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The Online Mom provides internet technology advice and information to help parents protect their kids, encourage responsible behavior and safely harness the power of technology in the new digital world. Social networking, photo sharing, video games, IM & texting, internet security, cyberbullying, educational resources, the latest on tech hardware, gadgets and software for kids 3-8, tweens and teens, and more.

Educational Tools

The Internet is the most extraordinary educational resource in human history, period, and exclamation point. What's more, many of these resources are either interactive or use audio and video - making them far more compelling to today's students than "dry old textbooks." We can't begin to cover everything the Internet has to offer, but we can focus on a few resources that might be especially helpful, whether your kids are very young or already in college - or if you're the one doing the learning!

Online Homework & Study Help

The Web's full of homework help resources for K-12 kids. Some of our favorites include Scholastic Kids' Homework Hub and Homework Spot. Middle- and high-schoolers should check out the free online study guides at Cliff's Notes and Spark Notes: this is the same material from those slim yellow books you used to pay real money for! And if you're willing to pay for online live tutoring by real teachers, there's Tutor.com, which is available for children in grades 4-12 on a 24x7 basis.

For math, we love Ask Dr. Math; your children might also check out the growing number of video math skills tutorials over at YouTube (this page previews some of the best.) Trying to motivate your child to become a better reader? Go to Reading Is Fundamental. For U.S. social studies, it's hard to beat the Library of Congress site for kids and families. For geography and nature, who else but National Geographic? For geology, check out this excellent U.S. government resource.

For foreign languages, one immensely helpful resource is Google's built-in translation tool. Just copy a block of text in a foreign language and ask to translate it into English (or vice versa); or give Google a Web page and ask Google to translate the entire page into the language of your choice. There are also an immense number of audio podcasts available, so you or your child can learn right from their iPod. Here's a handy list, organized by language. Finally, "across the pond," the BBC offers a truly breathtaking collection of online language learning resources.

Colleges and Universities

More and more colleges are posting course materials on the Internet: course syllabi and readings; lecture slide presentations; and, increasingly, actual audio and video lectures. Some of this material is password-protected and limited to paying students, but quite a bit is available to the public. You can now listen to entire courses in everything from astronomy to calculus, Shakespeare to the Roman Empire, nutrition to psychology. And these courses come from some of America's finest universities, too - including Yale, Stanford, and the University of California, Berkeley.

Another model for providing public course material is MIT's OpenCourseware. MIT has committed to posting at least some materials for all of its courses, where they can be used by students worldwide (and also by other instructors who are creating courses of their own). Many other schools are experimenting with OpenCourseware - from Notre Dame to The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health to the Tokyo Institute of Technology.

Wikipedia and Other Online Reference Books

We can't discuss education on the Internet without a word about Wikipedia, the volunteer-written encyclopedia with more than 2.3 million entries covering everything from Calvin Coolidge to Jabba the Hutt, the Nagorno-Karabakh War to the Eagle Scout award. Wikipedia's far from perfect: after all, it's written by volunteers, who don't have to prove their expertise, and (when it comes to controversial issues) may have an axe to grind. Many teachers and librarians hate Wikipedia, and won't let students cite it in their research papers. But many of Wikipedia's entries are surprisingly good, and if you're researching a topic you don't know anything about, it's often a great place to start. Just don't stop there! (Fortunately, Wikipedia provides links to many of the sources it relies on, so you can explore those directly: you don't have to take Wikipedia's word for it.) Wikipedia may also be the Web's best resource for many topics that never get into Encyclopedia Britannica - say, for instance, modern popular culture.

If you'd rather use a more conventional encyclopedia, Microsoft's Encarta and the Encyclopedia Britannica are both available online (though their most useful resources require a paid subscription.) Encyclopedia.com brings together free reference works ranging from selected Oxford dictionaries to the Britannica Concise Encyclopedia. Bartleby.com brings together even broader access to no-charge reference works, from the complete Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition (2001) and the U.S. government's World Factbook (2003) to the American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition (2000) and Roget's II: The New Thesaurus, 3rd Edition (1995). And if you can't remember "Bartelby.com", you can always get a definition at Dictionary.com or a synonym at Thesaurus.com!

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