Review by Mieke VanderBorght, Common Sense Education | Updated January 2016
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PBS Students

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Great variety of quality content, despite lackluster user experience

Subjects & skills
Skills
  • Critical Thinking

Subjects
  • Arts
  • English Language Arts
  • Math
  • Science
  • Social Studies
  • Health & Wellness
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
K-12
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Pros: Impressive breadth of constantly updated content.

Cons: Bare-bones search features can make it hard to navigate.

Bottom Line: Works best when kids know what they're looking for; maybe try using the website for a better browsing experience.

PBS Students is meant for kids to use, but teachers will want to be familiar with the available content and how to access it. Teachers can coordinate using the PBS Students app with their accounts on the PBS Learning Media Web page, where search options are better and teachers can give assignments.

Have kids create their own accounts so they can tag content and organize thoughts in a storyboard. The app doesn't work that well as a place to browse and look for inspiration. Rather, use it when kids have a specific assignment or are interested in digging deeper into a particular topic. Preview topics or check what kids find on their own to take advantage of the support materials. Use the suggested activities or discussion questions to expand on learning themes. Kids age 13 and up can create storyboards and share them with teachers to demonstrate connections between materials, present ideas, and show what they've learned.

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PBS Students is a mobile version of the educational resources website PBS Learning Media. Kids can search or browse through videos, lesson packages, games, graphics, and more on a variety of K–12 subjects ranging from art and social studies to math and language arts.

Most content includes a teacher's guide or activity suggestions that build on the material's learning potential. Enter a date of birth and create a username to generate a free account, and tag favorite content for easy future access. Kids age 13 and up also can create storyboards in which they can gather content and enter text to share what they've explored and learned. Log out at the end of a session to pass on the device to other kids, who can then log in with their own credentials. Content aligns to multiple Common Core State Standards.

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The amazing variety and richness of available content is this site's best and biggest asset. Kids can find video, graphics, or information on virtually anything that interests them. And the quality is usually high, with videos that go into depth to explore topics and discussion questions or activities that get kids engaged and thinking critically. The storyboards feature is a nice way for kids to gather their thoughts, though it could use some more guidance in demonstrating exactly how it can be used.

The PBS Students app is a complement to the PBS Learning Media website, which offers the same resources. Unfortunately, the Web version is much more user-friendly and accessible than the app version. The app offers no help for navigating its vast resources. With so much content, kids can easily get overwhelmed, and unless they have a specific search term in mind, it can be hard to know how to delve in. PBS Students may therefore be best for kids who know exactly what they're looking for -- and for that purpose, its resources are unparalleled.

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Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

The vast amount of content ensures that there's plenty available to appeal to a wide range of kids. But the awkward search function gets in the way of kids easily finding what interests them.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

Kids navigate and search through a vast database of videos, graphics, and offscreen activities and discussion topics. However, not all content is geared toward younger kids.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

Kids can tag favorite content to access it easily and create storyboards that document learning paths. There's little how-to help and no guidance on navigating through available content. Great extension ideas take learning offscreen.


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