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November 19, 2008
Nov. 19 -- Things just became a lot better -- and easier -- for students and educators nationwide. Shodor, a non-profit organization based in Durham, has rolled out a major redesign and upgrade of its award-winning Web site to make it easier to navigate and explore its freely available resources that improve learning across the United States. The Web site is located at www.shodor.org.
Shodor will have a formal announcement of the new Web site in Austin, Texas, this week as it leads several programs at SCO8, the International Conference for High Performance Computing, Networking, Storage and Analysis.
"We wanted to make a better portal to our online education tools," said Shodor founder Dr. Robert M. Panoff. "We also wanted to change the format so visitors to our site, whether they are students, educators or anyone exploring it, are more easily able to find all that they need."
Triangle area students working at Shodor as apprentices and interns played a part in redesigning the Web site, which garners about 3-million to 4-million page views per month.
Shodor's model of involving students in the design of its online tools is unique. "This is participatory learning at its best," Panoff said. "We spend time teaching best practices and then our students apply what they have learned to improve our own materials, making our resources easier to find and use."
Elizabeth Kelley, a sophomore at East Chapel Hill High School, was an apprentice working on a project setting up the monitoring infrastructure for the servers last summer. She and three other students were instrumental in this project for the new Web site.
"I worked on Nagios, which essentially monitors the activity and up-time of the various servers," she said.
Ada Taylor, currently a freshman at Durham Academy, was one of the apprentices also practicing her new skills on the project. "I've had a lot of great experiences at Shodor learning computer programming and modeling skills, communication and teaching skills, and teamwork and leadership skills, that help me in school now - and that I know will continue to be valuable in my education and whatever career I pursue in the future," she said.
Shodor serves students and educators in the Triangle and throughout the country, using scientific computing to improve math and science education. Its online tools such as Interactivate (www.shodor.org/interactivate) and the Computational Science Education Reference Desk (www.shodor.org/refdesk), a Pathway Portal of the National Science Digital Library, help transform learning through computational thinking.
In addition to developing and deploying interactive models, simulations and educational tools, Shodor serves students and educators directly through workshops and other hands-on experiences. Shodor offers innovative workshops helping faculty and teachers incorporate computational science into their own curricula or programs.
For Triangle students from middle school through undergraduate levels of education, Shodor offers workshops, apprenticeships, internships and off-site programs that explore new approaches to math and science education through interactive computing.
"Before our redesign, visitors to our Web site -- particularly new users -- may have had to hunt a bit to find what they were looking for," Panoff explained. "Now at your fingertips, you can find what you need, whether you're looking for the most basic information about Shodor or searching for an online tool that will demonstrate probability to your class in an interactive way," he added.
Kaitrin Wilson, a senior communications major at East Carolina University, is an intern at Shodor and was one of the players who helped rebuild the Web site.
"I don't think many people realize just how much work goes into a redesign for a Web site as massive as Shodor's," she said. "I know I had no idea until I was a part of it."
"It's going to be so much easier to navigate, and people will be able to take full advantage of all the great resources Shodor has to offer."
Shodor is located in the Durham Centre in the downtown area. The organization was founded by Panoff in 1994.
Longtime users of the Shodor site were quick to notice the new design.
"I just had a quick look at the site and can already say that the new format is much easier to use and find things," said Marian Houseman, a K-8 Independent Learners teacher at St. Pius X School in Urbandale, Iowa, where she noticed the changes. "I just happened to be looking for some ideas and resources to use with a group of gifted middle school students in science and math, and I think some of the activities you have under the curriculum link for that group will provide exactly what I need. This is great!"
To arrange an interview with Panoff or to speak to those who directly rebuilt the site, contact Mary Paisley, Communications Coordinator, at 919-452-5334 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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