Computer-savvy kids need to know how to access information


Laurie Nehring has taught environmental courses and high school biology and chemistry in the past, but this year she’s taken on the position of library and research skills teacher at Shirley Middle School’s (SMS).

While living in New York state, she acquired her master’s degree in library science. She then worked in libraries and as an information specialist at private environmental consulting firms.

When Nehring’s husband accepted a job at Francis W. Parker Charter Essential School in Devens in 1996, her family relocated to Ayer. Nehring joined her husband at the school in 1998 as the librarian. She left the position in 2006. During her time there she created a library from a big empty room.

“After eight years, I was ready to move onto a new challenge, (then) I heard about the librarian position opening at Shirley Middle School,” she said.

Nehring began at SMS in January 2007. She had a large backlog of work to attend to because the librarian position had been vacant for three months.

“I find that most kids are pretty computer savvy with Internet searching, e-mailing and using social Web sites, like MySpace,” she said. “Often, however, they’re lacking in important areas of computer and research skills. Today’s kids need to know how to access quality information wherever it may exist, and they need to know that books are also good sources.”

Nehring has developed lessons that address those issues. The seventh- and eighth-graders are presently gathering data and inputting it into Excel spreadsheets to make sense of it.

“We are learning how to make the spreadsheets and calculate averages from the data we collect,” said seventh-grader Lyle Hopf. “It was confusing at first, but now it’s fun and kind of cool.

“The students are learning to navigate Excel and see all of the ways it can help them organize information,” said Nehring.

In the fifth and sixth grades, Nehring is helping students find books and materials through an Online Public Access Catalog and save and locate their files on the school’s computers.

“It’s really good and helpful,” sixth-grader Allie Gesin said. “Ms. Nehring keeps us organized, and she helps us find books that are interesting to us, and I love to read.”

Nehring shares Gesin’s love of reading.

“I love to read, and I believe that reading for pleasure should be a lifelong habit,” she said.