My son suggested I end the year with a "Best of..." column, pointing out how quickly I could write it (since they are out of school). But choosing from the more than 200 Web sites reviewed this year was a difficult task. I chose these five not because they scored the most points on a rigid grading scale, but because they represent the many things that make the Internet a great educational tool. Each is compelling in its own way, and for its own reasons. Have a great New Year!
These ten fun, fishy games are not just for kids, I had to pry myself away from them. Try throwing a pie in the face of Punchcard Pete without hitting the swimming fish (in Fish!). Or play the familiar Connect the Dots. I also enjoyed their variation of Concentration (the Memory Matching Game), where each fish animates differently. There are a few games here that involve words (like Hangman), but the majority of them can be enjoyed by preschoolers as well as their older siblings.
"Once upon a time, when men wore powdered wigs and rode in gilded carriages, a baby boy was born in the beautiful town of Salzburg. The little boy's name was Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophillus Amadeus Mozart. Can you imagine writing that on the top of your paper in school?" Thus begins the whimsical, musical biography of Wolferl (for short). Liberally sprinkled with audio clips, this outstanding story reminds me of those Play-a-Sound children's books with sound buttons for each character. This click-and-play biography is a must-see site for kids of all ages. Bravo!
"Congratulations, zoo keeper. Your zoo is about to receive its first-ever Siberian tiger. He's being moved to your zoo by the Siberian Tiger Species Survival Plan, a group of zookeepers trying to save the big cats by breeding them in zoos. There aren't many of these special animals left in the wildâ€”only about 400â€”and your mission is to make sure this one thrives in his new zoo home." This interactive story is an example of what makes the Net great. Come play zoo keeper and help prepare your zoo for the arrival of your Siberian tiger.
Ask an Expert is like a Yellow Page directory of experts, listing more than three hundred volunteers able to answer questions from artificial intelligence to zoo keeping. Click your way through twelve categories to find your subject matter (for example, under Science and Technology I found seven astronomers). To avoid bothering the volunteers with repeat questions, you should first review each expert's Web page, where you just might find the answer you are looking for. If not, you can email your question directly to the expert. Bookmark this site.