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Computers and Homework

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Questions and Answers
Do you have a question about using your computer to do your homework? Ask our columnists Hilda and Henrietta. Just remember - don't ask them to answer the questions from your homework! Read the questions and answers below or submit one of your own.
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Q: I'm trying to bring my grades up so that I can focus on my work, but I tend to have a problem. I get distracted when my friends and I are talking, laughing, joking around or anything!
What are some tips to help me stay focused, or some good advice? - Nicole, 8th Grade Student

A: Hi Nicole,

Most of us have the same problem, for it's very easy to get distracted. It takes practice to focus. After all, it's usually more fun to pay attention to friends than it is to do homework or study for a test. You need to find a quiet place to study that's away from your friends. While you are studying, don't do any text messaging or anything like that. Turn off the ringer on your cellphone so that won't bother you while you are studying and don't try to study in front of the television or while playing a game or watching a video. It just doesn't work, for even if you get your work done, it won't be done to the best of your ability.

If you are in a quiet place, you can still get distracted by thoughts that are going through you mind. Therefore, you need to make yourself pay attention to what you are doing. You have to practice concentrating on what you need to do. Think of it this way, if you focus only on what you need to do for your homework or a project, you'll get it done much faster and you won't have to worry about getting it done later. Some kids get their work finished very fast, not because they are smarter, but because they have mastered how to concentrate and how to study.

If you are being distracted in school, talk with your teacher about it. Ask to sit up front where you'll listen better because the teacher will be right in front of you. Did you know that it's a fact that kids who opt to sit up front often get the best grades? If you are having trouble focusing during group work, you'd probably be better off with another group. Ask your teachers about this. If you can select someone to work with, pick someone who knows how to get things done and how to get good grades. Don't choose your close friends.

At first, you might want to focus upon small goals at a time. Maybe you'll decide to spend 15-20 minutes without interruption doing your math, then take a short break and come back to focus on the rest of your math and your other subjects. Sitting for hours isn't a good idea. Take short breaks.

Don't worry if your friends make fun of you for leaving them to find a quiet place to study. Don't worry if your friends tease you because you aren't in their group. If they do this, you should find new friends. Most kids don't realize it, but school is their job. You've got to do this job well to get ahead.

It's always good to talk a problem like this over with your parents. Perhaps they'll provide a new place for you to do your work? They may have some good ideas that will help you.

If you try all these ideas and none of them works, ask your parents if you should talk about this problem with your family doctor.

Remember, tuning in takes practice. Tuning out is the easy way out.

Hilda and Henrietta

Q: What is a really great website that when you ask a question it will tell you the answer or answers to that question within a couple minutes? - Ally - 7th Grade Student

A: Dear Ally,
I'm afraid there's no perfect site that we know of that will answer your questions in a few minutes. We'd love a site like that, too. It would be wonderful to go to a site, put in a question, and get the correct answer right away. We don't know of any sites (even the for-pay ones) where you can get answers right away. One site we checked does list the speediest response times for its experts, but even the quickest answers didn't come in a few minutes. Some sites that might help are: Ask KidsYahoo! Kids , and Info Please Homework Center, and About.com Education .

There are also sites like Ask.com and Answers.com, which are not just for students. The site allexperts.com, is another that's not just for students. It's a free question and answer service where you pick an expert and ask a question of that expert. On most of these type sites, you'll find that they have lists of previously asked questions and answers. These are good to consult because you may find your answer there.

You can enter what you want to find out in question form on the Ask Kids, Ask, and Answers sites. For example, you enter "How tall is a giraffe?" and you'll be given a list of sites with this information. Giraffes, by the way, grow up to14 to 18 ft., and some males to 19 ft.

For a site like Yahoo@ Kids, you are probably better off putting in keywords such as "giraffe" and "height", but you will find your answer on the sites that come up. At Info Please Homework Center and About.com Education, you can put in keywords and search for your answers using categories—like science, animals....

There are sites such as Yahoo! Answers where you can post a question online and other people may answer it. This is not just a student site, so you should check with your parents and/or teacher before using it. There was a Google Answers, but that is no longer online.

If you are looking for math answers, you might check the site Hot Math. This site has instant answers, math tutors, and math videos. You can try a sample question, but it you want more help, you'll need to subscribe. There are lots more (just search for homework help), but we hope these will help—and Ally, if you find that perfect site, don't forget to let Hilda and Henrietta know.

Q: What are two reasons why using a computer is a good idea to write poetry? - 4rd Grade Student

A: Hello, You wanted two reasons why computers are good to use for writing poetry. Here you go:
  1. You can find lots of poetry ideas online, and if you want to write rhyming poetry, you'll even find sites that help you find the right rhyme.
  2. By writing poetry using a computer, it's so much easier to change words and lines in your poem. Word processing gives you the chance to experiment with writing poems in different ways.
We have some great poetry ideas here on Power to Learn. Try these:

Poetry Before You Know It, Part I
Poetry Before You Know It, Part 2

Have fun with writing some wonderful poems.

Q: My daughter is in third grade she badly needs help with math can you help me find a software for pc use please. - 3rd Grade Parent from New York City

A: There are lots of math software programs on the market that can help your daughter. Some classic software programs what can help her drill all kinds of problems including word problems are Math Blaster: Master the Basics from Knowledge Adventure and Math Missions: The Amazing Arcade Adventure Grades 3-5 from Scholastic. If you are looking for something less drill oriented, slower paced and more exploratory (although there are still lots of problems to solve), try Mia's Math Adventure: Just In Time from Kutoka. If you can afford – maybe a combination of the Mia and one of the drill programs might be the way to go.

Q: What does a cpu do? - 6th Grade Student

A: The CPU is the Central Processing Unit of your computer. It's like its brain, for everything your computer does must go through the CPU. The more power or memory your CPU has, the better and faster it will work. That's why new computers and computers with more RAM work better for you. The CPU interprets instructions given to it and carries them out.

If you want to get into the technical part of this question, try these links:

What does a CPU do?

ThinkQuest: What does a CPU actually do?

We wish you loads of RAM for your CPU. Hilda and Henrietta

Q: I have a son who has a problem with writing, but can type on a computer. He can do his English, science, and social studies homework on the computer using WORD. However, when it comes to math, we are having trouble figuring out how to type in the computer to show his work (e.g. show each of the intermediate steps in calculating 1234 X 5678). Any suggestions on how to type math assignments and work into a computer to provide legible output? - 8th Grade Student

A: Hi. A couple of ideas for you. If your son needs to go the paper route, get him a notebook of graph paper to use and have him put one number in each box. You may need to help him practice architectural lettering to do that if his handwriting is illegible. We've included an example of what that looks like here.

Another idea is to use Excel. Here is an example of that here.

I understand that Apple is offering a new more flexible spreadsheet called Numbers. It is only days old so have not had a chance to play with it yet, but might be worth looking into. Good luck.

Q: I have the microsoft office word 2007, I can't get my homework to print, the format is different when I save it on my flash drive and try and print on other computers. What do I do? I need my homework. - 12th Grade Student

A: We have to apologize to you. We haven't had any experience with Microsoft Office Word 2007 yet so we had to reach out to some friends and experts who have and it has taken a bit of time to do. This is what they tell us:

Microsoft has changed the formats that Office 2007 files are saved in and this causes issues when attempting to use any of the earlier versions of Office. Microsoft has free software to help its Customers experiencing compatibility issues. The software is available at http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/products/HA101686761033.aspx

You will experience this compatibility problem until all of the PCs you use have been upgraded to Office 2007. Since it can take months or years for businesses, universities and schools to requisition and install new software, you should save all of your files in the old Office formats to avoid any problems. Under the File pull down menu there is an option called Save As. If you choose Save As, there will be another pull down menu labeled Format. Choose the file format for the Office 97 - 2003 version of the software you are using. For example, if you are using Microsoft Word, choose the file format that says it is compatible with Word 97 through Word 2003

Hope this helps. This is going to be a major problem for a while.

Q: When you are formating a floppy disc what does it mean by volume label? - 7th Grade Student

A: The term volume refers to any data storage device. So when asked for the volume label while formatting a floppy, the computer is just using technical jargon to ask what you want to name the disk.

Q: Are there any sites with MCQs on Operating Systems? - Girty, 12th Grade Student

A: Hi Girty, if you are looking for sites that offer multiple choice questions related to computer operating systems, most of them, you'll find will charge you for their sample questions. For example, if you are interested in the A+ type questions, the cost looks to be about $40.

Here are a few free links that may help you:


There are sites related to emergency medical multiple choice questions (EM.MCQ) and Marks Processing Software for scoring multiple choice questions. There are sites such as Weblearn for setting up and using MCQ. If any of these are what you are looking for, a Google search should turn some up.

We hope this helps, Hilda and Henrietta

Q: How do I save my homeowrk to a disc? I use Microsoft 2003. This is the first computer I have ever had. - 9th Grade Student

A: All of the Microsoft Office applications work the same so these instructions work for any application in the package. Look at the top of the screen on the left hand side for the word File. Left click on the word File and a pulldown menu will appear. Look for the words Save followed by Save As. They are normally about a quarter to a third of the way down the pull down menu. When you save anything new, both of these commands work the same. Choose either one and a window will open showing your the computer's file system. Just look for the name of the disk you want to save your homework on and click on it. Make sure to give your file a name and then click the Save button.

If you a working on a item that you have saved before, the Save option in the File pull down menu will save the item in its current location. If you need to save it somewhere else. like your homework disk, just use the Save As menu (always below Save in the File pull down menu) and look for your disk's name in the window that opens. Click on your disk and save.

That should work.

Q: When your playing a game on the net and a screen comes up script error and asks you if you want to continue, what is this about? - 7th Grade Student

A: This screen will come up when the game or Website hosting the game encounters a "bug" or problem that causes what is called a script error on your computer. It usually has to do with the Javascript used in programming the game. When the error window pops up asking, "Do you want to continue?", your computer is asking if you want your browser to attempt to continue to run the script that makes the game work. You can always try to continue and see what happens. Most of the time, however, your game is lost because the message you got probably means the script has already crashed.

Good luck with your game!

Hilda and Henrietta

Q: If a computer has RAM why does it need ROM? - Cameron, 11th Grade Student

A: ROM stands for Read Only Memory, and stores the most basic instructions for starting the computer. These initial startup instructions provide the computer with important information such as how to access the hard disk or CD/DVD drive until the primary operating system can be loaded. The startup instructions are placed into ROM so that they will always be with the computer even if it unplugged for a long time or the hard drive is removed. RAM or Random Access Memory allows information to be accessed and stored in any order (random) for the programs you use on your computer. It is the main memory of your computer.

Thanks for your question, Hilda and Henrietta

Q: Hi, I'm doing a debatable question on "should we have homework on computers?" is there any site where I can find that can help? I need to find both sides yes and no. - 8th Grade Student

A: Hello, "Should students have homework on computers."

I'm not completely sure whether you mean (1) "should homework assignments be available online" or (2) "should homework be completed on computers"?

There are two schools of thought on whether homework should be posted online. One is that it's easier to retrieve-students always know that their homework will be available to them if they have online access. In addition, students who are absent can easily access it as can parents who want to know what their children are assigned. One problem with this is that not all teachers keep up with posting homework online, meaning that a student would be wise not to become dependent upon online assignment posting.

The opposite viewpoint is that because assignments should be an outgrowth of a lesson, teachers should integrate the giving of assignments with their lessons. Students should take the responsibility for listening carefully in class and taking down their assignments as they are given to them by their teachers. Assignments can be better explained by the teacher than by a listing online.

As for using the computer to do homework, it really depends upon the assignment and teacher expectations. Certainly assignments that involve research and writing are more efficiently completed on computer. Assignments that feature lab reports, charts, graphs and forms can be much more detailed if completed on computer. The same goes for interactive presentations, creative publications, photo stories, etc. Certain math assignments from a workbook or textbook, however, may not be appropriate for the computer.

Having the ability to write and edit a creative story, for example, on the computer and then be able to email it to the teacher is a wonderful way not only to save paper and get the story efficiently to the teacher, but also to allow the teacher to be able to make suggestions within the essay and return it to the student for additional revision. The whole realm of digital classroom presentations could not be done without computers.

Having the ability to write and edit a creative story, for example, on the computer and then be able to email it to the teacher is a wonderful way not only to save paper and get the story efficiently to the teacher, but also to allow the teacher to be able to make suggestions within the essay and return it to the student for additional revision. The whole realm of digital classroom presentations could not be done without computers. For many ideas about how the computer should be used as a student assistant in home assignments, check out the Computers & Homework section of this site.

Some teachers are hesitant about use of online research because they worry that students will copy information for their reports and papers directly from the Internet. After all, it's sure easier to copy from the Internet than it is to copy from books. They also worry that students will not be able to tell which information online is good information and which may be misinformation. Then again, there are many students who do not know how to search the Internet safely and may encounter sites that are inappropriate. All of these concerns, however, can be addressed in class as students learn to use Internet resources wisely and legally.

Here are some websites that may help you:

Parents Homework and Computers

Helping Your Child with Homework

Some more that may help you:





Q: How does a CD-RW or a DVD+RW work? - 11th Grade Student

A: DVD+RW & CD-RW use special materials that have different properties depending upon how high a temperature is created by the burner's laser and how it is allowed to cool. These special materials will reflect laser light when heated to one temperature, allowing the disk to store data. This data can then be erased by the burner's laser reheating the special material to a higher temperature which becomes clear when it cools.

Compact disc and DVD rewritables can, by the way, be written over a 1000 times, but some people feel that CD and DVD discs that aren't rewritable are more reliable. You can think of rewritable discs like the hard drive in your computer except that your hard drive can be "written over" millions of times.

Q: How do you type square root into the computer? - 11th Grade Student

A: Good question. Many people use Microsoft Equation Editor that should be on your MS Office CD. Check the first link below about loading (or finding) this onto your computer.

Equation Editor Information

Here's another link with basic information for you: http://mathforum.org/dr.math/faq/faq.typing.math.html

Keep in mind that the abbreviation "sqrt stands for "the square root of", so you could write a problem out like sqrt (64) instead of using the symbol.

We hope this helped!

Q: Hi! I want to see if you have any good websites for getting answers to history questions? - Khalidah , 10th Grade Student

A: Hi Khalidah, There are so many sites on the web that feature history. The best sites for you, of course, will depend upon your topic. However, here are some of our favorite sites:

Ohio State site for fans of history

Presidental Sites
Good links on US Presidents

Primary Sources
Good links to primary sources

Nice timelines.

Best of History Web Sites
List of valuable sites

Good selection of biographies

Library of Congress
Cultures, Day in History, Memories

Eye Witness History
From the viewpoints of people who lived during historic times

Political Cartoons
Cragle's site is packed with cartoons.

Historic Events and Birthdays
What happened during any day of year you select.

History Channel
A nice variety of content

Map Collections at University of Texas
Perry-Castaneda Library Collection of Maps.

National Geographic
Great for maps and information about places

National Museum of American History
Click on History Explorer

Also check under Yahooligans' Around the World categories.

You might ask your social studies teachers what their favorite history sites are. Then you'd know what they'd like to see in your reports and other work.

Q: I have a son who is gifted/NLD. He understands concepts easily but he cannot handwrite neatly at all or copy accurately. This is not much of a problem in subjects like English and History where he can use a computer for all his assignments. But in higher maths and science it is a nightmare! He knows how to do the problems but always lines them up incorrectly or fails to be able to copy them accurately and so gets the wrong answer. This is very frustrating for him since he knows the studies hard and understands the concepts very well but, still gets work back with poor marks.

What software or programs are there that are really good for doing math and science homework and tests on the computer. This is for higher level academic math and science so it would need to have all the necessary functions. I have looked at some but am overwhelmed at knowing what would be best and some of this software doesn't seem to work as well as it might speach to text is very slooooow but would be very good if we could find a program that would work. Any suggestions as to what software to purchase or download? - Ruth, Parent

A: Hi, Thanks for your note. I am very sympathetic to your concerns as I have a dyslexic son with many of the same issues. It is hard though from your short note to get very specific about your needs or what specific software you are looking at, but here are some general suggestions. Please feel free to email us at dkendall@childsoftpress.com about more ideas.
  1. Has your son tried using large square graph paper to help him line up the math problems? Once you get in the habit of putting every number in a box it can really help keep things straight and can help students keep track of whether they have copied things correctly. You can also do this by putting the problems into a spreadsheet like Excel.

  2. Have you asked his math and science teachers, or investigated with the publishers of any textbooks he is using, what digital resources they have available to go along with his texts? Many book publishers are making tests and other homework exercises available in files on CDs. These files could be downloaded to your son's laptop so he won't have to copy any problems - he could just do them right on the computer. You might also want to pass along to your son's math teacher this URL - http://www.powertolearn.com/articles/teaching_with_technology
    . It describes how math homework and tests can be created in Word and Excel that could then be transmitted to your son's computer. You and your son should read it too so you understand how to use the computer to do math notation.

  3. Have you thought about a Tablet PC that could transform his writing into text so that he perhaps could more easily see any errors? Doing this would also allow him to use the text-to-speech aspects of Microsoft Word to read back what he has written and help him again catch errors. An onboard calculator would also be available for helping with higher math functions. At the end of a test he would have to do a print out or send the file with his work to the teacher in an email. See if your local computer or office supply store has a Tablet PC you can try out.

  4. You might also want to check out the handwriting recognition capabilities of a PDA - they have gotten so much better and with a software addition of a program like Documents to Go they can downloads files into software applications like Word and Excel. You do have to write in a certain style but with some practice it can be mastered even for people with poor handwriting skills.

  5. Speech-to-text isn't perfect by any means but it is improving. People seem to either love it or can't get to work. Dragon NaturallySpeaking from Scansoft seems to be the best and is now in version 8. Also check out Knowbrainer.com (http://www.knowbrainer.com) to see what it can add to the Dragon NaturallySpeaking software.

  6. Have you checked out sites on the Internet like Abledata.com and the Alliance for Technology Access?
Good luck with your quest. If you want to submit more specific questions we'll be glad to relate what we know or see what we can find out for you.

Q: What are some websites where I can find some anitmated pictures? - Sally, 6th Grade Student

A: Hi Sally,

We weren't sure from your question if you meant finding animated pictures online or being able to download animations to use. There are many animated pictures online, but if you want to download some to use on a website or in email, for example, finding good site is not as easy. Finding sites where you can download free animations would have been simple a few years ago because there were lots of them online. Today, many of these sites charge a membership fee for using their graphics, and many that don't require that you sign in and give some personal information. You'll need to be careful when looking for animations. It's best to do a search WITH YOUR PARENTS so that they can help you decide which sites are best.

We suggest that you start by going to Yahooligans and doing a seach for animations. You will then get a list of sites to visit and you can check out the ones that fit the topic you are interested in.

If you are interested in learning about animation, you might enjoy this site:

Amazing Kids! Animation Station

If you need some nice clips that perhaps you would use to make your own animations, try:

Kids' Domain

Hilda and Henrietta

Q: What is Auto Text? - 12th Grade Student

A: AutoText is a feature in Microsoft Word and other word processing programs that lets you store on a permanent basis (although they can be edited or deleted) text or graphics you plan to use and reuse often. For example, you can set AutoText up to store your return address and the salutation ( i.e."Dear Sir") and closing ("Sincerely, Jane Doe") for letters that you write so that all you have to do is chose them from the AutoText instead of typing them every time you do a letter. You could also do this for the headings for your school papers including your name, class name, teacher's name, etc. All you would have to add is the correct date. To use AutoText in Microsoft Word, go to the Insert menu and choose AutoText. Where it asks you to Add, type in what you want to have on hand to use. Then when you want to retrieve it, go back to Insert AutoText and choose off the list what you want to Insert. This is a very handy feature for any tasks you do over and over again on the computer. You might think about using it when you are doing a research paper where you might want to type in a source that you are going to quote often or a complicated name that you are worried about misspelling while you are typing. If you need help in figuring out to use AutoText, go to the Help menu in your word processor and type AutoText.

Thanks for the great question!

Q: I have to write a plot outline for a story that is partially based on my own experince and partially imagines events, but see the problem is that I'm not sure of what a plot outline is......can you please show me the steps of a plot outline? - 7th Grade Student

A: Umm. A story based on your own experience but with imaginary events. Sounds like it will be fun to write. To complete this assignment, you'll first need to think about the directions your teacher gave your class. If she or he gave your any specific directions for the assignment, it's your job to follow those directions carefully. If you don't, you'll be sorry.

Most teachers will give you an idea or an example of what they are expecting. Did the teacher tell you that the outline should be in sentences or phrases? Did the teacher tell you how long the outline should be? Did the teacher tell you the required parts to the outline?

Maybe not. So let's suppose that your teacher only gave you the directions you sent to us. In this case, you should think about an experience in your life that you'd like to write about. The experience should have a problem related to it. Maybe it was when you were lost in a department store when you were young? Maybe it was trying to fit in when you changed schools? Maybe it was when your soccer team tried to win the championships?

Here's what we suggest:
  • Select an experience.
  • Think of how you could add to that experience with events that didn't happen. You can make the events serious or just plain fun. For example, perhaps when you were lost in the department store, you decided to go behind the makeup counter and try on all the makeup or perhaps you discovered a magic wand and sent yourself to Disney World or .... You get the idea.
  • Think of how your story will begin and end. This will help with your path through the story/plot.
  • Develop your plot outline, which may be something like this: (Of course, yours should be more detailed.

I. The background - Introducing the experience and your main characters
  1. Maddy, age 5, and her mother go to a large department store.
  2. They visit the toy department and Maddy has a wonderful time playing with.....
  3. While Maddy is playing, a friend that Mom hasn't seen for a long time bumps into Mom at the store.
  4. The two adults start up a conversation.
  5. Maddy finds a tricycle that she likes. It's pink with a wonderful bell.
II. The rising action
  1. Maddy takes off on the tricycle and races around the store.
  2. Mom doesn't notice she's gone at first.
  3. Mom looks over where Maddy was playing and becomes very upset.
  4. Everyone in the toy department crawls around the floor looking into all the tents and playhouses, and ... for Maddie.
  5. Mom is hysterical.
  6. The police race to the store to search for Maddie, whom they believe has been kidnapped.
  7. Maddie is not the least bit upset. She decides to leave the store and....
III. The Climax
  1. Okay, here you'll put in something exciting that happened. Maybe it is scary or dangerous. After all, everyone is worried about Maddie, aren't they? Maddie is about to.... drive her vehicle up 5th Avenue at rush hour, turn the department store into a gingerbread house, go to a restaurant and spray whipped cream all over the customers, ride her bike right into her favorite book and become a book character, save the city from an alien invasion ... We've brainstormed enough. It's your turn. Think of the most exciting parts in stories you've read.
  2. And then. Remember this is the "hold on to your seats" part.
IV. Falling Action
  1. Here you'll put how things start to come together after the excitement is over.
  2. And then.
V. Resolution

The problem is resolved. How does the story end?

One more suggestion. Don't forget to make the beginning so good that the reader want to read on...

"It was almost seven years ago when dressed in a lime-green bathing suit with purple eye makeup on her nose and most other body parts that Madeline Jayne Davis, alias Maddie, was picked up by the police for speeding."

Good luck!
Hilda and Henrietta

Q: Hi, I wanna know some tips to write my autobiography in an example for this cos till now I havnt read even one autobiography..... in few sites which could help out in writing it in a better way. - Harika, 12th Grade Student

A: Dear Harika,

If you check the Computers and Homework part of the Power to Learn site, you'll find information for students in Grades 9-12 on writing autobiographies. At the end of the article, there are links to some other web sites that will help you, too.

Go to the Power to Learn site.
Select For Students
Select High School
Select "Your Autobiography" for a traditional autobiography (one that teachers usually want) or Writing Historical Fiction (for a creative, futuristic autobiography).

You shouldn't have any trouble writing your autobiography if you follow the instructions in these articles.

BUT--make sure you follow your teacher's directions exactly. The ideas in the articles are to help you, but they don't replace the teacher's requirements.

You'll do a great job!

Q: How do I do a flip book report? - Jason, 5th Grade Student

A: Hi Jason,

Most people think of flip books as the little books where you can flip through the pages to create animation. You might, for example, draw several pictures of a horse with its legs in different running positions. After you put the pages together and flip through the book, the horse looks like it is moving.

Our guess is that your teacher doesn't want you to illustrate your entire book and make it into animation sequences. That would take forever. What you need to do is to find out exactly what your teacher expects in the "flip book report". You teacher may, for example have handed out sample pages for you to complete. These might include things like setting, characters, plot, author, etc. If this is what you are expected to do, all you have to do is to fill out the sheets, create a cover, and then make a book by stapling them or attaching them together in some fashion.

If your teacher didn't give you pages to complete, then you'll need to do them on your own. You'll need to find out how long your book should be and what your teacher wants you to put in it. Flip books usually aren't very long. Bottom line, you'll need a cover, author and book information, setting, description of characters, and plot summary. Some teachers will want you to add what you thought of the book. Some teachers may want you to give chapter summaries. Some may want you to do illustrations of the main events in the book.

There are software programs you can buy specifically designed for making books on your computer, but you can certainly make your own book by hand or using your word processor.

You may want to consider doing your flip book on the computer. Programs like PowerPoint, HyperStudio, and Kid Pix can be used to create a series of slides about your book. You can set your computer to "flip" through the slides on its own, or you can change them with a click of your mouse.

You might also consider doing a photo flip book about your book. Your photographs might be of you and some of your friends acting out scenes from the book. For this type of flip book, you'd take photos with a digital camera and load them into a program like Apple's iPhoto. Arrange them in the order you want, and the computer will make the slide show/flip book for you.

Here are two web sites that may help you:



Our best advice: Find out what your teacher wants you to create and follow the directions carefully!

Q: Can you show me how a book report should be formatted? - 5th Grade Student

A: Hi, The best person to consult with on the format of your book report is your teacher. He or she can tell you exactly what is required in the presentation of your book report. Some book reports have title pages, and some might be in the form of a video or slideshow or a poster. Some include art work, but most book reports include text, usually in the form of a number of paragraphs or pages. You need to check with your teacher about length. If you type it, most teachers like typed reports to be double-spaced and you also need to check about margins (usually 1" top and bottom and 1.25" on each side). For more information on how to write a book report and to see some samples of book reports in different formats, see the interactive version of how to write a book report on the Children's Software Press site at http://www.childsoftpress.com/ididit/CODE/book_report_000.html

Q: How can I make a wanted poster of a famous scientist Ada Byron Lovelace? - Alan, 7th Grade Student

A: Hi, A wanted poster for the mother of computing, eh? First you need a picture of her. Put her name into a search engine on the Internet and see what you can find. I found one at http://europeanhistory.about.com/cs/adalovelace/. (See Harvesting the Information if you need help capturing the picture.) Depending on how big your poster is supposed to be you might want to to make the photo a bit bigger. (You may need a special piece of software like PhotoShop Elements - you can download a free demo at http://www.adobe.com - to do that if you can't get it to enlarge in your word processor.) Once you get the photo the right size, get some black or brown construction paper and make a frame for the picture and then cut some strips to represent bars to put across the picture. Or you can just leave the picture all by itself. Or, if you're doing a poster that will fit on a computer printout (usually 8.5"*11"), you can open the photo in PhotoShop Elements and add the details (bars, striped clothing, text, etc.) you want right on and around the photo.

Use your word processor (or you can do this right on the paper in Photo Shop Elements) and type out WANTED DEAD or ALIVE and experiment with fonts and size. You might want to look for a font that looks like it might have been used in the Old West or maybe you want to go with a futuristic look. Don't forget that you can also print in Landscape mode (where the type goes longwise on the paper) if you need the print to be bigger. You can also print each word out separately if you need them to be bigger. Paste this title at the top of the poster. Then come up with a list of what she would be wanted for. Perhaps you can put those things into short phrases with lots of adjectives -- Wanted for being a well known math wiz....... known to often communicate with Charles Babbage. Make it fun. If you need more help with poster ideas see Computers and Homework in the Student section of the Power to Learn site.

Oh and don't forget -- no matter whether you use poster paper or a small computer printout, be sure to give credit (cite your source) for the photo and any text or ideas you use.

Q: I have to print a word on a T shirt. How do I reverse the word on my computer before printing? - Sasha, 10th Grade Student

A: Ah, computer crafting - very cool! I assume you are using an iron-on transfer for your t-shirt. To flip or mirror the letters so that they print the right way on the t-shirt, you can use most any word processing or art program, but here are some hints on how to do it in a word processor. In Microsoft Word the easiest way to flip type, so you can print it on a piece of clothing, is to make it into a drawing object. First, open a new word processing page, go to the Draw tools toolbar (check Help if you don't know where that is), go to Insert Word Art, pick a style of Word Art, pick a font and style of type (make it bold) and in the text box that opens, type in whatever words you need and then click OK. If you pick a style of Word Art that just outlines the letters and you want to fill them in or you need to change the color of the letters, use the tools in the Draw tools toolbar to do that. (The little paint can that looks like it is pouring paint is the Fill Color, the paintbrush is the Line Color, and the letter A is the Font Color.) Once you have your lettering the way you want it (you should see little white boxes with black outlines around the edges of your type), go to the word Draw on the Draw tools toolbar. Point and click on it and hold the left mouse button down so that you can choose Rotate or Flip from the drop down menu that opens. From that choice, another menu should open. On that menu you are looking for Flip Horizontal. Choose that and your type should flip to mirror image so that you can print it on the iron-on transfer. Using that menu you can also rotate the type or flip it vertically.

Most any art or word processing program will have similar features. Use the help feature and use keywords like "flip" or "mirror" to find what you are looking for. If you need more assistance using a particular program, go the publishers web site for more help features.

Q: What are templates and wizards? - Student

A: Templates and Wizards help you do what you need to do on the computer-and they help you do it faster.

A template is a model or pattern that you can use. It might be, for example, a pattern for outlining a book, which would include areas for you to complete about the book. Many software programs have templates you can use. Templates save you time because they give you a form or sample for what you want to do. You just have to fill it in. Your word processor (Microsoft Word, for example) or other software (Print Shop or Print Artist , for example) may contain templates for calendars, notes, greeting cards, fax messages, etc. On the Children's Software Press site (www.childsoftpress.com), you'll find templates for writing book reports. Software such as Inspiration and Kidspiration has templates you can use for outlining and diagramming assignments in social studies, science, language arts, etc. You can save templates on your computer and then use them as is, or change them to fit an assignment your teacher gave you. You can also use them over and over again.

The definition of Wizard is often the same as a template. In Microsoft Word, for example, you can go to the "Letter Wizard" to help you write a letter. The Wizard lets you pick the form of your letter. Wizards are also available in Microsoft PowerPoint to help you make slide shows. For both of these there are blank spaces positioned in the right spot for you to fill in with your own information.

Another way I've seen the word Wizard used is to help you with loading a new program on your computer. With Microsoft programs, you might consider the Wizard your assistant to help you do what you want to do.

Q: What is a byte on a computer? - Marheem, 6th Grade from New Jersey

A: Hi Marheem,
On computers information is measured in bits and bytes. A bit is a single piece of information, like a number or a letter of the alphabet, such as the letter M in your name. Generally, it takes eight bits to make a byte, but sometimes this number will be higher.

How much information your computer can hold is usually measured in bytes. If your computer held only 1 K of information it would hold one kilobyte or 1042 bytes. Of course, you need much more storage area on your computer than that to do your work today. One megabyte is often called a million bytes and a gigabyte, a billion bytes. The numbers aren't exactly one million or one billion, but they are close enough to use these terms.

Q: Is all data in the ram is lost when you turn it off? - Student, 12th Grade

A: Yes, in standard RAM (random access memory) or "temporary" memory like we have in our computers, all the data is lost when the power is shut off. We know that can be frustrating sometimes, but that is the way current systems work. Sometimes a word processor like Word will, in the background, automatically save a document for you even when you haven't stopped to save. Then when the computer is turned on again it will come up as a "recovered" version. But that information is only whatever was saved before machine was turned off. It does not come out of RAM memory so the "recovered" document may not include all your latest writing or changes.

There is a kind of flash memory, EEPROM, that's used in USB disks and digital camera memory, that saves its contents when the power is off. It is a special type of erasable programmable read-only memory that can be erased electrically and reprogrammed in blocks instead of one byte at a time like RAM. Flash memory does not need to be refreshed. Many storage cards today uses flash technology: CompactFlash, SmartMedia, Secure Digital, xD Picture Card, Memory Stick, and so on. Most importantly, flash technology is non-volatile. That means that it does not lose its information once power is removed.

Good luck with your computer.
Hilda and Henrietta

Q: How can I just type in a question for science and it will give me an answer? - Student, 6th Grade from New York City

A: Hello! Here are some ideas for getting answers to your science questions. Keep in mind that while there are some sites where you can ask your questions and get answers, there are other sites where you can easily find the answers to your questions. You just have to know where to look.

Have you ever asked a question at Ask Jeeves for Kids (http://www.ajkids.com)? You can type your question, and Jeeves will help you find the answer online. We warn you that Jeeves may ask you some additional questions to find out exactly what you want, but usually Jeeves is great for helping kids. Sometimes, however, even Jeeves won't be able to find an answer for you.

The National Science Foundation page with links to science sites (http://www.nsf.gov/od/lpa/nstw/kids/links.htm) includes Ask a Geologist, As a Volcanologist, Ask Dr. Sue (Astronomy), Ask Shamu, Ask Dr. Math, and more. If you are looking for information about weather, the NSF Links for Kids page may have the info you want (http://www.geo.nsf.gov/atm/atmkids.htm). A search on the National Science Foundation (http://www.nsf.gov) site using the keyword "kids" will give you links to information on oceans, atmospheric science, engineering, research, chemistry, computers, physics, etc.

Another really interesting site that might help you is "How Stuff Works" http://www.howstuffworks.com). In the "Science Stuff" section you can find out how engines work, what causes rainbows, how to make a science fair project, and much, much more.

Check out Yahooligans Science (http://yahooligans.yahoo.com/content/science/), for space science, dinosaurs, physics, nature-you name it. Or just go to the main Yahooligans page (http://www.yahooligans.com) and put in a keyword or words about what you want to know.

Of course, depending upon your question, you'll find great answers to science questions at NASA (http://www.nasa.gov); National Geographic (http://www.nationalgeographic.org); the Smithsonian (http://www.si.edu) and the Franklin Institute (http://www.franklininstitute.org).

And don't forget links to zoos such as the National Zoo (http://nationalzoo.si.edu/default.cfm) and the San Diego Zoo (http://www.sandiegozoo.org/).

But Hilda and Henrietta warn you that if you decide you want to send a question in to an expert who answers questions online, you shouldn't expect an answer right away. It may take several days or even a week or more to get an answer. Sometimes kids have sent so many questions to experts that the experts will let you know that they are not taking any more questions for a while. After all, you know how many questions kids have, especially when it comes to homework. The experts won't do your homework for you.

If you need an answer fast, first decide what type of science question you have. Then head Ask Jeeves for Kids, Yahooligans, or to a site that would have the exact type of information you need. For example, if you are looking for information about flight or space, try NASA or the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum.

Good luck!

Q: I need to find the vocabulary for my homework lessons. I just want to type the word and have the definition come up so I know what it means. - Student, 8th Grade

A: You can use an online dictionary such as http://www.webster.com.

Q: How do I get a preoutline for my book report? - Student, 8th Grade

A: There are several ideas for preoutlines that you can copy from this area of the Cablevision site. In the Computers and Homework section, click on Middle School. Then click on "The Dreaded Book Report." In that article you'll find sample preoutlines for stories/novels, biographies, and non-fiction books. There are also sentence preoutlines. Feel free to copy these into a word processing document on your computer. Then change them to fit what your teacher wants. Here's the Power to Learn URL for that article:

You can also find sample preoutlines on the Children's Software Press site (http://www.childsoftpress.com). From the Main Page, click on the link by the blinking star for "Book Reports: The Interactive Version." Once you are in the book report guide, select the tab called "outline." That section will give you lots of information about preoutlines, including some you can download to your computer. You'll even find some that show you examples of almost completed preoutlines.

Using a preoutline is a great way to remember and organize information about a book you are reading. After all, if you fill in your preoutline on the computer while you are reading your book, your report will almost be done when your outline is complete. You'll have the information at your fingertips to move around and make into a perfect report.

Good luck! If you have other questions, let us know.

Q: I have a 5th grade student who is writing his first report. I need an example to show him how a title page, the actual report, and the resource page should look. Can you help? - Teacher, 5th Grade

A: This is an interesting question because there does not seem to be any general or well known site on the Internet to go to see what actual projects done by kids this age look like. There are probably a couple of reasons for this. People don't want kids to copy exactly what other kids have done. Also individual teachers always seem to have their own set of guidelines for these kinds of projects so the "look" of projects will vary somewhat.

Of course the first place to start with what a project is going to look like is with the guidelines your child's teacher has laid out. You might suggest that the teacher show the class a copy of a project that has been done before. Perhaps a neighbor or a relative might also have a copy of a recent report project they can share.

I sense you are trying to stir a little excitement in your fifth grader about doing this project or trying to lessen some of his concerns about what this kind of a project is going to entail. Here are some sites you can share that go through how to put a project together step-by-step that may help.

The Online Wrting Lab at Purdue University

El Rancho Library

Children's Software Press
Check out the style section of the Interactive Book Report

Q: I'm a sixth grade teacher in an urban district. I have four computers with internet connections. How can I motivate my students to use the computers to enhance their learning? They are more interested in playing games online. - Mrs. Foster, 6th Grade

A: Of course they are more interested in playing games online, just as they play games at recess and watch games on television. There is nothing inherent in the computer itself that makes it any more "educational" than any other communications medium or enterprise. The educational purpose of their work with the computer should come from their teachers and parents, and not from the students themselves. If you simply leave students alone in a room with computers and no educational purpose, they will in many instances fall to using the technology to talk with each other and play online games.

To prevent this the students must receive from their teacher an educational mission, a clear task to be perfomed with the technology, one that is part of the curriculum and for which they will be graded. Here are some ideas:

  • Construct a web quest, or find one on the web, that relates to a topic that the class is studying. Require the students to complete the web quest, and to compile a report of their work. Grade the report and count it in their report card. You can get ideas for web quests at http://webquest.sdsu.edu/
  • Require that students include at least three online sources in their next research report for science, social studies, English, or arts. Require further that they write a paragraph comparing the nature of the information from the online sources with that of the library sources.
  • Give them a page of math problems that are just a bit over their heads. Require them to solve every other problem at the Webmath web site, and to print out the results and hand them in to you. Webmath an be found at http://school.discovery.com/homeworkhelp/webmath/
The key verbs in these suggestions include "require" and "grade." Unless you make using the technology into a curriculum requirement, and expect the students to produce results from it, and grade the products, you will not enhance their learning.

Q: How can you help me understand the volume of a cone,when it comes to geometry? - Student, 8th Grade

A: A cone's volume is 1/3 of a cylinder that has the same radius and height.
So V (of a cone) = 1/3V (of a cylinder)

You must first know how to find V of a cylinder which is V=Bh with B being the area or Pi - R-squared times the height.

Here's a cylinder volume calculator http://www.abe.msstate.edu/~fto/tools/vol/cylinder.html
Here's another to learn about cylinder volume http://www.aaamath.com/g88-volume-cylinder.html

Here are some other math web sites that might be helpful:
http://www.tiscali.co.uk/reference/encyclopaedia/hutchinson/ m0006655.html

The responses and opinions contained herein are those of the respective authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of Power to Learn or Cablevision.


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