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Art Chimes | Washington, DC 22 January 2010

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Time again for our Website of the Week, when we showcase interesting and innovative online destinations. Our web guide is VOA's Art Chimes.

This time it's an educational site where you can learn about one of the most fascinating areas of science today – genetics. It's designed for students and for people learning on their own, and it's got tools for making education a collaborative experience.
"Scitable is a home for anyone who wants to truly understand the science that they read about in the headlines. But it also pulls together into a single, global classroom all of the people around the world who are interested in learning science, so that they can collaborate with each other, they can teach each other, they can learn from each other. It's 21st century learning space," said Vikram Savkar, who heads the editorial team at Nature.com/Scitable. Scitable is a new project of the Nature Publishing Group, which of course is the parent company of Nature and other leading scientific journals.

The site was launched last year, and for now, is limited to genetics, but there are plans to expand to other disciplines. Scitable can serve as a supplement for students, whose textbooks often can't keep up with the latest science. And Savkar stresses that it's also a great tool for students who have limited resources.

"In many parts of the world, there aren't textbooks. Students don't have access to basic materials. And our goal there is to use the power of the Internet to put world class science education into their hands in a way they've never had access to before."

One big strength of Scitable is the ability to form groups – perhaps the members of a high school biology class can work together online, or older adults can use Scitable to find like-minded "lifelong learners" whose only connection with each other is through the website.

"Our goal is to create a global classroom where everybody who's interested in either teaching or learning the same science subject can become part of a collaborative community," said Savkar. "We've taken the social networking tools that we all know from Facebook and My Space and are designed for entertainment and brought them in to Scitable to achieve a very serious purpose – connecting people who know things and want to share them with people who don't know things but do want to."

To further extend the possibilities, Vikram Savkar says they're also working on a mobile version so you take your online school with you wherever you go.

Online learning about genetics from Nature.com/scitable, visit our site, VOAnews.com, for the link to this and hundreds of Other Websites of the Week.

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