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Got an education question? AskERIC

By: Judy Holmes

Nationally acclaimed question and answer service is leading source of information for educators and parents

When John Matthias, a second-grade teacher at Linden Hill Elementary School, located near Wilmington, Delaware, needed quick answers to his questions about the effectiveness of homework for elementary students, he logged onto the award-winning AskERIC Web site (www.askeric.org). Within a few minutes, he was able to access some of the latest research on the subject.

I appreciate being able to get a hold of research for parents, colleagues or myself to help build the best educational environment possible, Matthias says. The AskERIC organization has helped me gather research in the short amount of time that I usually have. Matthias is a National Board Certified Teacher, a recipient of a National Science Foundation Presidential Award for excellence in elementary math instruction and an item writer for the State of Delaware math test. He has turned to AskERIC for information on a variety of issues, including class size and math assessment levels.

AskERIC is a special project of the ERIC Clearinghouse on Information and Technology at Syracuse University's School of Information Studies, located in Central New York. Both are funded by the U.S. Department of Education. Since it was founded in 1992, the AskERIC team of reference specialists, located at SU and at other ERIC Clearinghouses across the country, have directly responded to more than 300,000 questions posed by teachers and parents concerning some of the most pressing educational issues of our time—from issues of school safety and early childhood education to learning disabilities, home schooling and standardized testing.

The AskERIC slogan could be leave no teacher behind,' says Eric Plotnick, associate director of the ERIC Clearinghouse on Information and Technology at Syracuse University. For 10 years, we have provided a free service that responds to the needs of educators and parents all over the world. We are one of the few digital reference services in which real people answer questions, within two business days, via e-mail. It's a cost-effective, federally funded program that works.

Established in November 1992, with a staff of three, as an e-mail question answering service for educators, AskERIC quickly grew and, within a year, was among the first 100 sites on the World Wide Web and the first registered, educational site on the Web. Today, the AskERIC staff of 30 reference specialists responds to some 1,000 questions each week. The Web site, which averages more than 200,000 visitors per week, also includes some 2,000 lesson plans submitted by teachers; a question archive; links to the ERIC Database, which contains more than 1 million abstracts of documents and journal articles on educational research and practice; and links to some 3,000 educational resources that were compiled as a result of the questions educators have posed over the years.

The AskERIC Web site has earned a number of national honors, the most recent of which include the Awesome Library Editor's Choice (2002), U.S.A. Today Education Best Bet site (2001), Kids Friendly Site from KinderStart.com (2001), and SchoolZone's Star Site (2000), among others.

The newest addition to AskERIC services is a real-time reference service—AskERIC Live! The service enables users to receive search assistance by chatting online with a reference specialist while searching the ERIC Database or the AskERIC Web site.

AskERIC continues to grow and adapt to the needs of the education community, Plotnick says. We look forward to expanding our resources during the next decade and to continue to provide high-quality education information with a personal touch.

AskERIC and the ERIC Clearinghouse on Information and Technology (ERIC/IT) are housed in the Information Institute of Syracuse at Syracuse University. The institute is one of six research and development centers affiliated with the University's School of Information Studies. Founded 25 years ago, ERIC/IT is the longest, continuously funded program at the University.

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