- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 25, 2001

The idea of a Quintessential Instructional Archive might sound a bit imposing to the average student, but any electronic arena filled with creativity and learning should not be ignored.

More commonly referred to as Quia, this 3-year-old Internet haven gives teachers, children and parents an interactive environment with more than 500,000 activities to explore, focusing on topics from music appreciation to the pH scale.

Quia

Site address: www.quia.com

Creator:

Paul Mishkin, 29, a Harvard graduate who studied educational technology, created the Quia Web site in March 1998. It is operated by Quia Corp., a 20-person educational technology company based in Burlingame, Calif.Creator quotable: "We created this site because Internet technologies are being underutilized in education. Most education-related Web sites simply re-purpose content from other formats. For example, they offer textual information that could be read on a printed page or educational games that could just as easily be found on a CD-ROM," says Mr. Mishkin, president of Quia Corp.

"There is nothing wrong with this approach, and there are a great many wonderful educational sites out there, but we knew that we could do more to fulfill the promise of Internet technology in education. Above all, Quia is about new types of teaching and learning that could never have been possible without technology and the Internet."

Word from the Webwise:

Quia provides a variety of free educational services. Visitors can immediately find a directory of on-line games and quizzes in more than 40 subject areas, including biology, mathematics, geography, chemistry and even Latin.

Through a humble opening page, the site greets visitors with links to the top activities available, numerous categories and important FAQs (frequently asked questions) for first-timers.

Users simply click a category and select games whose activities range from matching a decimal to its nearest whole number to playing hangman with words associated with urology to trying a quiz based on Newton's laws of motion.

Games are placed on the site by Quia editors or educators and students seeking to hone skills in a certain discipline. These enterprising folks register with Quia and use its templates to generate 12 types of on-line challenges, including flashcards, jumbled word searches, a scavenger hunt and "rags to riches" a "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" knockoff.

Educators also can create areas for their classes to take quizzes. Quia offers statistical breakdowns of the tests, showing details such as the students' average score, high and lows, and the most common answer for a particular question. Instructors have the flexibility to add bonus points and comments to each student's quiz. A printed summary of the student's final score, along with the instructor's comments, is then available.

Ease of use:

I would suggest installing the latest Web browser version (version 3 or higher for Netscape Navigator and version 4 and higher for Internet Explorer). Most of the games use Java scripting, which might not work with earlier browser incarnations. Quia points out that America Online's browser makes playing the diversions difficult. Each activity I tested worked perfectly and loaded quickly on a 56k modem connection.

The two problems I had with the site were game repetition (almost every topic seemed to offer only concentration, flashcards, matching and word search) and being able to confirm the source of the research.

Why should I trust someone who offers no credentials to tell me whether the liver produces bile and stores nutrients? Sometimes, Quia allows players to see which textbooks were used to compile activities, and visitors can get in touch with most game authors through an e-mail form. Only after a call to a spokesman at Quia did I learn that editors check all of the information posted within the Quia directory to guarantee its accuracy.

Annoying, cheesy banner ads appear at the top of every page, which seems to cheapen the site.

Don't miss:

The nonprofit educational and research organization Math/Science Nucleus in Fremont, Calif., has placed a fantastic astronomy course on the Quia site. Titled "Stars and Beyond," the on-line resource features lessons on the components of the universe, reading a celestial globe and the constellations of the zodiac. The course features beautiful images of celestial phenomena, pop-up definitions, games and lots of information to satisfy the stargazer in the family.

Family activity:

Visitors can print out word searches or quizzes to complete in more traditional ways. Also consider printing out the list of terms and definitions used in the activities they could be used as study tools when a computer is not readily available.

Cyber-sitter synopsis:

Students who love puzzles can spend weeks looking for challenges throughout the site. The fact that anyone can create his or her own games adds the element of imagination to the mix, making Quia a totally immersive experience for the child seeking knowledge and fun. Students registered with the site even have access to a "Class" page where they can post homework assignments, schedules and contact information and store helpful Web resources.

Overall grade: A

Remember: The information on the Internet changes constantly. Please verify the advice on the sites before you act to be sure it's accurate and updated. Health sites, for example, should be discussed with your own physician.

Have a cool site for the family? Write to Joseph Szadkowski at Webwise, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send an e-mail message (joseph@twtmail.com).

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