Whatever happened to the idea that children should be able to do homework on their own? Forgotten, it would seem, what with the proliferation of Web sites designed to give students help, feedback, and answers to common homework questions. An article in today’s Business section of The New York Times, If You Can Click a Mouse You Can Help on Homework (subscription required), sifts through many of them:
My first experience into the world of homework help sites left me bewildered and frustrated. How to choose among them? The Discovery Channel offers Cosmeo.com, while AOL has StudyBuddy.com. Then there is HomeworkSpot.com along with Ask for Kids (www.askforkids.com). Also, NationalGeographic.com/homework, SparkNotes.com, FigureThis.org and GrowingStars.com.
By now, I needed www.massage.fast.
â€œThereâ€™s a lot of players getting into the mix, but itâ€™s a young industry and thereâ€™s not a lot of clearinghouses or evaluations,â€? said Don Knezek, chief executive of the International Society for Technology in Education, a nonprofit organization.
This is what I did sort out: there are two main differences in online help sites â€” those that allow a student to interact with a tutor through instant messaging and those that provide resources and techniques to help a student figure out answers to questions.
Some sites, like StudyBuddy, even provide feedback on a student’s writing within 20 seconds. According to StudyBuddy’s site, “Get your paper proofed BEFORE you turn it in for a grade. It’s free, fast and easy.”
In a five column article, I’m the only voice questioning the need for any such thing: “These Web sites are simply enabling a homework system without looking at whatâ€™s not working. In a way, I feel like weâ€™re setting our kids up for an awful lot of cheating.â€?