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Some Questions for Scitable
August 1, 2010 - 6:28pm

Have you checked out Scitable, a free online teaching/learning portal combining peer reviewed articles and teaching materials with social networking features? Scitable has an interesting funding model, relying on an NPR approach of underwriting as opposed to advertising or subscriptions to pay for the service. Scitable's mission is to spread science literacy, and increase the number of people who choose science as a career, by making high quality science learning resources available online through a robust and flexible platform. High quality science content (including articles, illustrations, and videos) that can be easily integrated into a learning management system (LMS), or utilized as a standalone website.

Scitable does not seem to be a substitute for traditional textbooks. Rather, Scitable can be utilized as a supplement, easily allowing instructors to add peer-reviewed Web based materials to the course curriculum.

I was hoping you would take a minute to go register for Scitable (it's free and fast), and explore the site a little bit so that we could discuss the following questions:

1. Multimedia: In going through the topics I came across some great short animations. I could easily see wanting to utilize these animations if I were teaching a class related to genetics. What I could not figure out is a way to embed or link the animations as separate learning chunks. Nor could I easily find the animations in one place. It seems that the design of Scitable requires that the student go through the entire learning path to get to the animations. If the goal of Scitable is purely educational, wouldn't it make sense to desegregate the animations (and graphics), and allow instructors and students to use them in the way they would like?

2. Terms of Use: Scitable gives extensive Terms of Use. What I'm trying to figure out is why Scitable does not place all its materials under a Creative Commons license? It seems like one of the CC licenses would be appropriate for the non-commercial restrictions that Scitable would legitimately what to enforce.

3. Distribution: I'm wondering why Scitable does not disaggregate its content and place it all up on existing learning platforms, with robust branding and CC copyright restrictions etc. Media could go up on YouTube/EDU and iTunesU. Content could be linked to repositories like MERLOT. Some people would want to use the full structure, navigation, and social features of Scitable, but others would want to pick and choose materials and grab them from various places.

4. Mobile: Is there an iPad version of Scitable's Learning Paths? The iPad is one of those areas where the aggregated and complete model of Scitable would seem to work of the disagregated and loose model that seems appropriate for the web.

The 4 questions above I think could apply to any educational publisher. Scitable has a different funding model (the NPR underwriting model), but what makes sense for Scitable would also make sense for Pearson or McGraw-Hill. We need to figure out ways to break out of vertical silos, finding and using content chunks in creative ways. I want students to be able to take publisher made animations and create their own mash-ups and videos. Scitable and the publishers would benefit from getting their material in as wide a circulation as possible, broken into small chunks, with rights permissions that allow learners to create and share with the materials.

What would you ask Scitable?


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