Don’t Forget This Online Learning Resource For K – 12, and Students of All Ages

Khan Academy can help parents fill in the gap or students receive further work.

This is the clickthrough you see when you first log into khanacademy.org

Khan Academy is a free online learning site “… for students ages 2-18…” that is not a new resource, but, now that school is starting across the county, is especially relevant for school aged children and their parents. As you know, many students and their parents will be schooling from home, which will be new territory. While schools have worked hard to prepare students and families for the transition, any additional tools may be welcome by parents.

This is the home page; seen after the clickthrough shown above

KA is a non-profit, with significant funding from selected corporate sponsors, but does also solicit donations. I never found the solicitations inappropriate, intrusive, or negative in any way.

Signing up for your free account is easy and intuitive, and one interesting aspect is that there is no age limit for using the site. I signed up as an adult learner for a course in which I was interested, so the rest of this article will use my signup as an example:

Here is where I chose the course I wanted

I simply chose a course that interested me, clicked “continue”, and then I was taken to my dashboard:

My first day of school!

Once I clicked “start” this is what I saw:

This looks just like an online course for any school–nice!

I began by clicking the link for the first training, and a video lesson began:

A class that starts with a question.

This course so far was a serious course discussing political philosophy, with a teacher that appeared engaged, prepared and knowledgeable:

This guy is making serious blackboard notes!

One weakness here though, is that I have no idea who was teaching the course, and there was no obviously apparent way to find out.

In summary, this resource is free, covers many important subject areas for students of all ages, but in our case can be a great recommendation for our patrons to help supplement their schoolwork.

A Bit of Fun With Science

This post is more frivolous than my typical posts, but it is relevant to the department, as we have a small collection of various books on optical illusions.

If you remember the 90’s, you probably remember the craze of various companies creating 3-D images. One of the leading companies to offer prints, books and more was Magic Eye.

I’m not writing to promote their products, so click the link above or not. What I would encourage is for you to visit their free for all Image of the Week link to try out your eyeballs with some free 3-D images.

You just might feel the urge to drink some Crystal Pepsi while trying on those Hammer Pants to the dulcet sounds of Salt-N-Pepa or Oasis.

Have fun, and check out our optical illusion section in the 152s.

Slick Science Site For the Curious

Not every area on the website Inverse is relevant to our department…

…but as you can see above there are a few areas that focus specifically on some exciting, cutting edge science topics.

Just these two stories alone demonstrate the wide range of areas of science covered by the site.

Their mission appears to focus on covering some of the biggest stories relevant to science.

Also, like any self-respecting science site, there is plenty of video.

The NIH promises “Bite-sized research videos made just for you” on their Intramural Research Program site, SciBites

The National Institutes of Health has a site, curated by their Intramural Research Program that is designed to help us laypeople begin to understand some complicated science topics, such as cancer fighting cells in our bodies, circadian rhythm, our bodies cellular structures and more. They say all videos are under two minutes and feature actual researchers.

The site, SciBites, is easy to use, and features interesting topics. Here’s just one:

TN Vote by Mail Details

As you may have heard, a recent ruling was passed down to allow all voters in Tennessee to vote by mail, as you can read about here, here, and here.

While this is not necessarily our topic area, we will likely receive questions from patrons about this process and how they can go about requesting a mail in ballot.

Here is the link to the state site: TN attorney general.

There is a lengthy FAQ and a download of the form to fill out and send to the election commission.

Identify Plants With Your Phone

PlantNet is not only an app that you can get for your phone, but they also have a comprehensive website here @ Pl@ntNet Identify that covers all parts of the globe.

I regularly use the app on my phone for plant identification, and I have yet to be disappointed. I simply submit a picture to the app and it gives a list of possible matches. I can take a picture from within the app, use a picture already in my phone, or someone could even email or text me a picture and I can add it to the app for identification. I have been pleased with the ease of use and accuracy of the app, and recommend it to all gardeners.

You can find more information about the app here: https://plantnet.org/en/https://plantnet.org/en/

Gardening Expertise With a Click

The Seed Savers Exchange has an education component on their site that is full of all sorts of helpful information for gardeners, accessible for free with just a few clicks.

Just go to their site and look for the Learn link, and you’ll find a wealth of helpful information available.

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Of particular interest to us in this department is a detailed selection on seed saving. We can recommend this section to patrons wishing to help by donating to the seed library.

New Collaborative Effort from Stanford Internet Observatory and First Draft

I have written here before about the Stanford Internet Observatory, so consult the site and my article for more information. They have recently partnered with First Draft, which is a site that strives to assure that web content is accurate, timely and correctly attributed. Find out more on their about page:

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Together these two organizations have come up with attribution.news, “…a joint initiative to provide journalists with tools to effectively cover the origins of both cyber incidents and information operations.” (From Stanford’s blog post, cited below.)

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Stanford has a blog post about it here:

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The ultimate aim of this new site is to make vital information more accessible and more easily understandable and usable to journalists. When it comes to the internet and cyber-crime, more accurate information for journalists is a good thing for all of us.

Kaiser Family Foundation Provides Important Health Journalism

Right now we’re all thinking about one health issue in particular. We have also, for the past several years, been bombarded by messages, usually patently false, that we cannot trust the media. Well, to help sort through the mess and find good, solid information about health issues, you may be interested in an eminent organization that provides solid, nonpartisan journalism to report on health issues, and has been doing so for many years, the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The Foundation is an endowed organization that strives to provide information for free concerning health information.

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To provide a bit more of a succinct statement, here is their mission statement:

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Here is a small sample of some of the information they provide:

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Sometimes a story on the site will link to a different site where the article in full may be found, such as with this article that the KFF President and Chief Executive Officer wrote for the site Axios.

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More exploration is needed, but this site looks to be a great source of health and medical related journalism. I strongly suggest you check it out.

Audubon Society Advice on Birding

The Audubon Society has a whole sub-site on Birding, that you may find here.

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Before I dig into the site just a bit, you may be interested in taking a little time to read an article describing why birding is the perfect activity to undertake while practicing social distancing.

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OK, now that you have that out of your system, now you can go check out the introductory tasks of bird watching:

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There are many other steps to bird watching, as the site clearly demonstrates, but right now we have nothing but time. Go ahead, breach the opening to your dwelling to discover what ornithological wonders await you in your neighborhood.

Tech Support For Non-Profits

Non-profits have undoubtedly embraced technology in their mission to serve others.

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NTEN is an organization that strives to assist non-profits in more effectively achieving their goals through the use of technology.

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They provide training, conferences and a supportive community to help organizations achieve technological proficiency. Here’s a screenshot of some of their course offerings, which they label “deep dives on topics important to your work, led by nonprofit experts. You will gain real-world knowledge as well as receiving valuable feedback and advice.”

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The courses are not free, with each course running $125 for NTEN members and $250 for non-members. Joining appears pretty easy, and costs $99, but, as the below screenshot shows, it can slide down to as low as $25.

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There is much to explore on this site, and, since it is a pay site, not all local nonprofits will want to participate, but for many such a site as this could be exactly what they’re looking for.

Consumer Site With a Twist

Don’t Waste Your Money is a consumer advice site, similar to Wirecutter or Consumer Reports.

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The site does use a different tactic: they aggregate the reviews of several different well known consumer review sites, evaluate products on their own, and, where appropriate, they will even take into consideration the reviews of smaller, more niche sites, such as blogs and the like, if they feel the individuals involved have sufficient expertise in the product area. They use this information to compile a score they assign to the particular product being reviewed.

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Further down their about page they explain the process in more detail.

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Here are just some of the many products that they review.

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There are more than a few consumer review sites out there, and by all appearances this appears to be a legitimate one, that has the aforementioned twist of aggregating many other ratings from other sources.

Site For Small Business

Small Biz Daily is a site founded by three former writers for Entrepreneur magazine. From their about page:

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So they appear to have legitimate credentials for the task. The site overall appears sharp and reasonably clean, except for a fair amount of banner ads. The below screenshot is the home page with the banner ad blocked out.

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Around the banner ads there appears to be a fair amount of good articles on many topics important to entrepreneurs:

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The jury is still out on this site, but other than irritating banner ads it appears to be worth recommending to patrons.

Well Sourced Site For Counselor Education and Licensure Information

I can say from my experience in my previous profession as a counselor that finding information relevant to your particular training and licensure requirements can be confusing and daunting. Enter Counseling Degree Guide.
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There is a wealth of information on this site pertaining to various counseling concentrations, all the way from which degrees to pursue to how to become licensed.
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There is state specific information and all of the information appears to be sourced from legitimate sites.
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This site would be very helpful for someone looking for such information, and is relevant to our department.

Equip for Fighting Scams

The Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance has a site specific to scams. Scams Stop Here hosts a wealth of information to help identify, report and fight various scams attempting to rope in Tennessee consumers.

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The top of the home page includes a link to the TV commercial that some may find helpful. At the bottom of the home page you are given two choices:

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For this article I chose “What Should I Know?” which took me here:

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From this list I chose a topic that will be very hot in our department soon: tax fraud:

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If you take the second choice from the home page you’ll find yourself here:

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One of the perks of this page is a wealth of educational materials to help consumers spot and avoid fraud, and, if one has fallen victim to fraud, what they can do about it.

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There is much to explore on this site and much of it is directly applicable to our patrons. I encourage you to go check it out to see if it can prove useful to our patrons.

A Duty of Librarians in the 21st Century

As we all know, the internet has established itself as the primary source of information for most. As librarians, we love books, and hope they maintain their vitality in the future, but we are realistic: the internet will not be going away any time soon.

Therefore, we need to be as knowledgeable about the internet as we can be, and we need to work hard to assure that we share the best, most accurate information we can share regarding the internet, and that we can assist others in navigating it as well.

It has become abundantly clear that there are many in the world who wish to use the internet to decieve, and for many different purposes. Both for us today and for future generations we need to know how to vet the information we find on the internet to assure that we are receiving accurate, helpful information, and not falling for falsehoods, whatever the source, whatever the purpose.

To this end, the Stanford Digital Repository has published a report concerning the “digital evaluation” skills of students. The report is not good.

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Essentially, a vast majority of students scored poorly in skills needed to evaluate the accuracy of online content. This can have negative consequences on many fronts, as we rely on the information we regularly consume in order to guide many of our actions and decisions.

One tool developed to combat this digital illiteracy is also a Stanford initiative, the Stanford History Education Group.

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There is much to explore about this topic, and I hope to write more about it in the future, but for now, please take a bit of time to explore this site and the options it offers.

Health Account Spending

Did you know there is a site on which you can spend your health flex account money? Head on over to fsastore.org where everything on the site is eligible for spending with your FSA.

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Here is a link to their Optical store:

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Here are some tools to help you decide what you can buy with your FSA funds:

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Among many other features, you can buy certain bundles of related items.

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I did not end up personally using the site, but I may well use it in the future. It looks very, very handy, and if you use certain medical equipment regularly it can be a great way to purchase health-related items tax free.