Homeworkcentral.com is a kind of one-stop convenience store for students who have assignments due tomorrow. But while the name implies quick searches for kids on homework deadlines, the site’s resources are diverse and impressive enough to be of interest to parents, teachers, and just about anyone else.
The site is organized into three large subdivisions: Homework Central Jr. for grades 1-6, Homework Central for grades 7-12, and Encyclopedia Central for college and beyond. There are also a host of special pages for teacher resources, parent resources, and a seemingly unlimited number of specialized search features.
One of the things that makes Homework Central particulary useful is the way it helps users, especially new ones, navigate the dizzying array of material available on the Internet. Homework Central tries to organize its resources to match the way students would encounter them in school: by academic subjects, moving from the general to specific in a relatively few measured steps. In addition, the pages listed have all been reviewed by a Homework Central editor for relevance. At Homework Central you won’t initiate a search for “Lincoln” and be indiscriminately directed to sites about cars and cities in Nebraska as well as the 16th president of the U.S. There’s also a tour (http://www.homeworkcentral.com/tour/) that introduces users to the way knowledge is organized on the site.
Other student-friendly features include a page on “How to Take Notes” on the web, including instructions for citing Internet material in research reports. You can also sign up to receive weekly lists of recommended sites or send your own specific questions to over 140 experts.
Homework Central has topical pages linked to current events, like the conflict in Kosovo. Recently I directed two of my own students, one from Albania and one from Macedonia, to the Kosovo page (http://www.homeworkcentral.com/spotlight/kosovo/). They found everything from historical and geographical background to current analysis (including progressive as well as mainstream viewpoints) and even an English to Serbian language translator. It proved a much better starting point for investigation than sites at CNN or Time.
Inevitably, perhaps, when organizing so much material, users will find some questionable or curious choices. A search for resources on the abolitionist movement led me to a page on “Other U.S. Leaders” besides presidents. The page had links for Jefferson Davis, John C. Calhoun, and Robert E. Lee, but no anti-slavery figures. A few more clicks did turn up some excellent pages on the struggle to end slavery, but to find it you had to go to “Special Subjects/African American History.”
I was also disappointed not to see Rethinking Schools included on Homework Central’s lists of publications or web sites of interest to teachers.
But Homework Central is a site that has steadily improved over the past year, and hopefully will continue to do so. It’s definitely worth a bookmark.