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 2009 Issue #148






Beta Version of MAISON Accessible StrandMap Search Now Available

K. Selcuk Candan who is an Associate Professor in the Dept. of Computer Science and Engineering at Arizona State University has announced that a beta version of MAISON has been released. The goal of the "Middleware for Accessible Information Spaces on NSDL (MAISON)" is to improve participation to NSF's National Science Digital Library (NSDL) by teachers, librarians, and learners who are blind. MAISON is enhancing the accessibility of NSDL, its internal and external resources and existing services (such as strand maps of educational benchmarks). MAISON is implemented as a middleware service to help minimize the extraneous load on users who are blind, while they search and access to materials from the large and diverse collection of resources available on NSDL. Relying on cutting-edge, context-aware segmentation, filtering and summarization, and concept propagation techniques, the middleware provides information space adaptation, reduction, and preview services through open web-based service APIs to enable implementation of informative navigation interfaces that are able to reduce the complexity of the information space and provide previews to prevent user disorientation.

The MAISON CSIP-Accessible (CSIP-A) web interface, underlying the MAISON Accessible StrandMap Search Interface (Beta version) takes (in addition to a set of search keywords) various adaptation options that are used for adapting the CSIP strand map results based on the user's preferences. These adaptation options include The ongoing extensions to the MAISON middleware include document, web page, and web site adaptation and preview APIs for improved access to external digital resources link to the underlying information space.

The MAISON Accessible StrandMap Search Interface (Beta version) is currently available at

Clarkson University Engineers Win 2009 Premier Curriculum Award for K-12 Engineering

The NSDL Engineering Pathway and TeachEngineering have announced the winner of the inaugural Premier Curriculum Award for K-12 Engineering. Co-authors and engineers Susan Powers and Jan DeWaters of the NSF GK-12 project at Clarkson University collected the winning prize for their original middle school curricular unit, "Energy Systems and Solutions," which is now part of the TeachEngineering digital library collection. The unit is a suite of eighth-grade lessons and activities that provide a comprehensive, practical, and engaging investigation into energy and how it is used - presented from a real-world, applied engineering point of view. Sponsored by Engineering Pathwayand the TeachEngineering digital library, the competition is a biennial award recognizing the creation and implementation of outstanding K-12 engineering curriculum, a growing approach to teaching K-12 science and math fundamentals. For more information, see:

Engineer Powers said, "We are honored to receive this inaugural award. It helps to validate our approach to introducing engineering concepts into science classes through relevant issues and project based learning experiences. We are especially committed to increasing the energy literacy of our youth - who will have to tackle significant energy issues as either consumers or STEM professionals. The availability of our project based curriculum in the TeachEngineering digital library will help teachers from across the country to help youngsters increase their energy literacy and improve their ability to think like an engineer."

The co-recipients shared a $1,000 award and receive recognition on the TeachEngineering and Engineering Pathway digital library websites. Powers also received $1,500 toward registration, travel, and accommodations to attend the ASEE Conference in Austin. Powers is associate dean for research and graduate studies, and professor of civil and environmental engineering at the Coulter School of Engineering, Clarkson University in Potsdam, NY. She also is director of the Clarkson NSF GK-12 project. DeWaters is a PhD candidate in environmental science and engineering at the Coulter School.

The winning unit consists of eight lessons and 19 hands-on, project-based activities in which students explore energy production and consumption issues from everyday life, learning about our nation's energy situation and basic energy and physics concepts. Through engaging activities and the engineering problem-solving approach, students apply what they've learned to a culminating real-life project that reduces fossil fuel use.

The winning curricular unit is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under grant nos. DUE-0428127 and DGE-0338216, from the NSF GK-12 and Distinguished Teaching Scholars programs.

In addition, two finalists were recognized: Terry Carter of the Vanderbilt University Research Experiences for Teachers (RET; VaNTH ERC) in Nashville, Tenn., for his seventh-grade Laser Light Properties: Protecting the Mummified Troll! unit, and Travis M. Doll of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pa., for his eighth-grade Sound Booth Construction activity.

The winning and finalists' curricula will be made freely available to teachers and educators through Engineering Pathway and the TeachEngineering digital library-online resource collections supported by the NSF National Science Digital Library (NSDL). The high-quality, classroom-tested TeachEngineering lessons engage students in science and math study with connections relevant to their lives and their futures.

TeachEngineering is a searchable, web-based digital library collection populated with 750+ free, teacher-tested standards-based K-12 lessons and activities that engage students and enhance science and math learning through the use of hands-on engineering. TeachEngineering was primarily created through support from the National Science Foundation's GK-12 Program and NSDL.

The Engineering Pathway is a portal to high-quality teaching and learning resources in applied science and math, engineering, computer science/information technology and engineering technology, for use by K-12 and university educators and students. Engineering Pathway is the engineering education "wing" of the National Science Digital Library (NSDL).

NSDL at the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) Summer Meeting

The American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) Summer Meeting was held in Ann Arbor, Michigan, July 25 - 29, 2009 where ComPADRE, NSDL's Physics and Astromomy Pathway and CSERD, NSDL's Computational Science Pathway were featured in presentations and workshops throughout the meeting. Highlights included the "Taste of Technology" workshop, and two sessions of invited talks: "High Performance Computing on the Desktop" and "Computational Modeling in the Introductory Physics Course." Wolfgang Christian and Bruce Mason presented for ComPADRE and Dave Joiner and Bob Panoff presented the Computational Science Education Reference Desk (CSERD).

Resources to help you utilize the Periodic Table Live! (PTL!)

The Chemical Education Digital Library has another new resource. If you head over to the "ChemEd Courses" you'll notice a new, open enrollment course titled "Using the Periodic Table Live! in your classroom." This course currently provides 6 worksheets to use with your students in the PTL! covering a variety of topics, focusing on Periodic Trends like atomic radius and electronegativity. But you can also find a worksheet that teaches students about carbon and one that guides an exploration of any element in detail using the PTL!. Check back to see updates and new worksheets.

Optical or Invisibility Cloak Resource from the Engineering Pathway

Ever wish you had an "invisibility cloak"? A team of researchers at UC Berkeley is bringing us closer to the possibility by creating an "optical cloak" from nanostructured silicon that conceals the presence of objects placed under it from optical detection. This is just one of many exciting resources from our newest collection - Educational Digital Library for the Center for Scalable and Integrated Nanomanufacturing (SINAM) - that is in the spotlight at Engineering Pathway this month. SINAM is an environment dedicated to multi-disciplinary and collaborative science that creates opportunities for industrial quantum-leaps in nanotechnology. One of their most recent advancements is an optical invisibility cloak. The Engineering Pathway-SINAM partnership provides the NSDL with educational resources associated with a high profile Engineering Research Center. Visit the SINAM collection today!

NSDL Interactivate at Notre Dame

Dr. Bob Panoff of the Shodor Education Foundation presented two workshops on NSDL resources in support of computational thinking at the University of Notre Dame last month to a total of over 50 K-12 teachers and half a dozen students. The first of these, a 2-day Interactivate workshop, brought together mathematics teachers from grades 4 - 12 to explore dynamic modeling in mathematics and to begin the process of aligning Interactivate tools with Indiana state standards. Many participants, particularly elementary school teachers, requested follow-up sessions devoted to their grade levels.

Respondents to a survey about the Interactivate workshop said that they felt much more comfortable using computational science tools in their classrooms (95% strongly or somewhat agreed with that statement). Also, 100% of the respondents strongly or somewhat agreed that the workshop's attempt "to invite participants into collaborative relationships with one another and with university partners to foster vibrant STEM community and a rich STEM culture in Michiana" was clear to them and accomplished by the workshop as a whole.

A high school teacher at the Interactivate workshop wrote: "I really like the Shodor stuff and the fact that they are linked to other great resources that I can rely on to be usable without so much time and investigation on my own. I especially like the NSDL stuff. I also noticed on the NSDL page that they have some iTunes stuff . When I explored the iTunes stuff last night I noticed on the side bar (if you are familiar with iTunes) iTunes U. It is really useful stuff! It has movie clips, podcasts, and other media stuff for both my own studies and for classroom use. I also found some stuff for high school chemistry that looks to be a collaborative system developed by Shodor and UNC. It has stuff for most chapters of intro chem and I think it could be useful in my chem class, Chem Fundamentals."

Images from the July 22-23 Interactivate Workshop can be found here

Dynamic Simulation and Agent Modeling Physics Workshop

On July 30, Bob Panoff led an additional 25 physics teachers (about half local, and half members of the national Virtual QuarkNet Center) in a one-day introduction to dynamic simulation and agent modeling, featuring NSDL, Interactivate tools, Excel and Agent Sheets. While no formal evaluation was conducted, teachers were excited about the workshop.

One seasoned QuarkNet teacher blogged: "Wow!! the possibilities for helping students understand that graphs have real meaning. The fact that they represent what is happening is often not obvious to students. The fact that equations represent what is really happening in the world around them does not cross most of their minds. With the tools from shodor, it should become obvious to students. Maybe we can help them understand that we did not come up with equations to make their lives miserable, to make science hard to learn or to simplify the science. Equations are a model for reality!!!!!!!"

Report from the ChemEd DL Workshops

The ChemEd DL has had a busy summer. On Tuesday July 14th ChemEd DL participated in the new, online, NSDL Brown Bag series of webinars inviting participants to learn more about some of the free resources at the ChemEd DL. We focused on the Periodic Table Live!, Molecules 360, ChemEd courses, ChemPRIME and ChemPaths. With nearly 90 participants and lots of great feedback at the webseminar it was a success.

On Tuesday July 21st ChemEd DL hosted a workshop for people living in Wisconsin. In this hands on workshop participants explored the ChemEd DL with guidance. All the bases were covered and participants saw how to find and use everything from Molecules 360 to the ChemCollective's Murder Mystery: Mixed Reception. Some participants drove a 100 miles to attend!

CALL: Participate in the NSDL 2009 Annual Meeting

The Annual Meeting Planning Committee is soliciting proposals for presentations at the 2009 NSDL Annual Meeting "From Digital Libraries to Cyberlearing", November 17-19 in Washington, D.C. Proposals are welcomed from both the NSDL community and from individuals and groups not directly affiliated with an NSDL-funded project. The Committee encourages all projects to share their experiences and successes, and to raise issues in six specific areas of interest across NSDL.

In 2008, the NSDL Annual Meeting highlighted activities that are pushing the boundaries of digital libraries by finding ways to weave together learning and technology in our highly connected world. Presentations also underscored the challenges of working within the evolving national infrastructure while producing real results in the classroom. For 2009, proposals should explore issues and report on activities building on this transition from library to learning.

This year the Committee is looking for submissions in one of six topical areas. The six categories for presentations include:

The Committee continues to encourage presentations that incorporate various media (e.g., video clips, podcasts, blogs), which further underscore the movement from Libraries to Learning.

Session Lengths & Formats
The Planning Committee solicits proposals in these six topical areas that also speak to the broader meeting theme. Sessions will range from 30 to 60 minutes, as appropriate. When organizing sessions, projects are encouraged to collaborate with one another or with individuals or organizations not directly affiliated with an NSDL project.
The following session types will be available for the 2009 meeting: Panels, Presentations, Computer Labs, and Lightning Talks. Please read the suggestions about session formats below; refer to the Proposal Submission Process FAQ; and as always, contact the Planning Committee with questions.

How to Submit a Proposal
Proposals will be due by midnight of August 28. NOTE: There will not be an extension of this deadline. Because the meeting space is limited this year, the Committee may not be able to accommodate all presentations as in past years and you may be asked to change the length or format of your proposed activity. Please check the proposal FAQ for general information.

Although the complete Annual Meeting site is not yet available, you may fill out a template for submitting your proposal at We will notify presenters by September 4.

We will accept poster submissions starting in early September. If you have any questions, please contact Susan Jesuroga, the meeting chair.


MSP2 Summer Tech Talk

Ever wonder- Join an MSP2 Summer Tech Talk to get the answers about digital tools for teaching and learning that other people already seem to have!

Announcing the 4th NSDL/NSTA Web Seminar Series

Starting this fall, our series of free online teacher professional development continues! Watch for these seminars featuring experts from the NSDL community for the 2009-2010 school year: Chemistry Comes Alive IV: Oxidation and Reduction, Timely Teachings: Seasons and the Cycles of Night and Day, along with seminars from PBS favorites WGBH Teachers' Domain and Dragonfly TV.


Energy Systems and Solutions curricula unit

View the 2009 Winner Premier Curriculum Award for K-12 Engineering eighth-grade Energy Systems and Solutions curricula unit: More information about the Premier Curriculum Award for K-12 Engineering available at

Engineering Pathway Events in History Blog

Did you know that the Engineering Pathway posts "Events in History" for every day of the year? Many of these engineering-related historic events have accompanying blogs we have posted that can be used to enhance your curriculum by connecting new technologies with their historical roots. In August, many of our blogs will relate to transportation and exploration - topics of interest for many disciplines of engineering education: the San Francisco cable cars; diesel engines and environmental strategies; the first ship through the Panama Canal; Fulton's first steamboat voyage; the first Soap Box Derby; the Gossamer Condor and human-powered flight; the first controlled glider flight; the first teacher in space; and the first African-American in space. In addition, the new Secretary of the Smithsonian Institute, Wayne Clough, has agreed to write a special blog this month on the founding of the Smithsonian, the world's largest museum complex and research organization. Check out the Engineering Pathway "Today in History" Blog.

Keep Up With NSDL on Twitter

Find out the latest news about NSDL web seminars, events and technology developments by following NSDL on Twitter:



QuarkNet is a hybrid virtual and face-to-face network where teachers, students, parents and physicists interact with one another to "explore the hidden nature of matter, energy, space and time." The program is part of the Purdue Department of Physics outreach program, PEARLS, that brings the excitement of physical science to many students who would not otherwise be exposed to physics. QuarkNet involves about 100,000 students from 500+ US schools.

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