Homework Helpers: Sparknotes And Shmoop Make Studying Easy And Entertaining
- March 3rd, 2011
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Studying for exams, writing a paper, and getting a little homework help is easier than ever for students. The amount of educational information available online makes it easy for them to brush up on just about any topic. Who needs a tutor when there’s the Internet? While Wikipedia is helpful, teens are latching on to sites that are designed specifically for students who want homework help. Just ask Youth Advisory Board Member Julia Tanembaum, who reviews a few of the study guide sites that have cropped up in recent years. I’ll let her tell you about the ones she uses and recommends to friends…
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Online Homework Help: Sparknotes & Shmoop
The Internet has changed the way today’s teens study, particularly because of study guide websites. From AP History book outlines to math help to literature summaries, the Internet has made it much easier to get through classes.
Sparknotes has been an innovator in online study guides, and continues to introduce new features, like its new No Fear Literature. The new feature offers “translations” of difficult novels — that sometimes feel incomprehensible to students — into modern English for the many teenagers who get frustrated wading through Shakespeare’s plays and novels like Dickens’ “Great Expectations.” The original text is paired, split-screen style, with the modern text. I wasn’t the only one in my English class who was confused by some of the books we read, and I know next year’s sophomores will find these translations very useful.
Video Sparknotes is another new feature. These are essentially cartoon slideshows summarizing novels or plays with audio to go along with it. I think the name is a bit misleading, since it really isn’t an actual animation, but the cartoons are cute, and watching a six or seven minute video is an easy way to prepare for a quiz, and gives more information than the regular plot summary. The cartoons reminded me of Manga Shakespeare, which transforms the Bard’s plays into a visually appealing comic book. Video Sparknotes have more of an American style, but the idea is similar, and the comics are fairly entertaining.
Although Sparknotes has remained the most popular study guide site for a long time — thanks to its concise, easy-to-follow summaries — I recently discovered a newer website that is quickly becoming popular. Shmoop is unique because PhD students write the site’s summaries, and they use a more colloquial style than other study sites. The summaries generally have a few sarcastic quips or jokes, which make them more appealing than the commentary available on other sites. Shmoop’s summaries are also different in that they are formatted as bullet points instead of paragraphs, and it covers everything that happens in each chapter instead of just hitting a few highlights.
Just like other sites, Shmoop has analysis and quotes, but it also has some unique sections, such as “Why should you care,” which shows teens how the historical text relates to modern times. The site doesn’t only focus on the classics. It also covers books like “Twilight” — which I doubt would be assigned reading at many schools — and even discusses song lyrics. It also offers fun distractions, like a post on famous quotes translated into Lolcat. Props to those who can figure out what “Tah b r not tah b – Das wut Iz ponderin” translates to! Shmoop’s great sense of humor carries throughout the site, including its slogan: “Shmoop will make you a better lover…of literature, math, history and life.”
Overall, I think Shmoop is much more appealing than other “homework helper” sites. Being relatively new, few teens know about it though it has already won a few awards. It combines easy-to-read summaries that contain a lot of information with an interesting site, so it’s the one I recommend to friends and use the most myself.
Julia is a freshman in high school in Claremont California. A self proclaimed Otaku (anime obsessive person) she strives to complete her immersion into the world of Japanese pop culture. In between school and homework she watches the latest Japanese anime on the internet, reads manga, plays video games, and practices Japanese. Though she is not a fabulous writer by nature, Julia does enjoy writing fan fiction related to said interests and occasionally immersing herself in online role-play sessions. In addition, she loves mashing up anime and game clips into anime music videos which she posts on YouTube, participating in her school’s debate team in novice LD, and of course reading. Julia is incredibly excited to be on the Youth Advisory Board, and able to express her opinions, which she has plenty of.