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Students benefit from Web-based homework helper

December 24, 2002|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

WASHINGTON COUNTY - A new Washington County Free Library-based computer tutoring program is helping area students with their homework.

Tutor.com, funded for a year through the Maryland State Department of Education, is an Internet-based homework helper linked through the library's Web site, www.wc-link.org/wcfl.

Although the program has been running for only a month through the library, Jeff Ridgeway, children's librarian and the library's Tutor.com project coordinator, said so far it seems to be drawing users.

Ridgeway said there have been problems tracking the number of Washington County students in grades four through 12 who are using the program because the county's numbers have gotten lumped in with those from Carroll County, Md.

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He hopes to find out how many county students are using the program out of the numbers he received.

Students using Tutor.com anonymously log onto the Web site and fill in their ZIP codes, the subjects in which they need help and their grade levels. They are connected with appropriate Tutor.com-screened tutors for 20-minute sessions.

Ridgeway said all of the tutors have college degrees, and a high percentage of them hold doctoral degrees.

The tutor sends the student written messages and diagrams to illustrate difficult concepts.

The subjects in which tutoring is offered are English, math, algebra, calculus, geometry, trigonometry, science, biology, chemistry, earth science, physics and social studies.

If students have questions in subjects not offered, the tutors will direct them to other Web sites to find answers.

Ridgeway said the library has a homework center that is a grouping of computers hooked up to the program. Students also can access the program from their home computers through the library's Web site.

Of the students accessing the site, more are doing so from home computers, he said.

California and Maryland are the only two states implementing the program through their county libraries, he said.

As a librarian, Ridgeway said he serves as an information specialist, but said his information is sometimes limited.

For example, he can help students with a math assignment, but not in the same way an algebra teacher could.

"I can get you a book, but I can't tell you what a quadratic equation is," he said.

Some private tutors use the library as a meeting place to help struggling students, but the library doesn't have its own tutors, he said.

Ridgeway said the library is moving toward a 24-hour reference service through which customers can access the library Web site and ask questions. He said he doesn't expect that to happen for another year.

"A library is a place where you store and retrieve information - the function of a library and the function of the Internet are the same," he said.

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