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book cover 01Tutor in a Box: The Guide to the Best Free Education Resources on the Internet
Smashwords : Barnes and Noble
Chris Mason
Education, Internet and Computers

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REVIEW ONE

In a technological ideal world, we would have eBooks that updated themselves automatically when the link moved, dead-ended, or went out of business. Because we don’t live in such an ideal world, any book whose content is based on live URLs needs constant supervision to be user-friendly to its readers.

Christopher Mason’s desire to provide “free educational resources on the internet” is to be applauded. It takes a good deal of a person’s valuable time to research every free educational site, and when I say research – I mean to find, analyze, and judge each site for quality of content, quantity and details of content, and reader usability. Additionally, Mason’s decision to craft his book according to “high school periods – Math and Science, Language, Recess, Social Studies,” etc. is to be applauded, as is his cross referencing resources to save readers time. I also appreciated Mason’s Rating Table.

I was also extremely impressed by the quantity and quality of the online sites that Mason found. In checking out everyone of the links he included in his book, I often found myself straying to some of the sites and spending an inordinate amount of time working through the sites and enjoying myself greatly. That said, I unfortunately found over 25 links that were problematic (listed below).

There are some issues with Mason’s book that I would like to discuss:

  • Mason begins the book with this statement: “Now wait I heard that, so did your neighbors that loud groan of ‘Oh my god school.” I would definitely leave out the word ‘god’ and substitute ‘gosh’ or some less offensive application of ‘god.’
  • I am confused about Mason’s statement of “Large quality of information found on the internet.” In my opinion, “large” should be replaced by a more applicable word.
    • Rating Scale
    • Website layout
    • Quality of Information
    • Quantity of Information
    • Amount of multimedia
    • Uniqueness either in design, content delivery or some other feature
  • I was unable to find the music sections and free clip art section on http://mrssmoke.onsugar.com
  • Beginning with “Period One: Math,” it would be very helpful for Mason to insert a horizontal lines between each link topic.
  • When Mason uses the word “resources,” as in “A database of resources from all over the internet . . . “ I would like to see more details about what type of resources – which here include Art and Music, Exercise and Eating Healthy, Government, Health and Safety, History, Jobs, Math, Money, Online Safety, Reading and Writing, Science, and Social Studies.
  • It never became clear to me what how the rating scales worked. For example, under “Reference” there are three ratings: one at four and two at five. What does this mean?
  • Again, Mason uses the phrase “topics on several subjects” under Hippocampus. As a parent perusing this book, I would like to know what subjects are included. This happens more often than not – in that Mason only give a very general sentence about the content. If I were a parent searching for help with, let’s say, Derivatives, I would want to know if this site included such information.
  • I was surprised that the requirements for this book were a Windows operating system – with no mention of those of us who own Macs.
  • This will be my last mention of the lack of detail, even though it is pervasive throughout. On the mathisfun.com site, grades one through seven are color coded to help the readers. Additionally, and the site includes sub-categories such as index, Data, Geometry, Numbers, Puzzles, Money, etc. I checked out the seventh grade math, and the content is too immature for seventh graders. Mason should mention this.
  • One additional concern is the inclusion of sites similar to Cliff Notes, such as “thebestnotes.com” and “Pink Monkey.” After teaching for 13 years, students do not know the difference or don’t care about the difference between cutting and pasting and doing their own thinking and writing. Such sites, similar to Cliff Notes, should be monitored – and should be introduced with assignments and applications that shoe the value and the dangers of using such sites.
  • Additionally, the OWL website from Purdue (http://owl.English.purdue.edu/owl) is not specifically for middle school. I worked on this site while I attended Purdue, and it exists mainly for university students.

Links that didn’t load for me:

I don’t know where this book is related to editing, but there are serious syntax errors and spelling errors in the book.

In my opinion, it would not take a great deal of work to make this an exceptional book meant exactly for what Mason intended it.

J. Doran
For TJs Virtual Book Tours

REVIEW TWO

Tutor in a Box looks like a wonderful resource for parents who are either struggling to help their children with their homework from a traditional scholastic setting, and for parents who are homeschooling.  It provides a huge amount of information in the short book, and is well worth the price.

The subject break down makes it easy to navigate to the general section, though once in the section the ease of navigation begins to break down.

Each resource offered has a brief explanation for what the link is about, which helps determine if that is where you want to go, and is supposed to be rated.  The ratings tend to wind up clumped together every three or four entries, which can make it hard to determine exactly which site gets which rating.  Also, the site names are not highlighted, which lets them blend into the text.  It took me a few pages to figure out the site name was directly above the link.

Once that little bit is figured out, there’s still some issues with graphics that continue past the edge of the page.  Most do not contain information, but the few that do are hard to decipher because some of the content is clipped.

Overall, for what the book is billed as: a resource for parents and students, this is a wonderful book and well deserves a solid 5 out of 5 stars.  The presentation suffers due, I think, to the type of material, and the fact this is definitely not a “read from front to back” book, which winds up making this a 3 out of 5 stars for presentation.  I still would recommend this to anyone seeking a solid reference guide, just with the disclaimer that it may be a little confusing to navigate.

K. Caffee
For TJs Virtual Book Tours

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