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Budding geniuses

Hot on the Web

This column originally ran in ComputorEdge on March 16, 2001
(Issue 1911, Computer Whiz Kids in the Making)

The World Wide Web's original purpose of making it easier for researchers to vet each other's work through hyperlinked citations may have been overwhelmed by corporate usage, but the Internet in general and the Web in particular remain incredible resources for education.

And it's not just looking up assignment at, either. From homework study guides to actual online courses, real learning is happening online.

Run by Havas Interactive (the same folks who own Sierra Online software, among a ton of other holdings), is a family-oriented online after-school program. The kids will like the Flash-based interactive games (which are all learning-based); parents will like the templates for various reports and assignments (they give nothing away, and simply help students organize their work better). The site is broken up into a Teach Space, a Family Space and a Kid Space, making it easy to find what you're looking for.

Kids need a parent's permission to access most of the site, but it's free and you can call a toll-free number to give your authorization.

Barnes & Noble University

Okay, Harvard it isn't – more like one of those nighttime adult classes most high school districts or community colleges offer. And the courses here are free – of course, Barnes & Noble the bookstore remains quite ready to sell you the books you'll need for each course. Classes range from foreign languages to basic HTML, introductory astronomy to jazz appreciation. These are correspondence courses, only with the immediacy of the computer age. Even though the courses are free, you do have to register as they limit class size so the students can actually have interaction with the instructors.

Educational Resources Information Center

Better known as ERIC, the Educational Resources Information Center is one of the better resources for finding education sites on the Web. It's a government-sponsored clearinghouse (meaning you might not find conservative groups linked from here) with links to sites focused on just about any topic of education you might think of. The search tool is one of the best I've yet encountered on the Web, and can help you find what you're looking for on the ERIC site incredibly quickly.

Yahoo! education directory

To find those conservative groups espousing things like vouchers, dress codes, phonics-based learning – all that radical stuff that scares heck out of teachers unions because it might actually work – you can go to Yahoo's education pages. You'll also find links to a lot of the places ERIC has, although Yahoo seems less up-to-date than ERIC. Still, it does provide a much broader philosophical cross-section of education thought and theory. Everything from lists of public and private schools to information on the educational needs of special children to entering your budding Einstein into academic competitions can be found here.