Internet Reviews

Joni R. Roberts; Carol A. Drost


ArcGIS. Access: http://www.arcgis.com/.

John Repplinger, Willamette University. jrepplin@willamette.edu

ArcGIS is a free, cloud-based mapping system by Esri that has been publicly available since 2010. It is fairly easy to use and is applicable for virtually any field of research with a need for a map. Users can sign up for a free account and have up to 2 GB of online storage space, which is an adequate amount of space for nonspecialists. Advanced users can upgrade to annual subscriptions with increased storage space and upload limits.

The central feature of ArcGIS is the ability to create new maps by adding to pre-existing base maps. There are nine base maps of the world that include high-quality satellite imagery, abstract street maps with geographic labels, and topographic maps with elevation and labeled terrain. Similar to Google Maps or Google Earth, a search box quickly navigates users to specific locations by a simple keyword search or ZIP Code.

Many organizations, like the USGS, provide map layers for free in standard GIS formats (e.g., .kml and .cvs), which can be either uploaded from a computer or linked directly through a URL. Maps can even incorporate spreadsheet data from external sources (e.g., Google Drive) to create maps that are easy to update. ArcGIS also contains pre-existing content, a map gallery, featured maps, and groups that people can join to learn about mapping techniques or to simply share map projects.

There are many ways to share maps, including using a simple URL or embedding maps directly into Web sites. ArcGIS also supports some innovative interactive Web apps that bring maps to life, such as the time awareness app and the swipe tool app that allow users to view changes over time.

There is a slight learning curve, and terminology may be confusing to novice users, but a help section with adequate definitions and directions is available on the main navigation bar of each page. One criticism of ArcGIS is that the basic tools for adding points or labels to specific locations or lines for roads are hidden under “Add Map Notes”; the toolbar should be available when beginning new maps. Overall, this resource is suggested for novice as well as experienced mappers.

National Council on Disability. Access: http://www.ncd.gov/.

Colleen Lougen, SUNY-New Paltz, lougenc@newpaltz.edu

Formed in 1978, the National Council on Disability (NCD) is “an independent federal agency charged with advising the President, Congress, and other federal agencies regarding policies, programs, practices, and procedures that affect people with disabilities.” The “About Us” section of the Web site offers substantial information about NCD’s mission and a detailed history—complete with council and staff directory—strategic plan, and authorizing statute, which provides more specifics about the agency and its charge.

The NCD site is well-organized and easy to navigate. A toolbar at the top of the page contains links to a substantial number of documents that NCD has generated in the past 32 years, including current news releases about NCD and its activities, the agency’s publications, and its bylaws.

When browsing through NCD’s publications and policy briefs, researchers may find searching for information by policy area the more effective approach, rather than accessing materials from the top toolbar under “Publications & Policy Briefs,” which organizes publications strictly by date. The “NCD Policy Areas” section is located on the left-hand toolbar of the site and provides streamlined access to policy briefs and various NCD publications arranged by topic such as “Civil Rights,” “Education,” “Emergency Management,” and “Health Care.” For example, when one clicks on the “Health Care” policy area, it furnishes a chronological list of NCD publications related to health care, such as the “NCD Statement on the President’s FY14 Budget,” “Letter to the President after the Newtown Tragedy,” and “Analysis and Recommendations for the Implementation of Managed Care in Medicaid and Medicare Programs for Peoples with Disabilities.”

The strength of the site is its currency, which enables researchers to keep up to date with news about the organization and the disabilities field, specifically the issues of public policy and how these policies affect people with disabilities. An important and useful feature of the Web site is the “Subscribe to NCD Updates” e-mail service, through which a researcher can receive e-mail updates whenever content is added to the site. There is also a basic search box available on the homepage, as well as links to major social media tools, such as Facebook and Twitter. This resource is invaluable for researchers, policymakers, and individuals monitoring and working in the disabilities and public policy fields.

National Museum of American History. Access: http://americanhistory.si.edu/.

Wendell G. Johnson, Northern Illinois University, wjohnso1@niu.edu

The Web site of the National Museum of American History—the Kenneth E. Behring Center of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.—is a wonderful resource for K–12 teachers as well as education students studying curriculum development. The homepage of the National Museum provides links to numerous virtual “Exhibitions,” such as “Fast Attacks and Boomers: Submarines in the Cold War.” This exhibit offers teachers and student researchers information on nuclear submarines at work, with links to weapons systems, construction of the ships, life aboard the ship (eating and leisure), and how the ships operate (periscopes, navigation, fire control, etc.).

Most helpful is the “Educators” link located on the top righthand side of the homepage above the tool bar. This link leads to the Smithsonian’s “History Explorer,” which is a fantastic resource. Visitors to the “History Explorer” can filter material by resource type (primary resources, reference materials, worksheets), grade level (K–2, 3–5, 6–8, 9–12), and historical era (“Beginnings to 1620” or “1850–1877”). For example, using these filters, a researcher is able to retrieve a lesson plan dealing with the Battle of Bull Run for grades 6 to 8. The lesson plan, based on the award-winning young adult novel Bull Run by Paul Fleischman, includes background information for the teacher, instructional strategies, and activities for the students. The lesson plan also refers to specific National Standards, in this case, Historical Thinking Standard 4 (Historical Research Capabilities) and United States History Standards: Era 5 (Civil War and Reconstruction).

The National Museum of American History is a treasure trove of multimedia resources. “Investigate History with the 39 Clues” provides an interactive field trip through American history. The homepage contains the link “This Day in History” which shows that the site is updated daily. For instance, on May 2, 1863, Stonewall Jackson was killed by friendly fire at the Battle of Chancellorsville and May 3 marks the anniversary of the incorporation of Washington, D.C., in 1802. A visitor to the homepage can also find contact information, information about the Smithsonian, a site map, and an interactive search screen. Not only teachers and students but also lifelong learners will find this resource of interest.

Copyright 2013© American Library Association

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