2004-04-15 / Front Page

Live Tutors Online In Canarsie Library Program

By Dara Mormile

By Dara Mormile

Library associate Janelle Welch, of the Young Adult Services, helps out a youngster trying to get help from the Tutor.com program. Dara MormileLibrary associate Janelle Welch, of the Young Adult Services, helps out a youngster trying to get help from the Tutor.com program. Dara Mormile

It’s 4:30 on a Thursday afternoon. Five eager children are seated at computers at the Canarsie library on Rockaway Parkway. Their homework assignments are next to the keyboard as they sign on to a program that will completely change their study habits.

"Welcome to Live Homework Help. How may I help you?" pops up on the screen.

"I would like some information on my science project," the child types in the chat box. "It is about the effect of different colored lights on the growth of plants."

"OK. Do you have any idea about this topic?"

"None whatsoever," the student continues.

"It’s OK, I will explain it to you."

This interaction is more than a chat room. It is Tutor.com, where students from grades four through twelve can ask questions about Math, Science, Social Studies, and English. For a year now, Tutor.com has been available at the Canarsie branch library at 1580 Rockaway Parkway. And, it’s is proving to be a successful ingredient in a student’s learning experience.

Associate Janelle Welch, of the library’s Young Adult Services, and Susan Asis, Young Adult Specialist Supervisor, work on keeping the free tutorial program alive in Canarsie and at branches all over Brooklyn. When a pilot program began in March, 2003, tutor.com received rave reviews and by September over eleven branches offered the service. In February, the program was available at most Brooklyn public libraries.

"They decided this program was going well enough to do it system-wide," said Asis in a recent interview with the Canarsie Courier.

So what can students expect when they come to the Canarsie library seeking help?

There are three simple steps to follow. Once they’ve registered with the help of a librarian, students can access the "Live Homework Help" icon, a link already on the computer screen. Next, students create a user account name, input their grade level and the subject with which they want help. The last step, which takes about a minute, is getting connected to a tutor for an in-depth, one-on-one session that lasts twenty minutes. A chat room setting is supplied with a "white board" for students to show their work.

These intricate sessions can also printed for children to show to their parents and teachers once they’ve completed an assignment.

The program, sponsored by the Starr Foundation, State Senator Carl Andrews and Councilman Bill DeBlasio, is secure and safe. The names of both the student and the tutor are concealed. Tutors from all over the country undergo a broad criminal background check and are monitored during their first one hundred sessions. Teachers and graduate students working from their home offer their assistance to kids every day from 2-11 p.m.

"Another really nice thing that happens, too, is that if a student has had a really positive session with a tutor and it’s been a great experience for them, the system tries to match them up again," says Asis.

If the tutor is unable to help a student with a topic, the tutor will designate a website or source where information can be found.

Welch travels to junior high schools and high schools, promoting Tutor.com. She says she has also received encouraging responses from parents about the program.

"A lot of parents like the fact that they have a helpful step-by-step tutorial program that they don’t have to pay for," she said.

Welch said the chat-room environment makes the experience more fun than sitting with a book and learning the material.

She noted that the program, also available in Spanish, is a fun and stimulating way to learn. "Since most schools do not offer tutorial programs," says Welch, "Tutor.com is becoming more popular."

Telecia Bacchus, a 13-year-old student at John Wilson IS 211, has been using the program for a year. When she needs help with Math and English, she can rely on Tutor.com to help her out. The best part about it, she says, is that "it’s easy to use and is similar to a friendly chat room."

"You can talk to them online and they just help you with your homework," says Bacchus. "I tell my friends about it and I use it every day."

And if students need more time to work with a tutor, they can access "Live Homework Help" through the Brooklyn Public Library’s Web site with a valid library card from their own home.

"I definitely recommend it to all students, parents, and grandparents," says Welch. "It’s user friendly, comfortable, and exciting!"

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