Henry Rosengarten has done his homework, and a lot of other
people's homework, too.
Rosengarten runs the Academic Assistance Center at America
Online, overseeing a volunteer staff of about 2,000 teachers who
handle homework questions from some 800,000 students a month.
As the top tutor at the world's largest online company,
Rosengarten has seen just about every sort of homework question
"You name it, we get it," he said.
Some of the more unusual questions submitted to AOL's teacher
What is a clam's lifestyle?
On a globe, what color would China be?
If you have any good ideas on how to turn genetic coding into a
musical, please help me.
"Every single one of them gets a respectful answer," said
Rosengarten, of Newburgh, N.Y., who teaches sixth grade in
addition to his 50-hour-a-week job with AOL.
Off-the-wall questions come with the territory. AOL, with more
than 10 million subscribers, runs the most-extensive homework
assistance service available online.
"We average over 5,000 questions by e-mail a day," Rosengarten
said. In addition, more than 1,000 questions are posted on the
15 message boards in AOL's homework area and about 3,000 students
get live assistance in 15 tutoring chat rooms each day.
As more families get home computers and Internet connections,
more kids are turning to AOL and other online sources for help
In October, AOL's Ask-a-Teacher area hit a peak of 9,670
e-mailed questions in one day. Rosengarten said the service
recently added 700 new teachers, who get free AOL accounts in
exchange for their volunteer time, and is looking for more
Dozens of Internet sites offer homework help. Many include
indexed links to thousands of Web pages about topics ranging
from astronomy to zoology. A few, like AOL, let kids pose their
questions to teachers or experts. Others list answers to
frequently asked homework questions.
Some of these services are sponsored by businesses and created
by professional Web page designers, but many are personal
projects of students or educators.
One of the biggest homework resources on the Web, B.J.
Pinchbeck's Homework Helper, isn't a professional production.
Created by 10-year-old Bruce "Beege" Pinchbeck Jr. and his dad,
the page indexes more than 400 Web sites, arranged by school
subject and including brief descriptions of each site.
"Beege and I got tired of having to surf all around the Net to
find good educational sites, so we decided to make our own site
where all excellent resource links could be located," said his
father, Bruce Pinchbeck, of New Brighton, Pa.
The page averages about 2,500 visitors a day and has won 95 Web
awards, Pinchbeck said.
However, in this digital age, it is easy to forget a basic
fact: Most kids can't take advantage of all these wonderful
online resources. Only about 38 percent of households with
children under 18 have a home computer, according to a recent
study by TBWA International.
That's why many teachers don't require or encourage students to
use the Internet for homework assignments.
Deborah Miller, for example, teaches fourth- and fifth-grade
students at Andrew Robinson Elementary School, one of the most
technologically advanced public schools in Jacksonville. But
Robinson also is an inner-city school, and the majority of its
students come from low-income households. So Miller doesn't make
the Net part of her daily assignments. …