Good Digital Parenting
Blog | Aug. 19, 2014

Back-to-School Research Tip: Help Your Child Use Curated Online Databases

Academic Technology Specialist, Georgetown Day School

September brings the start of a new school year, and once classes begin, it’s not long before the first research reports and projects are assigned. Why not give your 21st Century learner a head start by taking some time before school begins to explore some alternative information sources?

Just about any time digital kids search for information at home they fire up Google, which offers plenty of search results, including Wikipedia, but few of these links offer curated resources for young learners. It’s challenging for students to separate reliable information from what’s not reliable, so teachers and librarians use substantial classroom time and energy teaching kids how to access the best online research materials. Children often need assistance, not to mention frequent reminders, about applying the research lessons at home.

When it comes to searching, parents can make a tremendous difference (and support what’s happening in school) by directing their children to online information library resources. These crown jewels of student research include online databases and reference books, encyclopedias, biographical dictionaries, article databases, science references, video clip collections and much more – all easily accessed at a school or public library website.

What makes these online resources so special, besides being freely available at local libraries, is their curated information – articles and other materials that are reviewed by scholars, professors, and experts in a field. Many of the resources are targeted to certain age groups, and provide terrific support to young learners who are just beginning to figure out how to evaluate and judge the materials they find on the Internet.

Online databases and reference materials oftentimes require a school password or a public library card. Access is usually free. Use this library search link to find your local public library. Parents who want to learn more about the differences between plain searching and seeking out online database and reference resources can check out a library tutorial from Western Oregon University.

Part of learning how to make solid research decisions is learning how to seek the best information from the best places, and this is a 21st Century learning skill that needs support at school and at home. Check the libraries below for examples of article archives and databases. While they are large institutions, most local libraries offer similar research opportunities.

Cover image courtesy of Flickr.