| Internet's gateways can guide teachers

Where can all the good stuff be found on a specific topic? GEM, Marco Polo and FREE point to the best resources.

September 19, 2002

Joyce Kasman Valenza Inquirer Columnist

Thank goodness for gateways!

Subject gateways are Internet sites that are compiled to lead us to the best Web resources for specific areas of interest. Teachers are particularly lucky to be the target of some of the best subject gateways.

The mother of educational gateways is aptly named GEM (Gateway to Educational Materials). Year after year, almost daily, I visit GEM for instructional inspiration. The highly selective, meticulously indexed database addresses all subjects and grade levels. It recently hit a milestone of 25,000 records, lessons, activities, databases, and curriculums organized into units. I asked Marilyn Tickner, GEM project representative, for a taste of some of the material added to the database this year. She shared a couple of true gems from the vast library.

The impressive Cybersmart! School Program, which is found at, presents 65 standards-based lesson plans with accompanying activity sheets and posters to help teach effective, responsible Internet use. The online and offline activities are organized into five units - safety, manners, advertising, research and technology - and designed for grades K-8.

FREE: Federal Resources for Educational Excellence, at, a rich gateway itself, is the result of a collaboration among 50 institutions and federal agencies - including the Kennedy Center, the National Gallery, the White House, and the Library of Congress - making hundreds of federally funded education resources conveniently and freely available.

Although I highly advise frequent trips to GEM, there are other teacher gateways too good to miss.

No matter what discipline you teach, Marco Polo, at, is an essential bookmark. Its six major sections include no-cost, standards-based educational content developed by national experts.

EconEdLink offers lessons, current events, case studies, and a teaching guide in economics.

Xpeditions, by National Geographic, includes an atlas of printable maps, an engaging interactive learning museum, and a group of fabulous lessons.

EDSITEment gathers "the best of the humanities on the Web" divided among art and culture, literature and language arts, foreign language, and history and social studies.

Science NetLinks includes Internet-based lessons, accompanied by online work sheets, and a solid collection of annotated Web sites organized in grid form by national standards and grade level.

The Kennedy Center's ARTS-EDGE features interdisciplinary lessons, links, and ideas for integrating art into classroom teaching.

Illuminations features I-Math Investigations - interactive multimedia math activities based on a group of cool interactive math applets, lesson plans, a table of more than 1,000 "carefully reviewed Internet math resources," and video vignettes and activities designed to encourage reflection on the practice of teaching mathematics.

Blue Web'n, at , has an online library of more than 1,200 sites, which appears in a convenient matrix and allows quick access by subject, grade level and format to outstanding content: lessons, Web-based activities, proj-ects, hotlists and reference sites.

The WebQuest Matrix of Examples at , maintained by the father of the WebQuest model Bernie Dodge, offers another matrix highlighting models of these inquiry-based online learning activities, K-adult, in all subject areas.

And there is something new for WebQuest fans. Because not all WebQuests are created equal, Tom March, who was at San Diego State University for the birth of WebQuests and thinks of himself as the "crazy uncle" of the model, recently launched Best, at , celebrating what March considers best practice. March's highly selective new gateway features only lessons that involve higher-level thinking and "require students to transform what they have learned."

Education World, at , offers a rich library of 500,000 articles, practical advice and lesson plans, and now has great back-to-school ideas with special tips for first-year teachers and substitutes.'s educator guides consistently offer reliable practical content and selected links for elementary educators at and for secondary educators at

For a more thorough (and clickable) list of teacher gateways, visit

Joyce Kasman Valenza is the librarian at Springfield High School in Erdenheim, Pa. Her column appears every other week in Her e-mail address is

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