New Web site offers education resources With the 2002-2003 school year under way, the state Department of Education and Cultural Affairs proudly launches a new Internet portal that no other state matches for what it offers to South Dakota's school children, teachers and parents.
"We hope SDEdWeb becomes a favorite place for every family, every classroom and every library in South Dakota," state
Education Secretary Ray Christensen said. "It's quality. It's safe. It's free and it's truly grassroots, not driven from the top down. It's the doorway to tens of thousands of the best educational web sites in the nation and the world, and it will keep getting bigger and better as more people use it and suggest great new sites to add to it."
The Internet address is www.sdedweb.com and it offers three sets of searchable data bases specially designed for students, parents and educators. There are more than 66,000 links so far � 25,000 in the educator section, 30,000 in the parent section and 11,500 in the student section � and every one has been evaluated and recommended by a review team of 75 South Dakota parents and educators. The sites are from reputable sources and generally are free of advertising.
One of the SDEdWeb's features is the concept known as a thematic web page. "This site's potential goes beyond mere linking to web sites. There are collections of sites organized on common themes � from Abe Lincoln to weather. Many of these thematic pages were developed by South Dakota teachers," Otto Doll, commissioner for the state Bureau of Information and Telecommunications, said. "This is a rather neat concept. More than 70 have been put together so far, and SDEdWeb is put together in such a way that it welcomes our South Dakota teachers to add more of the thematic pages. That's something we really encourage."
Another feature allows users to suggest new sites for review and consideration to be added to its data bases. To help keep the thousands of selections current, a special function built into the system automatically searches for links no longer in operation, meaning that "broken" or "dead" links are removed from the data base as soon as they're discovered. That same feature also provides an assessment of a web site's accessibility for people with disabilities.
State education and technology staff spent the past two years assembling the SDEdWeb site and putting it through
extensive testing, including posting it live on the Internet so that it received a public test run. One of the things discovered during the testing process was the need for a program that would automatically search and find the "broken" or "dead" links. Once that function was ready this month, DECA and BIT were ready to start promoting SDEdWeb for general use.
The original idea came from Gov. Bill Janklow, who envisioned "a mega-site" where the best educational sites on the Internet could be brought together.
"There are so many good things out there, but you might not know about a site that I know about, or vice versa, and there's sites that neither of us knows about," Janklow said. "What we set out to do was create an easy way to share the good sites and weed out the others."
Families will find safe, on-line learning opportunities for children, as well as practical guidance to help parents in all areas of their children's physical, emotional and mental development. Teachers will find links to lesson plans, on-line activities, and resources that have been correlated to the South Dakota Content Standards. School administrators will find an index to web sites that support educational leadership.
One of the links connects kids to www.sdcybersafe.com where they are offered fun ways to learn about Internet safety.
State education officials are encouraging the use of SDEdWeb by distributing classroom posters to every teacher and all
public libraries. They have also asked schools to send a flyer home with students so that parents can learn more about SDEdWeb.
"This has incredible potential," Secretary Christensen said.
SDEdWeb users can quickly locate the information and resources they need with the site's customizable search menus or by browsing the site's Thematic Webpages page, which categorizes web site links by theme. Each of the web sites included was reviewed and rated on format, reliability, content, credibility, and objectivity.
For educators, SDEdWeb provides links to lesson plans, activities and other resources that help schools meet the state's content standards, as well as links to sites regarding professional development, school improvement, research and teacher tools.
K-12 students can search SDEdWeb by subject area and grade level to further research classroom subjects, to get assistance with homework, play educational games or simply to look for subjects that interest them.
SDEdWeb offers parents an index of Web sites designed to assist them with parenting. The index links them to information about everything from child growth and development to talking about tough issues.