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As the season of essays, math problems, and science projects begins again, students may be looking for ways to improve their grades or learn more about a newly introduced subject of interest.

by Lorien E. Dahl, The Sentinel-Record


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PLUGGED IN: Hot Springs resident Christian Saffold works on a computer Monday in the children’s section of the Garland County Library. A variety of databases and services for students are accessible through the library’s website.

As the season of essays, math problems, and science projects begins again, students may be looking for ways to improve their grades or learn more about a newly introduced subject of interest.

Fortunately for area residents, the Garland County Library has made a variety of resources accessible at home to anyone with a library card — and all can be utilized free of charge.

Children’s Librarian Katie Allen said many among her staff use the databases from home and love them. “It’s a safe place for kids to go on the Internet, where it’s also educational and fun. They’re learning and they don’t even know it,” she said in an interview.

Allen gave an overview of available resources, which can be accessed one of two ways through the GCLibrary. com website — some can be viewed by clicking the Home tab, then going to Find It, and Research & Databases, while those geared strictly toward children can be seen by clicking on the Services tab, and Kids. The resources include the following:

  • Tumblebooks, for elementary ages, includes interactive books, games and puzzles. Children may choose whether to read books on their own or have it read by the computer.
  • BookFlix pairs a fiction and a nonfiction book on the same topic. For example, a story about a dog might be paired with a book about veterinarians. Subjects are wide in scope, including nature, adventure, family and imagination.
  • ScienceFlix features books, videos, quizzes, experiments to watch, and author information.
  • TrueFlix contains solely nonfiction and features links for learning more about a topic, games, word matches, and project ideas related to a variety of subjects.
  • NoveList is a read- alike listing, to help people find similar books to those they’ve already enjoyed. It also contains professional book reviews, to help parents and guardians know more about a work’s content.
  • PowerSpeak Languages is for all- ages language learning. Ten languages range from Korean to Italian, and French to ESL.
  • Brainfuse offers online live tutoring from 2- 11 p. m., in addition to a service that offers help with writing papers.

Allen said Brainfuse’s tutors are certified and use a digital whiteboard for interaction and a flash card generator.

“My favorite thing about Brainfuse is the writing lab,” she said. “You can take a paper that you’ve written, submit it to Brainfuse, and within 48 hours they’ll send your paper back with suggested edits and ways to improve.”

While most programs are licensed for at- home personal use only, others like Brainfuse aren’t. The library has partnered with some Garland County schools to offer students eCards, as opposed to the traditional physical card, so they can access the various resources.

One school system now taking advantage of library eCards is Fountain Lake. Laura Keese, library media specialist for Fountain Lake Middle School, shared her son’s experiment with Brainfuse’s corrective feedback via a forwarded email to The SentinelRecord.

His original document was peppered with both suggestions and questions to help him better develop the writing assignment. An overview contained both positive and constructive comments, along with thoughtful questions for him to consider his plot, characterization, setting, theme, voice, style, organization and grammar.

She shared the same email with her school’s teachers and said they were thrilled with the feedback. A few even offered bonus points to students who signed up for an eCard and used the service.

Keese said her son did use the suggestions, actually expanding on them — “It inspired him to put a little more effort into it. … It was a definite B paper, if not a C paper, and he improved it to an A.”

Allen said these resources are also great for home- schoolers, and adults attending college can definitely benefit from the Brainfuse writing lab.

Additional databases include the streaming video service Hoopla, and the eBook- filled OverDrive for downloading thousands of available titles.

Library cards and use of online databases are free, and cards can be issued to children as young as age 5.