Homework help at the click of a mouse

School: Internet-savvy students can find study assistance online through several sites set up by county teachers and librarians.

Education Beat

News from Harford County schools and colleges

September 04, 2005|By Cassandra A. Fortin | Cassandra A. Fortin,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

When Ashleigh Dueker settles down with her homework, the last thing she wants to do is read a textbook.

If given a choice between a book or a computer, the Fallston High School senior chooses the computer, in part because she can work on homework with friends online.

"At night, all the teens around Fallston are on AOL Messenger and we don't have time to sit and read a book all night," Ashleigh said.

In an effort to accommodate today's technology-savvy kids, Harford County public school teachers and librarians offer a growing number of Web sites that provide students with homework help, as well as additional resources to reinforce daily lessons.

Ashleigh, 17, uses www. quia.com, which offers help for French students.

"[It] allows me to study online doing games and quizzes, and answer my friends when they have a question for me at instant messaging," she said. "Kids today multitask. We all do it. There's too much going on and we have so much to get done, we have to do more than one thing at a time. We need to know exactly what we need to study and being able to go online and find out makes studying so much easier."

Fallston High French teacher Kimberly Smith said she purchased an annual subscription to Quia for $50. Students can access the site from any computer. Smith sets up games and lesson plans for her classes. And since its inception at the end of last year, the resource seems to be making a difference. Ashleigh's classmates who use the site said they are noticing a decrease in study time and an improvement in grades.

"The kids can go to the site and find everything they need to study for the quizzes and tests," Smith said. "They can do vocabulary and even review with flashcards. I change it all the time so they don't get bored with it."

Kevin Ellis, 17, said the daily changes help motivate him to study.

"Quia has helped my grades in French, and I wish more teachers would use similar programs," Kevin said. "In other classes, if we miss a day we have to get a note and meet with the teacher to see what we have to do. In French, we just go to the site and it's all there. You don't have to worry that you missed anything."

Kristin Lazzeri, 17, a senior at Fallston High said Quia has decreased her study time.

"Instead of studying everything in a chapter, we know exactly what to study, and once we know it, we're done," Kristin said.

Classmate Martin Gesheff, 17, said: "I was to the point where I had to read the chapters at least two times. Now I get it the first time on Quia, and it gives me more time for my other work."

Quia isn't the only online resource available to Harford secondary students. By next month, all schools will offer Edline, a data-management program that contains individual school information and enables teachers to download and post information to help students with their lessons.

C. Milton Wright High math teacher Phil Snyder said the county's subscription to ed line.com gives access to middle and high schools.

Students log on to the site with an access code and user name. Then they can access links in several subjects including math, history, science and geography. Some teachers are putting links and homework information on the site.

"The teachers can download documents into the system, which helps cut down on their copying time," Snyder said. "They no longer have to spend a long time reviewing in class for tests. Now they can put the review information online and post important dates and other information for their classes."

And students can check their progress. Parents and students will receive access codes that will enable them to check grades and missed assignments.

In addition to the school-based programs, Snyder recommends students use the Homework Help site accessed through the library Web site.

Jane Eickhoff, associate director of Harford County Public Library, said one of the most popular features of Homework Help is tutor.com, a site run by the New York City-based company of the same name. Tutor.com enables students in grades three to 12 to connect with tutors, teachers and librarians to get homework questions answered.

"If a student needs to know the population of Mozambique, they can ask here for an answer," Eickhoff said. "They don't have to wait for answers, they can get them right away."

Even textbook companies are catering to kids' inclination to be on the computer. According to Snyder, many textbook companies have Web sites listed in their books that offer students additional work with their daily lessons.

"Math is an area a lot of kids need help with," Eickhoff said.

And for those kids who prefer to hit the books, schools continue to offer peer tutoring.

"When I know a kid is having problems, I have them see me after class or before school," Snyder said. "When they need more than that, we get them a peer tutor. We are doing whatever we can to help the kids learn, whether it's on a computer or at a desk."

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