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Online resources aid after-school learning
MISSISSIPPI STATE – Back to school time means homework, and homework today typically means at least some time spent in front of a computer.
While the Internet has long been used for research, today it frequently offers tutoring, drills and games aimed at brushing up the skills learned in class.
Carla Stanford, an agent with the Mississippi State University Extension Service in Pontotoc County, said careful parents and students can often find help with problem assignments or concepts that are particularly difficult to master.
“When students are having difficulty with homework, a smart search online can often lead them to the help they need,” Stanford said. “Teaching children to find resources without cheating on homework is a good lesson that will serve them well throughout their lives.”
Stanford said success lies in finding dependable sources for help. Start with respected educational and governmental sites, and ask teachers or parent organizations for recommendations.
Many online resources make learning a game, especially for younger children.
“Games, whether online or in class, engage children’s minds, and research shows that when children are engaged, they have a much better chance to succeed,” she said.
Stanford urged parents to be involved when children go online.
“Parents must make it clear to the children what the rules are. There have to be boundaries,” she said. “Parents need to know what websites their children are using, and they need to set up a system of monitoring their children’s online activity.”
Many Mississippi school districts have endorsed specific educational tools and make online time a part of students’ out-of-class assignments.
Beth Bell, an Extension agent in Tallahatchie County, said some of these websites require registration and allow both parents and teachers to monitor children’s performance and progress.
“Playing online games for homework uses different parts of the brain and moves the child away from just rote memorization of facts,” Bell said. “If your school does not already refer students to a particular website, ask your child’s teacher where he or she recommends they get help or practice with certain educational topics.”
Bell said children have different learning styles. Online resources offer learning opportunities that meet children’s unique needs.
Stanford said children’s differences even extend to the best time for them to do homework, whether traditional or online.
“Some children come home and want to do their homework and get it completely over right away, while others want to rest, play outside since they’ve been cooped up in a building all day, and then get around to homework,” she said. “You have to learn which way your child learns best, and then develop your plans according to the needs of your child.”
And if time spent on homework seems too excessive, such as two to three hours a day after school, Stanford said it’s time for the parent to step in.
“If parents don’t let the schools know their child is spending too much time on homework, nothing will be done,” she said. “Children need to learn responsibility, but homework does not need to engulf a child’s life.”