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Resources for Back to School – NLM’s Online Playground

Posted by on August 9th, 2017 Posted in: Blog


When I was a teacher, the days leading up to the end of August would cause me to experience a range of emotions. Knowing that the freedom of the summer would soon be over, made me sad. Conversely, anticipation about new opportunities for learning, new students and colleagues to get to know, and having a shiny classroom and brand new supplies would make me excited. In my current position as an Education and Outreach Coordinator for the New England Region of the NNLM, I am excited to share some educational resources from NLM that are very useful, in or out of the classroom.

Whether you are an educator, teacher, student or parent, there are free NLM resources that can foster learning of all kinds and for all ages. This post will focus on a few key resources for K-12 learning.

The current topics of “Fake News,” and “Alernative Facts” that have become part of our present-day vocabulary provide an opportunity to promote the use of NLM resources as a productive way to begin learning about a new topic, and a smart way to start a research project. NLM resources are trusted resources because they are written by experts, the information presented is peer-reviewed, NLM sites are updated on a regular basis, and advertising is not allowed on any NLM resource.

The MedlinePlus website, https://medlineplus.gov/ which is collaborative effort from the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health, offers information about 750 health topics, a dictionary, medical encyclopedia, news, and directories to find physicians. MedlinePlus is written in simple language, for a consumer audience.  Each page of the website is translated into Spanish and depending on the page, there are an additional 40 languages that the information is translated into.

If you are looking to teach students about how to evaluate online health information, MedlinePlus offers a helpful tutorial about what to consider. Many high school and post-secondary classes that use internet resources may find a MedlinePlus tutorial on website evaluation a valuable first step in the process of learning about a specific health or medical topic. The information provided in the tutorial is presented in different formats. The tutorial can be viewed and heard as a video https://medlineplus.gov/webeval/webeval.html  or accessed in written format, https://medlineplus.gov/evaluatinghealthinformation.html, MedlinePlus also offers a link to a useful website evaluation tool called “Trust it or Trash it” http://www.trustortrash.org/ that can be printed as a handout and used as part of a lesson on how to evaluate internet websites. There is also an abbreviated version of the tutorial,  https://medlineplus.gov/healthywebsurfing.html that could be used as a review tool for students already familiar with this information.  MedlinePlus has a Children’s page ttps://medlineplus.gov/childrenspage.html and a Teen page https://medlineplus.gov/teenspage.html.  The suggested topics that are related and the links to more information is a very useful feature, especially for children and teens. MedlinePLus does a nice job suggesting additional subject matter to look at and language used on these pages is age appropriate.

PubMed, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/,  NLM’s most well-known product, is a database of indexed citations and abstracts to medical, nursing, dental, veterinary, health care and preclinical sciences journal articles. PubMed is an excellent resource for high school juniors and seniors to locate articles for research about health topics, especially if the students are taking AP classes or if they plan to pursue a post-secondary education in any of the health sciences. PubMed through its tutorials, can also teach students how to start a health-related research project. Some of the articles from a PubMed search may cost money to access.  However, an alternative that can be used to locate free, full-text articles on topics, is PubMed Central https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/.  Another PubMed product, PubMed Health, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/ is a great place to locate information about “hot topics in the media” of interest to teens, such as obesity and mental health.  When PubMed Health highlights a news article, it also provides the source of the news story, what type of research was conducted, whether the research involved animals or humans, and a summary of the research results. Take a glance at the PubMed Health resource, England’s Behind the Headlines service from the National Health Service https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/feed/rss.cgi?ChanKey=BehindTheHeadlines, that contains a section about how to read health news critically.

As a new school year begins, consider sharing these helpful, educational resources with your favorite teacher or student. Would your organization benefit from knowing more about NLM resources? NNLM offers free training classes. Those of us who promote and provide training for these resources are available to provide your organization with training for any of the resources we offer.

Image of the author ABOUT Susan Halpin
I am a former health and wellness educator who joined the NNLM NER in August of 2016, Excited to be promoting the excellent resources developed by the NLM and to provide training for anyone who would like to access the free and trusted information the NLM offers.

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This has been funded in whole or in part with Federal funds from the Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine, under cooperative agreement number UG4LM012347 with the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

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