New Web service makes homework help a quick click away

November 29, 2002|by LISA TEDRICK PREJEAN

Got homework?

Get Live Homework Help - online.

That's the message being sent by Maryland Public Libraries to students in fourth through 12th grade.

The online service from connects students to tutors in math, science, social studies and English via the Internet.

The tutors, who are available every day from 2 p.m. to midnight, are certified teachers, college professors, professional tutors and graduate school students from across the country.

You can connect to the service at Washington County Free Library, at any branch library site in the county or at home by accessing the library's Web site at


"I would certainly like to see it used as much as possible," says Jeff Ridgeway, children's librarian at Washington County Free Library.

My 7-year-old has been wanting to access the site ever since he got a library bookmark advertising it.

"If only I were in fourth grade," he lamented.

So I told him we could access it together and tell other people what it's like.

We got on the library's Web site and clicked on Live Homework Help @ We were asked to enter our ZIP code, select a subject and grade level.

Tip No. 1: I had difficulty accessing the site in Outlook Express but was able to get through in Netscape.

Our tutor's name was Bob. (Tutors are identified only by their first names.)

While typing a question, I received a pop-up from Bob: "If you are typing a long question, you should hit enter now so I can read the beginning while you finish."

Tip No. 2: You may want to hit enter - or return - after each sentence.

I identified myself as a journalist, asked for a sample walk-through and requested that a tutor answer a question from my son.

Bob gave us an illustration of the white board, where tutors and students can draw freehand or type. Both parties are able to see and add to the results. Tutors also have an equation tool and tools for drawing boxes and circles.


Bob said he receives a variety of math and science questions.

"The math problems I usually can work through with the students. The science problems sometimes I find Web sites for," he explained.

I asked him my son's question, "Why does the base of candle's flame contain the color blue?"

He responded: "That's because the blue gases are actually hotter than the yellow and orange ones. When a gas heats up, it goes from colorless to red, orange, yellow and then blue."

My son thought the instant response was pretty neat but was even more impressed when a Web site, hand-picked by Bob, suddenly opened on our screen.

"This is a great science site," he wrote while the site,, was loading.

The tutor's responses are printable from the tutorial screen if you're using an IBM-compatible computer, but not on a Macintosh.

Tip No. 3: If you have a Mac, download and install the print module on the log-in page prior to connecting to the tutor. There is also a voice module. If you install that, you can talk directly to the tutor.

To disconnect, click on the end session button at the top right of the screen. Sessions last up to 20 minutes.

After the session is complete, a survey will ask for your impressions, if your question was answered and whether you would recommend the site to a friend.

"I would just say that I think this is a great resource for students," Bob wrote. "I wish something like this had been available when I was in school."

Live Homework Help is being made available for 12 months through Maryland Library Partnership with funding provided by the Institute for Museum and Library Services LSTA grant funds and through the Maryland State Department of Education Division of Library Development and Services.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at

The Herald-Mail Articles