Parents and students in the Guilderland Central School District got a hands-on chance to expand their online horizons while staying safe at a recent evening program.
Guilderland Central School District librarians hosted on Thursday, Oct. 17, a program titled “Cyber Smart: Succeeding in a Digital World,” a series of workshops featuring interactive presentations containing tips for using online tools and accessing district resources. Workshops were held at the Farnsworth Middle School Learning Center and focused on a range of topics, including using caution when sharing information online, utilizing the district’s new online digital catalog, using online databases, accessing the district’s electronic and audio books, more efficient web searching and podcasting basics using free software.
Guilderland Elementary Librarian Meg Seinburg-Hughes said the workshops were meant to supplement library programs and introduce parents to resources offered by the district.
“A lot of our parents aren’t totally aware of those resources that our school subscribes to,” she said.
Seinburg-Hughes added the basics of cyber safety are also shared with parents.
“We do it in our schools, but you want to bring families in on it as well,” she said.
The families at the program primarily had elementary-aged students, but high school Librarian Bernard Bott said the workshops could appeal to many grade levels.
“Certain sessions are geared towards certain age groups. Like myself and Meg are doing Google better, which can be really for older students as well as parents,” Bott said.
The evening featured a program on alternatives to using Google focusing on subscription-based databases available to students, such as Opposing Viewpoints, CultureGrams and World Book Online.
“We try to teach kids that there are research databases that are age appropriate that are going to help them find information faster,” Seinburg-Hughes said.
The databases and resources can be accessed by visiting a school’s library page on its website.
“We are still very print orientated, but in conjunction with that we are teaching using the Internet responsibly and safely, and also quickly,” Seinburg-Hughes said.
She also stressed the importance of parents taking an active role in their children’s digital literacy, which has become an increasingly important element of a student’s educational experience.
“Parents should be a part of their child’s information literacy process as well as regular literacy, just to monitor what is online and their progress, and to make sure they are using it for good and not evil, so to speak,” Bott said.
Seinburg-Hughes said the workshops are important because “we are all going 90 miles per hour” and might not have time to learn how to use available resources effectively.
Walt Jones, parent of a high school student, said he attended the program to see what research tools were available for students online and to learn about computer security.
The first session Jones attended was on searching databases and finding “vetted” website for information.
“They were actually tools I had not seen, because at home I typically just bring up Google and Google it, and these were much more targeted tools,” Jones said.