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

The Whiteboard Report
February 2006, Issue #90



Common Challenges Face BioSciEdNet (BEN) Partners
Director Yolanda George described The NSDL Pathway, BEN--BioSciEdNet--Collaborative, as a catalyst for social and cultural changes in teaching biological sciences at an orientation and training meeting held in Washington, D.C. Feb. 1-3. By providing a peer review framework for vetting resources BEN is focused on "quality" which was of particular interest to professional societies in attendance. Participants in a Teaching and Learning Panel Discussion expressed ideas around common challenges and approaches to furthering biological sciences education. John Jungck, Beloit College, BioQuest, stated "We succeed in science when we define it positively, not negatively; not as a requirement, but as a valuable experience..."

Programmatic and technical tracks focused on discussions of common challenges for new partners including understanding BEN architecture; NSDL architecture, metadata requirements; identifying resources for collections; supporting contributors and reviewers, rights management, peer review systems, evaluation, and sustainability. The group had a keen interest in aquiring additional rich media--image and video resources.

Online demonstrations of biological applications were part of the meeting. David "Paddy" Patterson, PI, Microbial Life Collection, demonstrated a tool that searches through text documents and classifies them according to the organisms that are referenced, not only by the name it finds, but also by the common names and any additional scientific names that might have been used prior or after (because names change over time). Announcements of new organism names are automatically added to the database by analyzing relevant RSS news feeds. The tool also provides a link to all other documents that are related to organisms' common or scientific names.

A Web site built by the Botany Society of America called "Scientific Inquiry through Plants" was also highlighted. The site scaffolds scientific inquiry linked to a scientist who helps guide student research and tracks the question, hypothesis, student journal along with a blog.
Related Link: Feature Watch
Library resources of note are highlighted in exhibits at each quarter. The Librarian and University Faculty audience sections featuring "Resources of Interest" and "Using NSDL" showcase new selections by section editors. Please contact Carol Minton Morris at 607 255-2702 or reply to this email if you would like to highlight a specific NSDL resource.
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Free National Science Teacher Association (NSTA) Web Seminars for Teachers
As a part of professional development programming, The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) offers a variety of programs through their "NSTA Institute". These programs provide opportunities to learn from educators and scientists in both face to face workshops and online seminar formats. NSTA Web Seminars are 90-minute, live professional development experiences that use online learning technologies that allow participants to interact with nationally acclaimed experts--NSTA Press authors, and scientists, engineers, and education specialists from NSTA government partners such as NASA and NOAA--all from the convenience of a desktop computer.

These highly interactive seminars are conveniently scheduled to allow educators from all U.S. time zones to participate. With the assistance of an NSTA facilitator coordinating the seminar, experts go over specific science content or methods and strategies to teach science with participants. These seminars also provide opportunities for teachers to get real-time answers to questions from content and pedagogical experts. Educators use online tools that allow them to mark-up and annotate presenter's slides, share desktop applications, engage in online chats, and answer survey and poll questions. Seminars may be archived and are available for viewing after the live event has occurred.

Two more seminars are being held during February with ten more seminars conducted between April and June for the school year. These seminars are free, but require registration on a first-come, first-served basis. To register, visit:

For additional information and schedule, visit: or contact Flavio Mendez, NSTA Symposia and Web Seminar Program Manager at
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The Fedora User Community and NSDL
Fedora, the open source software that provides NSDL with a flexible architecture for managing and delivering digital content, was developed jointly at Cornell and University of Virginia and is currently being deployed by over thirty worldwide organizations from major universities, to learned societies (American Geophysical Union) as well as the Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center. Other Fedora projects may be viewed here.

Fedora is a service-based architecture for participation. NSDL is focused on leveraging the collective intelligence by enabling two-way data flow between NSDL and users. A free market of millions of inter-related resources will be built with remixed data sources and data transformations made possible by Fedora.

The Fedora community of users and developers understand the value of an architecture based on participation particularly as it applies to scholarly communication. The eSciDoc project, which is a cooperative project between the Max Planck Society and FIZ Karlsruhe. ESciDoc recently chose Fedora as the foundation object storage layer for their project. Quoting from the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft information page:

"ESciDoc is a 5-year project funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). It is an important component of the Max Planck Society (MPG) wide sInfo program and will establish a sustainable infrastructure for scientific information, communication and distribution of research results via Open Access"

The application of Fedora as a foundation component for eScidoc is an example of the increasing number of Fedora deployments for new scholarly communication models in cyberinfrastructure and the Grid.
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Workshop on Digital Library Services Registries, March 22-23, 2006, Arlington, VA
Building on work from by the NSDL project The OCKHAM Library Network, Integrating the NSDL into Traditional Library Services, a workshop is being organized to advance efforts to build out and sustain a Digital Library Service Registry (DLSR) for the NSDL and the broader digital library community. The growth of library-related services, along with the initiation of several service registry efforts, suggests the time is right to convene this workshop on creating a universal approach to DLSR. The one-day workshop will address key issues supporting the development and adoption of a general DLSR and will produce the following outcomes:

- A work plan detailing the necessary activities and strategies for building a sustained digital library service registry that is integrated into the NSDL and general digital library communities. - An article, to be submitted to D-Lib Magazine, describing the activities of the workshop, and the issues on digital library service registries brought forward by the workshop.

Workshop attendees include representatives from: the California Digital Library; the Digital Library Federation; IMLS; JISC IESR; OCLC; NSDL Core Integration; NSDL Technology Standing Committee; and UKOLN. In order to develop a work plan quickly, attendance at the initial workshop is limited. However, a wiki and listserv will be available soon and will be open for the community to join in discussions and post-workshop planning. This workshop is being supported by supplemental funding to award #DUE 0429202 from the National Science Foundation and is co-sponsored by the Digital Library Federation and JISC/UKOLN. Contact: Jeremy Frumkin ( or Sarah Giersch (
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"Access for All" in Action
As the National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM) at WGBH in partnership with The George Washington University Disability Support Services introduce the "Access for All" Standard for online learning tools on Tuesday, Feb. 14, it is useful to note that NCAM is also working towards providing access to critical content by addressing inconsistencies in support of appropriate modalities and accessible interfaces in emergency alert systems, services and products.

The NCAM Access Alerts project addresses an urgent need-- to develop and encourage adoption of standardized methods, systems and services to identify, filter and present content in ways that are meaningful to people with disabilities leading up to, during, and after emergencies. People who are deaf or hard of hearing and who rely on captioned television news alerts are often left out when emergency broadcasts are not, in fact, captioned. And people who are blind or have low vision watch television to stay informed, but are at a loss when on-screen graphics or text crawls are used to convey information. The use of wireless systems--the Web, cell phones and other personal devices--promise greater freedom, independence and even safety when traditional electronic media fails or service is interrupted, but these technologies hit the market with access barriers which present new challenges as well. The Access Alerts project identifies the gaps that exist between alert systems that deliver information, and the unrealized potential of these systems to serve the entire population by putting access standards to work.
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Submit Abstracts for Geoinformatics 2006 By Mar. 24
Geoinformatics 2006 is sponsored by the USGS, NASA, NSF/GEON, and the Geological Society of America and will take place at the USGS National Center in Reston, VA on May 10-12. This international forum for both geoscientists and information scientists is an opportunity to exchange current research leading to the development of a common cyberinfrastructure for the geosciences.

Geoscience cyberinfrastructure is being developed by a broad consortium of federal, academic, and non governmental organizations. It will serve as a linked system of sites that provide the Earth Science community a vast library of research data, research-grade tools to manipulate, mine, analyze and model interdisciplinary data, and mechanisms to provide the necessary computational resources for these activities.
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Computer Science Year in Berlin
"Jahr de Informatik" kicked off in Berlin with newly appointed Research Minister Annette Schavan noting that while there are three times as many computers as there are people in the world today, "Computers are everywhere--we can't imagine life without them." "Computer Science Year 2006" is the seventh year in a series that began in 2000 with the "Year of Physics" featuring events and contests in cities around Germany aimed at attracting the next generation of computer scientists.
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Student-Friendly GIS Leads to Real-World Science Inquiry
Schools throughout the United States are now using student-friendly geographic information systems (GIS) software designed by researchers at Northwestern University. The researchers designed My World GIS with the needs of K-12 teachers and computing environments of schools in mind, in bringing students dynamic and customizable mapping capabilities that will allow them to see spatial patterns. "My World software's unique strength is enabling students as young as middle school to visualize and analyze geographic data," says Daniel Edelson, associate professor of education and computer science at Northwestern. Edelson is also the director of Northwestern's Geographic Data in Education Initiative (GEODE), and his team designed My World GIS, which was first published in 2004. My World GIS is a timely tool, considering the National Research Council recently published a report that calls for using GIS to help students think spatially. However, until now, GIS had only been designed for scientists and was too complex for elementary and secondary school students. Edelson and GEODE are studying whether GIS helps develop spatial reasoning abilities, and whether there is an impact on how science and geographic content is understood.--AAAS EurekAlert, Feb. 8, 2006.
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NSDL Resource of Interest: Forging Links at the 2002 Winter Olympics
This lesson plan invites students to explore what "technical knowledge" might mean to an Olympic athlete. Students in grades 6-8 and 9-12 catalog the different types of information that athletes would need to compete in various Winter Olympic sports and develop "State of the Art" posters focusing on specific pieces of equipment used in the 2002 Winter Games.
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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