Common Sense Review
Updated May 2013

NoodleTools

No noodlin’, just serious research with this comprehensive resource
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Common Sense Rating 3
  • The many options and services available are clearly displayed on the home page.
  • On the Projects page, students can access their projects, and teachers can see their entire class’ work.
  • Counterintuitively, the Dashboard is the second page you access.
  • The Show Me tutorial helps students determine the value of the source they’ve selected.
  • Citations are made effortlessly -- students are prompted if they misrecord information.
  • Students can keep track of annotations while building the citations.
  • The Works Cited page.
Pros
From creating notecards to listing citations, every step is scaffolded with multiple supports built right in; the site's focus on the why of research is excellent.
Cons
Through all of its thoroughness, the site could do more to help make the research process more engaging for kids.
Bottom Line
NoodleTools gives kids smart, specific assistance where they need it the most -- with citations, paraphrasing, and organization, though the details may overwhelm.
Amy Lauren Botula
Common Sense Reviewer
Common Sense Rating 3
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 2

The design is clean, but a bit too dated to really grab kids' attention. While it'll help them focus, research won't be any less tedious. Overall, the site could do more to highlight the enjoyment of discovery in research.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer? 4

Students can learn important information-literacy skills: creating citations, assessing sources, and taking relevant notes. The cloud-based features are great; students can collaborate while teachers monitor progress and leave comments.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students? 4

The site provides three levels of research to aid differentiation. In addition to pop-up questions, there are multiple tutorials accessible from every page.

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How Can Teachers Use It?

No matter the age of your students, it’s best to start small. NoodleTools MLA Lite -- which is free and recommended for grades six through eight -- focuses on creating a Works Cited page. NoodleTools Express -- also free -- offers support for creating a bibliography/Works Cited page for MLA, Chicago/Turion, or APA styles; it's ideal for citing just one or two sources. Neither of these options includes creating and archiving notecards, sharing work, or making outlines, but this is just fine when students are starting out.

Once students show comfort and familiarity, it may be worth looking into an individual or annual subscription to reap the site's extensive resources. Should you opt for the full package and want to differentiate, it’s recommended that you assign specific levels to students. For example, ELL students and struggling readers would benefit from starting at the Beginner level, where the tutorials are more visual and the source options more limited.

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What's It Like?

NoodleTools is an online platform designed to be a one-stop support system for students' research. With a series of clicks and keystrokes, students move from page to page through the site, each step of the way informing the next. From selecting sources all the way to submitting a final paper, students get guidance on every part of the research process. Instead of collecting papers and notecards and scheduling conferences, teachers can monitor, and comment on, students' progress at any time.

To begin, students create and name their research project; they then move on to selecting a source they'd like to cite. Immediately, a "Show Me" tutorial appears -- it’s a slideshow that guides students through evaluating the source to determining its quality. Overall, there are three levels of the product: Beginner for Elementary/Middle School reading ability; Junior for students new to research; and Advanced. The program also offers multiple ways for teachers to help students pursue the research process, from "NoodleTools MLA Lite" to "Choose The Best Search," among others.

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Is It Good For Learning?

NoodleTools' thorough approach to the research process helps confirm its potential for learning. Both teachers' and students' needs have been deftly anticipated and attended to. In addition, there's a fantastic, built-in way of prompting students to consider the value of the source they've selected. But what distinguishes NoodleTools the most is its focus on the why of research, valuing the process over just the results.

That said, Noodle Tools scaffolds the research process in such a detailed way that it might help if the program did more to simplify things. At times, it's so thorough that it could teeter on overwhelming for both teachers and students. To fully appreciate the site’s smart offerings may take a significant amount of time. Of course, the nature of research is an orderly, detailed, and step-by-step process -- nevertheless, Noodle Tools might also do well to help students highlight more of the genuine enjoyment and "a-ha" moments that can come about through discovery.

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