<bt>Whether it’s trouble with a scientific formula or sentence fragments, area students are just a mouse-click away from getting one-on-one help on their homework. Fairfax County Public Library, in partnership with Tutor.com, offers live, online homework help to students from the fourth grade through introductory-level college.
“There is no such thing as a stupid question,” said Christopher Kearney, regional sales manager for Tutor.com. “Tutors will work with students until they understand and get the answer.”
Through the FCPL Web site, students can access the Live Homework page and connect to the appropriate tutor by answering a series of questions, such as grade level, language and subject. According to Lydia Patrick, coordinator of Internet Services for FCPL, the program’s goal is to connect students to a tutor in one minute or less. If a tutor is online, an illustrated queue appears on the screen to let the student know how many people are ahead of him.
Once students are connected to the tutor, the session can begin. “If you’ve done instant messaging, this is quite similar,” Kearney said.
The screen splits into three segments — the top-right corner is an interactive messaging box where the student and tutor can type to each other; the top-left window offers access to the Internet; and the bottom portion of the screen is similar to a chalk board, where the student and tutor can work out a problem, such as a math equation.
“Sessions usually last about 20 minutes, but tutors will work with students until they have an understanding of the problem,” Kearney said.
TUTOR JENNIFER BOLLER of Michigan incorporates her 14 years of experience as a biochemist to assist students in math and science. “We pride ourselves in not just giving students the answers,” said Boller, who has been tutoring for about two years. “The whole idea is getting the students involved and get them thinking.”
By talking with the students, Boller said, she is able to get a better understanding of where the students are in a problem. “We are then able to explain [the subject] in a different way to help the student understand,” she said.
Spanish-speaking students also have the option of partaking in their math, science or social-studies tutoring session in their native language. “Most [Spanish-speaking] tutors are native speakers,” said Kim Stanford, who tutors English- and Spanish-speaking students in math, English and science.
Lorton Station Elementary fifth-grader Sierra C. recently started learning about decimals in her math class and chose to utilize Live Homework Help to better understand the lesson. “My tutor gave me an example, and we worked together to get the answer,” said Sierra, 10. “Then I asked if they could let me do one on my own, and now I understand it.”
Sierra said that once she starts getting social-studies and science homework, she’ll use the online help program again.
“I wish we had something like this when I was in school,” said Aria Gee, site director of the Lorton Computer Learning Center Partnership, a technology-based, after-school program, which Sierra attends. “Students come in with homework all the time, so now I can refer them to this Web site if they ask me questions about things I don’t know. "
After completing her first session successfully, Sierra said she would encourage her friends to use this program. "I know some of my friends don't get their homework done, or it takes them hours to do it because they don't understand," she said. "By using this, I think they could get an A on every subject."
<lst>Students can access Live Homework Help from the Fairfax County Public Library Web site at http://www.co.fairfax.va.us/library/. The service is free and is open to English-speaking students daily from 2-10 p.m. Spanish-speaking sessions are available Sunday through Thursday from 2-10 p.m.