September 20, 2006

More From MOST and Library

It was when he was on vacation in Tucson, Arizona this summer that Tim Bryden came upon the idea. Checking his email in a library there, the director of Project MOST, the East Hampton after school program, saw a link offering online homework help. Collaborating with the East Hampton Library, Project MOST has brought the cutting edge program to local kids, and even adults.

According to the library's interim director Diana Dayton, the program will be offered through the Suffolk Cooperative Library System. All users need is a library card to access real time help from certified teachers.

The homework help is available from any computer. All the child has to do is type in his or her library ID number to access the system. Once in, a whiteboard allows the student to ask questions and receive help from tutors. And that's help they'll receive, not answers, Bryden emphasized. For example, a child trying to learn the capital of France will be directed to a handful of resources where he can find his answer. Children can also use the program to get tips for improving assignments and projects, by sending writing assignments to tutors for feedback.

Geared toward kids in grades four through 12, the program provides Instant Message type interaction between the student and tutor. All communications can be printed out and saved, as well as forwarded to the student's teachers, if desired. Dayton emphasized that the program is in compliance with all federal regulations regarding Internet safety for kids. Fourth graders in Springs and East Hampton are slated to receive instruction about using the program, and Bryden plans to visit local schools during their open house nights to promote the free service.

Older students can also access the system, as long as they have a local library card. It could help those who are going for their GED and even with some college-level courses. Tutoring is also available in Spanish, from 3 to 10 p.m., Sunday to Thursday. For English speakers, it's available from 3 to 11 p.m. seven days a week.

Describing the program as a "very innovative service," Dayton lauded it as "a real partnership between the library and school communities." Bryden said simply, "It's very, very cool."

Over 200 children are currently enrolled in Project MOST'— Making the Most of Out of School Time — an after school program held at John M. Marshall Elementary School, Springs, Wainscott and the East Hampton Middle schools. The program is underwritten through grants from New York State, the school district, the Town of East Hampton, and private organizations as well as modest tuitions. It provides after school academic enrichment and assistance plus activities like swimming, crafts and karate.

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