YA Clicks October 2007

Homework Help


October 2007

School is back in session, and it seems that every other question at the YA help desk is homework related! What Internet resources are worth checking out?

First Monday (http://www.firstmonday.org/) a peer-reviewed Internet journal, supported by the University of Illinois at Chicago’s library, recently published an article about the topic, Beyond Google: How Do Students Conduct Academic Researchby Alison J. Head (http://www.firstmonday.org/issues/issue12_8/head/index.html). Although the study involved college students, much of the data is of interest to young adult librarians. A particularly notable finding is that students are often frustrated by their own Internet searches of Google and other search engines so they “accessed convenient, vetted, and aggregated online resources from . . . the campus library Web site.” Although not a conclusive study, it certainly offers encouragement for libraries to create indexes of homework-help resources. Now let’s get started!


Best Information on the Net
St. Ambrose University
5I 1R 3U S

Although visually unimpressive, this site has a wealth of information for high school students. “Hot Paper Topics” lists everything from the “Death Penalty” to “Scootergate (Scooter Libby),” linking to articles and other Web information. “Resources by Major” and “Alphabetical Index” are two other options students will find invaluable. By clicking on either, users can work their way through extensive categories that take them to online academic journals, archives, and indexes filled with a variety of subject matter. This site demonstrates that good information can be found on the Web unencumbered by ads, color, or too much data crammed onto one page. Of course, the plainness of the site could be one of the reasons that none of the Web Surfers opted to review this one. A search option for these resources would also be a wonderful addition.

How StuffWorks
HowStuffWorks, Inc.
5I 5R 5U M J S

This site is a fascinating, comprehensive look at . . . well . . . how stuff works! Don’t understand Bluetooth, chiggers, or the Emmys? This site uses photographs and easy-to-read text in everyday language (and hotlinks to great articles that explain scientific terms) to help you understand. There’s even video for many of the articles, including how hot-air balloons work and one about a new liquid that instantly stops bleeding. This is the kind of site that users can spend hours browsing; however, if you do need to find something specific, topics are divided by categories. The site has a search feature as well.

Imaginova Corp.
5I 4R 4U M J S

This site is overwhelmingly informative; everything you want to know about current space missions is here! Just clicking on “Red Planet Recon: NASA’s MRO Mission to Mars” took me to a counter ticking down the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s (MRO’s) elapsed time at Mars (555 Days, 23 Hours, 10 Minutes, 18 Seconds). It also includes images, video, and multiple articles. One of the strengths of this Web site is that much of the information is current. Just for fun when your research is done, you can also vote for your “Favorite ‘Plausible’ Sci-Fi Flick,” choosing from films such as Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Aliens.


Eyewitness to History
Ibis Communications, Inc.
4I 3R 4U M J

I applaud the creator of this site for effectively organizing a vast amount of historical information, ranging from the Ancient World to the Twentieth Century. The information is provided in a variety of ways, including articles, photographs, sound bytes, and film clips. On a structural level, this site is extremely well organized and a breeze to navigate. Browse the home page to see interesting highlights from the many articles that include categories such as “It Happened This Month” and “Notable Quote.” The articles are divided into period subcategories at the top with an index arranged by date, allowing you to conveniently locate a specific event. Beyond the many articles, the site also features photographs, film clips, and sound clips from the past, which might be useful for visual learners and also provides more historical insight. An important aspect of this site is that it provides other points of view as well as those of the United States. The captured German submarine footage of a Uboat attack from World War I, Japanese aircraft footage from the Attack on Pearl Harbor during the period of World War II, and the radio broadcast of D-Day all prove that this site has a diverse amount of references available. It is noticeable from the color scheme that the site makes an effort to have the graphics appear historical and inviting. The advertising is too distracting and pulls away from the overall appeal, in my opinion. Unfortunately this suggestion is rather invalid because one cannot escape advertisements on the Internet. As for other improvements, I would recommend that the search in the top right-hand corner be more clearly connected to the Eyewitness Web site and not just the Web in its entirety. On a level of interest, this site has effectively displayed “history through the eyes of those who lived it.”—Rebecca Zeitz

High School Ace
Schmidel & Wojcik
4I 4R 5U S

This extremely well-organized Web site contains many excellent links and tools. One of the best features has to be that the reference sites are right there together, along with the Google search engine, making it simple for viewers to locate the tools they need. The “Subject Guides” section allows you to connect to a specific subject’s page, which has numerous links focusing on different aspects of the subject. For example, under “English” you’ll find the sub-categories “Poetry” and “Great Literary Works.” Another section changes daily and features “Crossword Puzzles,” “SAT Prep Question,” and “Word of the Day.” “Quiz Hub” has educational games, and the “Colleges” section displays links to major universities. The “Reference Tools” section allows you to type in a word and go directly to a dictionary, encyclopedia, or rhyming dictionary. The site is also very colorful and topics are accessible and easy to find. One disappointment is that the “Quiz Hub” is actually a link to another site that requires visitors to become a member. This requirement is frustrating for the people who do not like to join Web sites. Thankfully the quizzes under the section labeled with the date do not require any memberships. There is a vast amount of information and tools available that are easy to access and use.—Kimberly Zeitz

Barnes & Noble
5I 3R 5U M J S

Sparknotes.com is an excellent Web site that I have used many times for literature homework help, but it has a great number of study guides for other subjects as well, ranging from history and math to philosophy and even movies! This site exists to help students learn and practice basic skills, write a paper, study for a test, and achieve their academic goals. In the Literature category, books and titles include many book genres and periods. The information is detailed but put simply enough so that from just reading a full literature study guide, you understand important quotations, character analysis, and even symbolism. Sparknotes has had everything I needed in the past for literature and other assignments, and it just keeps growing! The Web site is completely free, and it’s easy to use and understand because it’s broken down into sections. Whatever they need, high school and college students will find this Web site very helpful!—Kalynn Erickson


Homework Center
Multnomah County Library (Oregon)

Multnomah has created an amazingly comprehensive and easy-to-use subject index to Internet homework resources. For example, click on “European History” and more than fifty subcategories appear, featuring everything from “Catapults” to “Elizabethan England” to “Irish Famine.” These subject headings take you to a list of Web sites, each one briefly summarized to provide a peek into the site’s usefulness. Although Multnomah has done much of the work for the student, the library recognizes that its site may not have everything. For students wishing to further search a topic online, there is a section on “Evaluating Websites” presented concisely and explained well. The only thing missing was a “Back to top” link, which because of the wealth of resources, would have saved on scrolling! This site should be linked on all library Web sites but also should be used as a model for libraries wishing to create their own online “Homework Center.”

[Note on the Kudos section: If you think your library blog, wiki, podcast, or site is worthy of consideration, please e-mail me at rpurdy@crrl.org. The Web Surfers and I will surf submissions and choose one to showcase for each column.]

Rebecca Purdy is the Youth Services Manager at the Headquarters Library of the Central Rappahannock Regional Library system in Fredericksburg, Virginia. The Web Surfers are a collection of teens willing to volunteer some of their time to see their names in print and help young adult librarians find good sites for your Web pages.


June 2007

School is out and teens have a little extra Web browsing time.We all know that YouTube and MySpace can provide hours of entertainment, but what else is out there for teens in the world of online entertainment? Be careful—while you are reviewing sites for teens, you could get carried away yourself.


Internet Movie Database

Here’s the site to visit when you know that you’ve seen that actor before, but you can’t quite place him. Is that guy on Heroes Rory’s ex-boyfriend from Gilmore Girls? The Internet Movie Database can provide the answer. Simply type the name of any movie or television show and find a list of stars. Follow the link to the name you want, and find other movies in which he was featured or guest appearances that he made before becoming famous. It’s addictive!

Magnetic Poetry

Most of us have come across magnetic poetry on someone’s refrigerator; now it’s online and free! “Choose a kit” and spend hours creating your own “magnetic poems.” Themes include “Romance,” “The Poet,” “Genius,” or “The Artist.” The site is very user-friendly and self-explanatory. Visitors drag words from one side of the screen to the other to begin writing. The only tricky part is reading the words from which to choose, because they are piled on top of each other. If you are particularly proud of your poem, register for free and submit it so that others can enjoy it as well. One especially nice feature is that you can e-mail your poem and share your hard work with others.


America Online, Inc.
5I 5R 5U

With all the YouTube hype, many Web surfers are looking for good alternatives to that wildly addictive site. You might search and search “free online videos” on Google, but you will never find a better “free” music player than Music.AOL. The library of songs is—simply put—incredible. Type in any artist’s name and you will find his latest work. You can even view whole concerts! You’ll also find top songs, new releases, and even AIM interviews. Who said that music was limited to the PC? You can sample music and then download it onto your MP3. Sweet! The Web site also features creative music videos; many of them are humorous.
Many are only available at Music.AOL. If you are looking for a well balanced, fun music Web site, then Music.AOL is for you. There is no other place to get more music.—Chris Cai.

Fan Fiction
4I 5R 3U

This site is amazing; it’s educational and fun at the same time because it is a great way to be creative and practice your reading and writing skills.Visit the site and find a book (or Anime/Manga) that you like, or choose from other categories such as TV Shows and Games. Once you find your book or show, you can write what you think will happen next or read what other people think. Writing and submitting your own stories is one of the best parts. Sometimes you can also find letters from the author. In the letters, the author might explain parts of the book that you don’t understand, or give hints about the next book. Writing letters to
the author is also fun, but when authors are writing books, they have a hard time responding to everyone. —Maya Mardini.

0I 4R 3U

HomestarRunner is a great comedy site that has been around for years. Filled with seriously silly humor, catchy tunes, and fun games, it never gets old. The original idea came from a children’s book, The Homestar Runner Enters the Strongest Man in the World Contest, published in July 1996. Then it was made into another children’s book and finally found its way onto the Internet. It has since become an instant hit and a popular site for young and old alike. If you decide to visit this site, make sure to watch some Strong Bad e-mails, along with some of the short, one- to five-minute “toons” made over the years.
The site also has games that go from simple sidescrollers to complex text and graphics-based games. The site is updated frequently, and even has a store so you can buy shirts and other clothing to support your favorite characters. Have fun.—Kurt Vinnedge.

Quizilla, LLC
0I 3R 4U

Quizilla has really good quizzes on everything from IQ to what high school stereotype you are. There are stories categories where people who write fanfiction can post, and there’s also a section for poetry. In their ranking system, people can rank quizzes on how much they like them, and Quizilla also has a top 25 list. Quizzes are organized by categories provided by the authors. You can have a friends list and can message and talk to other people, and also create your own profile. Membership is free, and members of Quizilla can write and post their own quizzes as well as poems and stories. Some quizzes can be really nasty, but you can choose an age level. Because anyone can post, there are some really bad spellers out there, which is very annoying. Overall it’s a great way to kill time if you’re extremely bored.—Courtney Buzzard.

Central Rappahannock Regional Library
3I 4R 4U

Okay, you’re probably thinking it’s really cliché to review our own library’s teen site. What can I say? Teenspoint is really interactive. If you like being heard, look no further. You can submit reviews of Web sites and shout out your opinions, which has always been really important for me. I’m sure that many people are tired of being unheard. The site is obviously run by the library, so you can expect information on poetry, books, and the like. However, they do add an upbeat touch; reviews like these make the Web site fun and somewhat addicting. I would advise anyone to try it if you’re looking for a site where you can chat and cool off. Hopefully you can see my reasoning. —Chris Cai.

Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.
4I 4R 4U

Whenever you’re looking for information on a certain topic, be it for a school assignment or for your own enjoyment, it’s often tough to find accurate information on the Internet. When Wikipedia, a free online encyclopedia, was introduced in 2001, this problem was solved. The encyclopedia contains a wealth of articles on different topics ranging from science to pop culture. The interface of the site is very easy to navigate. Since most people come to Wikipedia looking only for the articles, the main page has a simple design with a basic search engine and an article of the day. The articles are usually pretty well-written
and informative. But because articles are edited by users, the information in them might not be completely accurate or unbiased. Occasionally a few articles have some faulty information. Nevertheless you can get quick and reliable information on practically any topic you can think of at Wikipedia, so overall the Web site is an excellent resource for all kinds of information.—Kevin MacArthur.


Seattle Public Library

One of the first things that you see at this site is the friendly, welcoming face of Jennifer, Central Library’s Teen Librarian, inviting you to visit the Teen Center’s MySpace (http://www.myspace.com/splteencenter) and read the latest teen book reviews. Teens are also invited to check out the “Teens Calendar” for upcoming programs (such as an All Ages Arts Night) and Ask a Librarian. The basic areas you would expect (“Homework Help” and “Reading Lists,” for example) are in place, but Seattle Public’s site goes beyond the usual. Audio is provided of teen participants in library spoken-word opportunities, reading their work aloud!

[Note on the Kudos section: If you think your library blog, wiki, podcast, or site is worthy of consideration, please e-mail me at rpurdy@crrl.org. The Web Surfers and I will surf submissions and choose one to showcase for each column.]

Rebecca Purdy is the Youth Services Manager at the Headquarters Library of the Central Rappahannock Regional Library system in Fredericksburg, Virginia. The Web Surfers are a collection of teens willing to volunteer some of their time to see their names in print and help young adult librarians find good sites for your Web pages.


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