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

February 2009 Issue #144






AAAS Project 2061 to Offer Content Alignment and Instructional Quality Training

With support from NSF's NSDL program (DUE #0840791), Project 2061, the long-term science education reform initiative of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) will train the staff of seven NSDL Pathways as well as those of the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) on how to determine the content alignment and instructional quality of K-12 digital resources. Resources that are aligned to content standards and are of high instructional quality are likely to contribute to effective teaching and student learning of standards. Therefore, the training is expected to improve the cataloguing process and enhance the value of K-12 resources found in the NSDL. The workshop will be held in March 2009 at the AAAS headquarters in Washington, DC and will be facilitated by Ted Willard. It will be followed by a customized workshop for each individual NSDL Pathway. For more information, please contact the PI, Dr. Francis Molina.

Dr. Robert Panoff, CSERD, Leads Workshop and Gives Keynote Speech at the Annual Faculty Conference at Houston Community College

On Friday, January 30, 2009, 36 science faculty from the Houston Community College District and four representatives from the Houston Independent School District participated in a computational science workshop conducted by Dr. Robert M. Panoff, Executive Director of Shodor. The event began with lunch where faculty and some HCC administrators gathered to hear a brief general introduction to computational science and to learn about the focus of the workshop. This was followed by a three-hour hands-on exploration of the "sources and resources of the Pathways of NSDL," the National Science Digital Library. The disciplines represented at the workshop were life sciences, biology, chemistry, computer science, geology, astronomy, and physics.

The following day Dr. Panoff gave the keynote speech, "Computational Thinking Across the Curriculum," at the annual Houston Community College Faculty Conference sponsored by the Faculty Senate. The audience consisted of 270 faculty members representing various disciplines and the system's Chancellor, the Deputy Chancellor, the Vice Chancellor of Instruction, one of the campus Presidents, and several Deans.

The workshop and the Faculty Conference speaker were sponsored by the Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence at Houston Community College. Dr. Panoff was the first speaker in a year-long Distinguished Speaker Series to be sponsored by the Center. The Instructional Technology departments of the six colleges in the district supported the workshop.

NSDL Reflections Hot Topic: How Do You See the Future of NSDL?

In January, an article, "NSF Rethinks Its Digital Library," was published in the AAAS Science Magazine discussing the history and current challenges of NSDL. It described some of the 'rethinking' by NSDL stakeholders and other observers. While this article has certainly opened up important issues, we'd like to get the broader community to think about and respond to this timely topic.

As part of the NSDL Reflections project you are invited to help us extend and expand this discussion. A new area on web site is designed to respond to this (and future) hot topics facing the NSDL community. We invite you to visit the site and respond to the article by answering the question: How do you see the history of the NSDL and its future differently from what was described in the article? There are many other questions and issues branching out from our starting question, so we invite you to go to to post your comments in response to this question and to discuss any and all issues that you consider important in this debate.

While you're there, check out our latest article from David Yaron, "Reflections on the NSDL." We hope you enjoy it as much as we did! As always, if you have questions, please contact Flora McMartin.

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 the topic of concept inventories and assessments; one new articles accepted to volume 10 of the Journal of Microbiology & Biology Education on the constructivist approach; two new curriculum activities; and four new visual resources.

WGBH Teachers' Domain News

Teachers' Domain is pleased to announce a new adolescent literacy special collection funded by the Leon Lowenstein Foundation. These self-paced classroom activities use history and science topics to enhance the literacy skills of struggling readers in grades 5-8. Each activity engages students in a topic such as "slavery and emancipation," or "behavioral adaptations," through videos and interactives, then encourages them to build on what they learn by completing a reading and writing assignment. An online glossary helps build vocabulary, and an online note-taking area encourages writing and active thinking.

In the Spotlight - Engineering Pathway Celebrates Black History and Engineers Week in February and Women's History in March

The Engineering Pathway (EP) "In the Spotlight" highlights timely resources in our collections. In February we focused on Engineers Week, noting the winners of the 2009 NAE Gordon Prize in Engineering Education, the Grand Challenges of Engineering, and the "Vision" campaign message that engineering requires creativity, imagination and vision.

This month and next, browse our resources on African American scientists, engineers & Inventors and gender equity. Visit the EP computing diversity website and engineering diversity pages as well!

Solving a Big Math Problem

An understanding of mathematics may be considered essential for an educated person today, but many Americans seem almost allergic to math.

While there is much discussion about the importance of mathematics to scientific research, engineering, and technological innovation, the performance of American math students on international assessments is below that of math students in many other countries.

In a world that can seem overwhelmed with data, some level of math seems essential to understanding issues ranging from climate change to fuel efficiency and public health.

In its special report "Math: What's the Problem?"-- the National Science Foundation (NSF) uses video interviews and online resources to examine the state of math education and to discuss the roles of culture, technology, and research in improving math learning and proficiency.

Among the experts interviewed are:


Helping Middle School Teachers with Free Online Professional Development

NSDL's Middle School Portal Math and Science Pathways project, (MSP)2, and the National Middle School Association (NMSA) are partnering to provide a series of free online web seminars by recognized experts in support of middle school educators. These online learning programs are a convenient way to learn about resources and services that you can use in and out of your classrooms. Webinars are free and presented live, with recordings of the event available for subsequent use. Webinars are scheduled for 3:30 PM EST on the following dates:

February 24:
Online Math Resources for the Offline Classroom - Terry Herrera, (MSP)2 math specialist
March 31:
FunWorks: Inspiring Students to Pursue Math and Science Careers - Sarita Pillai, Gender and Diversities Institute, Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC)
April 7:
Getting to the Good Stuff: Online Resources for Middle School Math and Science - Robert Payo (NSDL) and Kim Lightle (MSP)2
April 28:
Global Warming and the Polar Regions - Jessica Fries-Gaither and Kim Lightle, (MSP)2

More information and registration are available here.

Tools you can use from NSDL Technical Network Services (TNS)

NSDL's Technical Network Services (TNS) provides open-source tools and support services that the STEM education community can use for creating production digital libraries and content-rich STEM learning environments. Join TNS staff for a brown bag web seminar session on March 5, 2009 at 1:00PM EST that is intended to provide current and prospective NSDL Pathways and projects, and other STEM educational developers, with an overview of how three of these tools can be used to manage and access collections of learning resources in interesting ways. The tools discussed will include:

  1. Strand Map Service (SMS) - The SMS provides a web service protocol supporting the construction of interactive knowledge map interfaces based on the learning goals articulated in the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Benchmarks for Science Literacy and the learning progressions and strand maps published in the AAAS Atlas of Science Literacy.
  2. NSDL Collection System (NCS) - This system enables collection developers to efficiently and flexibly create and manage collections of metadata describing educational resources such as learning objects, user-provided comments and reviews, scientific data sets, and other curricular components.
  3. Digital Discovery System (DDS) - The DDS search service is optimized to support the rapid construction of audience-specific portals and applications and can be flexibly configured to search over any XML schema structure. It also supports geospatial searching and can be integrated with Web 2.0 applications such as Google Maps.

Sharon Clark, Kathryn Ginger, Jonathan Ostwald, John Weatherley, and Mike Wright will present these tools. This session will be recorded and archived for later viewing. You may view the recorded conference at the link provided from the NSDL Brown Bag web page.

If you have not already received an invitation to this NSDL Brown Bag, please use the Contact Us form to request an invitation to this March 5, 2008 session. Additional inquiries about NSDL technical tools and support services may be sent to

NSDL/NSTA Webinar: Beyond Penguins and Polar Bears: Arctic and Antarctic Birds

On April 21, 2009 at 8:00 pm ET join Jessica Fries-Gaither, Project Director and Elementary Resource Specialist for the Ohio Resource Center at Ohio State University and staff from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology ( as they share free digital resources, lesson plans, and children's literature from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the Beyond Penguins and Polar Bears cyberzine. This web seminar is designed for K-5 educators. Register today!

Broadening Participation in Computing (BPC) Workshop

The Engineering Pathway launched draft versions of a new BPC Portal at the BPC Community Meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina on February 9-10, 2009. The portal, at http// will engage the computing diversity community with a digital library, collaboration opportunities, news, bulletin board, blog and other community services. The BPC digital library includes resources tagged for promising practices, and key research regarding target populations in computing and IT including Native Americans, African Americans, Hispanics, women and persons with disabilities. Recently added features include our computing diversity and education search appliances and our news service. Please give us your feedback on features, layouts and functionality at


The Best of the MiddleWeb

NSDL's Middle School Portal (MSP)2 has been selected as one of the "Ten Great Sites for Teachers" selected by MiddleWeb. MiddleWeb provides resources for schools, districts, educators, parents, and public school advocates who are working to raise achievement for all students in the middle grades.

MiddleWeb was established in 1996 with grant support from the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation's Program for Student Achievement, which focused its grant making on middle school improvement. Stenhouse Publishers now supports Middle Web activities and content, with additional assistance provided by the volunteer efforts of members of the MiddleWeb Community.

Take Off With Polar Birds

Issue 11 of Beyond Penguins and Polar Bears, focusing on Arctic and Antarctic Birds, is co-produced by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and "explores the amazing birds that live in or migrate to the polar regions" in photos, stories, research and a podcast entitled, "Birdwatcher's Delight: Birds and Inquiry Learning."

Webinar on Water: Not Too Late To Check It Out

In December 2008, ChemEd DL broadcast a highly successful Web seminar on water. Sixty-five educators from 23 states and Malaysia participated in this live Webinar event. John Moore and Lynn Diener introduced resources available in the ChemEd DL collection. Highlights included: using Molecules 360 to rotate the water molecule and observe the dipole moment; using Periodic Table Live! to learn more about the discovery and physical properties of hydrogen and oxygen; viewing videos from Chemistry Comes Alive! and the Middle School Portal; reviewing the recently published Tested Demonstration, Stilling Waves with Ordered Molecular Monolayers (JCE August 2008, p 1064); and surfing web sites from CSERD (on solubility and intermolecular forces) and the Teachers Domain (on oceans and climate). James Skinner discussed recent, cutting-edge research about the dynamic nature of liquid water and the number of hydrogen bonds per water molecule. He also presented computational simulations and videos. Jon Holmes, Robert Payo, and Jeff Layman provided additional support.

The online archives include the presentation slides used at the Webinar, links to related content, and free access to the movies used in the Webinar. The presentation slides include age-appropriate content for K-12 and beyond, videos, suggested activities, in-class demonstrations, sample in-class questions, and more. Check out the archives .

The previous two Webinars-Hydrophobicity and Proteins (October 2007) and The Chemistry of Taste and Odor (March 2007)-were equally well received. View their archives at and

What theme would you like us to focus on next? Submit suggestions for the next Webinar to

Call for Resources to MicrobeLibrary

The American Society for Microbiology invites authors to submit resources to its MicrobeLibrary. Resources sought include classroom activities and laboratory exercises; animations, images and videos depicting the microbial world; and quality images for standard microbiology protocols including Identification of Unknown Organisms by 16S DNA Sequencing, IMViC (Indole, MR, VP, Citrate), Kirby Bauer Disk Diffusion, and Fluorogenic Assay (MUG Test) for Detection of E. coli in Food and Water Samples. Submissions are due March 1, 2009. For more information and submission guidelines, visit the MicrobeLibrary or contact


Café Life

""Periodic Tables" is billed as a monthly Durham, NC gathering where curious adults can meet in a casual setting to discuss the latest science in plain English. On Feb 10 Bob Panoff offered his personal story about why he left tenured academics and created Shodor to help transform science and mathematics using networked learning communities such as the National Science Digital Library. Become a Periodic Tables fan on Facebook.

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