpace Foundation and Fedora Commons in support of their work to ensure durability and long-term access of scholarly research output and digital collections. This comes after the two largest providers of open source software for digital repositories announced their intentions to form a working collaboration in July of this year.

Over the next six months funding from the planning grant will allow the organizations to jointly specify and design "DuraSpace," a new web-based service that will allow institutions to easily distribute content to multiple storage providers, both "cloud-based" and institution-based. The idea behind DuraSpace is to provide a trusted, value-added service layer to augment the capabilities of generic storage providers by making stored digital content more durable, manageable, accessible and sharable.

Michele Kimpton, Executive Director of the DSpace Foundation, said, "Together we can leverage our expertise and open source value proposition to continue to provide integrated open solutions that support the scholarly mission of universities."

Sandy Payette, Executive Director of Fedora Commons, observes, "There is an important role for high-tech non-profit organizations in adding value to emerging cloud solutions. DuraSpace is designed with an eye towards enabling universities, libraries, and other types of organizations to take advantage of cloud storage while also addressing special requirements unique to areas such as digital archiving and scholarly communication."

The grant from the Mellon Foundation will support a needs analysis, focus groups, technical design sessions, and meetings with potential commercial partners. A working web-based demonstration will be completed during the six-month grant period to help validate the technical and business assumptions behind DuraSpace.

In terms of how DuraSpace might evolve, Chuck Henry, Executive Director of the Council on Libraries and Information Resources (CLIR), notes that "CLIR believes that DSpace/Fedora may offer some unique structures for knowledge organization and services that can enhance digital humanities scholarship, and those assumptions will be tested [with the grant work]."

About the DSpace Foundation

The DSpace Foundation ( was formed in 2007 to support to the growing global community of institutions using DSpace open source software to manage research output in a digital repository. DSpace was jointly developed in 2002 by Hewlett Packard and the MIT Libraries. Today, there are over more than 450 organizations worldwide a using the software to capture, preserve and share their artifacts, documents, collections and research data. To learn more about DSpace, please visit this introduction to DSpace.

About Fedora Commons

Fedora Commons ( was established in 2007 as the permanent home of Fedora open source software-a robust, integrated repository system that enables storage, access and management of virtually any kind of digital content. Fedora has been adopted by hundreds of institutions worldwide as a platform for innovative applications supporting open-access publishing, scholarly communication, e-science, digital libraries, digital archives, education, and more. Fedora Commons helps bridge the worlds of content management, semantic technologies, and the Web. To find out about more about the Fedora community, please visit the Fedora Commons Community Registry.

About The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation (, a not-for-profit corporation under the laws of the State of New York, was formed on June 30, 1969. At the heart of the Mellon Foundation's grant making philosophy is a commitment to build, strengthen and sustain institutions and their core capacities in six core program areas: Higher Education and Scholarship, Scholarly Communications, Research in Information Technology, Museums and Art Conservation, Performing Arts and Conservation and the Environment.

For More Information
Contact: Sandy Payette, Executive Director, Fedora Commons, 607 255-2773,
Michele Kimpton, Executive Director, DSpace Foundation, 617 253-7746,


One Minute Science Mysteries

One Minute Mysteries: 65 Short Mysteries You Solve with Science! is a book recommended for grades 4-8 by NSTA and NAPPA, but is also of interest for anyone who is interested in the ways that science affects daily life. The Science Naturally web site features free hands-on learning activities such as "If My Mom Were a Platypus" learning guide.

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