An article on the same topic appeared in the October 1997 Classroom Connect Newsletter. But now, Hazel Jobe has taken the subject and expanded on it to give us a great current resource for teachers, parents, and students.
Homework has long been the standard for helping children to review and apply the skills they have learned, prepare for the next day's class, become familiar with reference materials, and reinforce the learning that takes place in the classroom. Homework is also an activity that helps students develop good work habits, learn to work independently, and manage time wisely. Improved student learning and academic success are the results of a common effort between children, parents, and teachers. Homework is often the link that brings these together. But far beyond the reach of the classroom, students who successfully complete homework assignments are more likely to develop such life skills as responsibility, self-discipline, and a love of learning.
Teachers have always encouraged students to use libraries, reference materials, and encyclopedias for homework help. With the ratio of computers to students in the classroom and the home rising every day, students everywhere are turning to the Internet for help with their homework. But is the Internet the best place for this kind of help? The answer is yes and no! If a homework assignment is open-ended, such as gathering information for a research paper, comparing and contrasting attitudes of teens in different countries, or testing a thesis, then the Internet is the place to go. But if the homework assignment only requires one to read a specific chapter from a textbook and answer the questions at the end, then the Internet isn't going to be very helpful.
The Internet offers tons of information on almost any topic imaginable. And technology makes it easily accessible to anyone with a computer and a modem. However, sifting through all this information can be a little daunting for even the most experienced Internet user. Here are a few tips for helping your students find the reliable, useful information they need quickly and efficiently.
A good place to start is one of the tried and true homework help sites that are readily available. These sites have done the preliminary work by categorizing a host of links into subject areas. Many of them also categorize by grade level.
The Homework Help site has been around for a long time, but it's still as useful to students today as when it was created. Homework Help gives students the opportunity to ask questions of teachers and receive an answer within twenty-four hours. All major subject areas and a section on elementary topics are available. Included is a host of Web resources categorized by subject area.
Big Chalk's HomeworkCentral has student resources categorized by subject and sorted by elementary, middle school, and high school levels. Students can search by keyword and grade level, or choose a resource type from the pull-down menu. Included is an excellent Study Helpers section with links to information on everything from study habits to oral presentations to personal skills and career planning.
The Library has always been a good place to go for homework help.
But the library doesn't necessarily keep the same hours as
youngsters. Many of the reference materials that students are
accustomed to using can be found in an online version that is
available even if the library is closed. Aside from Classroom
Connect's own subscription-based library at http://www.classroom.com/library/library.jhtml,
a handful of the best sites are:
CIA, the World Factbook
The World Wide Web Virtual Library
The Virtual Reference Desk
Visiting the library at odd hours for homework help isn't out of the question, especially when it's an online virtual library! The Internet Public Library (IPL) http://ipl.sils.umich.edu/ has a deep database of over 35,000 Internet resources that have been chosen and evaluated by librarians. Students can browse the collections including Reference, Exhibits, Newspapers and Online Text, or click on the Youth or Teen icons to be transported to a section designed just for them. They will find a directory of resources that are organized by subject areas and hand-selected for appropriateness by librarians.
Although it's not a library, Fact Monster offers younger students a fully searchable database of reference materials on just about every subject, plus homework help in a fun environment. It is part of the Infoplease site, which offers a huge number of reference materials including Encyclopedia, Dictionary, Almanacs, and Homework Help on English, math, history, geography, science, and social studies.
There are also various homework sites that specialize in a particular subject area. If students are looking for help with their math or science homework, point them toward StudyWorks! Online. Created especially for students in grades 7-12, StudyWorks provides a "Collaboratory" where students can post their homework questions. Or you may want to reserve your own forum where you can post materials for your class and provide homework help for your own students. Students of all ages, elementary to college and beyond, can search the archives, browse the FAQs (frequently asked questions), or post their own question and get a personal answer at the Math Forum's Ask Dr. Math.
The Internet is the world's largest repository of research materials. Whether your students are looking for information on Antigua or Zimbabwe, they're sure to find it here. Going online to do research can be a frustrating experience without the proper skills for finding the needed information quickly and efficiently. By following these three easy steps, your students will be locating information like a pro.
Research-It! is a comprehensive research site that includes library, geographical, language, financial, and shipping and mailing tools for finding just about anything you want on the Web.
If your students are new to searching and need to hone their skills to get them up to speed, point your older students to Seven Steps Toward Better Searching or KidsClick! Worlds of Web Searching for the younger set. Both are excellent searching tutorials that are quick and easy to complete.
Once your students have mastered the art of finding relevant information, they must learn to evaluate it for validity. With all the HTML editors available today, it is easy for anyone with a computer and an Internet connection to publish on the Internet. Just because information is published doesn't mean it is accurate, current, and unbiased. Here are two excellent sites with guides to critical evaluation. The American Library Association's How to Tell if You Are Looking at a Great Website lists criteria to look for in a great web site in each of four different categories: authorship/sponsorship, purpose, design and stability, and content. And Kathy Schrock at the Discovery School site provides Web site evaluation tools for elementary, middle school, and high school.
Now that the information has been located and evaluated, it's time to compile it into a research paper. A great guide to help your students is IPL's A+ Research and Writing, which offers a step by step guide for researching and writing a paper, a guide to searching for information, and related Web links. Another excellent resource is Researchpaper.com, where students will find writing ideas, discussion areas, and a writing center for improving their writing skills.
Next comes the bibliography! Internet sources, just like any other, must be cited. The format is a little different from print sources. Classroom Connect's Citing Internet Sources and Binghamton University Library have all the information needed for correct citations. And just to make the research a little easier, surf on over to Noodle Tools, where you'll find interactive tools that will not only help you define your search strategy and find the most relevant sources, but will also help you create a bibliography in MLA style.
Don't overlook the power of the Internet as a communication tool. This widely used aspect of the Net can help with homework by connecting students to experts and their peers around the world for information and feedback. ePALS.com claims to be "the world's largest online classroom community." This site can be viewed in six languages and connects almost four million students and teachers in 191 countries. With instant language translation, you can have your students collaborate, share with, and learn from students around the world by creating free monitored email accounts, a safe password-protected chat room, or use the moderated discussion boards.
The Net also provides access to many volunteers who are experts in their fields and who are willing to answer questions from students. Pitsco's Ask an Expert site can put students in touch with experts in more than a dozen categories. Students can simply choose the category or search by keyword to find an expert. When they have decided which expert to contact, it is recommended that they pay a visit to the expert's Web site and look through the FAQs to see if they can find an answer before sending in their questions. The typical response time is one week.
The Net is not only a repository of resources and a great communication tool, but it can also provide you with the most up-to-the-minute information available. Is the homework topic current events, weather, or the latest census statistics? Many newspapers and other news sources keep their Web sites updated throughout the day. Students can keep up with the latest happenings around the world by accessing MSNBC, CNN, or The New York Times. For younger students, try Time for Kids. Intellicast provides the most current weather conditions around the world and offers more than 250,000 pages of weather information. CAUTION: Always prescreen sites before sending your students to them. News sources, in particular, may contain items that are sensational or adult in content, or these sources may link to sites that are unsuitable for children.
With increasing bandwidth and improvements in technology, Webcams have become a popular way for students to see live views of distant places twenty-four hours a day. Just visit Leonard's Cam World or Webcamsearch for an extensive list of cams that are positioned around the world. CAUTION: Always prescreen sites before sending your students to Webcams; these sites may contain adult content or links that are unsuitable for children.
Teachers generally agree that a few rules will help students to develop the kind of study habits that will benefit them for years to come. Here are a few that will serve your students well, whether using the Internet or not.
In the last couple of years, the Web has exploded with a number of homework help sites that are available to students. Besides those included in this article, here are some of the best to get students started.
The Amish: Frequently Asked Questions
Ask a Bird Expert
Ask a Broker/Banker
Ask a Chemist
Ask a Technology Teacher
Ask Dr. Math
Academy of American Poets
Bartleby.com: Great Books Online
The Quotations Page
Mark Twain in His Times
Uncle Tom's Cabin & American Culture
Internet Educational Workbook (INEW)
Professor Freedman's Math Help
Cool Science for Curious Kids
Enter Evolution: Theory & History
Environmental News Network
Genetic Science Learning Center
Greatest Engineering Achievements of the 20th Century
I Can Do That!
Periodic Table ADventure
American Slave Narratives
Ben's Guide to U.S. Government for Kids
Colonial Kids: A Celebration of Life in the 1700s
The Real Thirteen Days