Website review by Marianne Rogowski, Common Sense Education | Updated October 2019

PebbleGo Next

Safe nonfiction database develops students' research skills

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Grades
3–6
Subjects & Skills
English Language Arts, Critical Thinking

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Pros: The site's organization is consistent, so kids can easily find information and quickly learn what to expect.

Cons: Without individual student logins, there's no way for teachers to analyze how specific kids are using the site.

Bottom Line: Student-centric research site gives kids a just-right amount of information to build foundational research skills.

Give kids a chance to become familiar with PebbleGo Next's offerings before you assign research. Pose a question that students can answer using the site, and have them post their findings on a shared platform such as Padlet. Or if you're feeling low-tech, use sticky notes. Next, guide students through navigating different topics and subtopics, using the variety of available learning tools to further their understanding. As students improve at synthesizing information and paraphrasing text, reinforce copyright protocol via the built-in citation tool. Once kids are comfortable with the interface, increase the engagement factor by letting students use an augmented reality tool like Metaverse to create a scavenger hunt based on their research.  

Teachers looking for ways to support students' different learning needs will find some helpful features and ideas. The read-aloud tool highlights text as the narrator reads it with appropriate speed and fluency. The Community feature links to PebbleGo, the developer's K-2 research site, but it contains particularly useful and creative ideas that can be adapted for upper grades. Blog posts include helpful links to examples and ideas generated by other educators, providing plenty of inspiration to inject excitement into the research process. 
 

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PebbleGo Next is a kid-friendly research database for students in grades 3-6. An extension of the developer's K-2 site, PebbleGo, it lets students choose from five modules -- States, Science, American History, Biography, and Social Studies -- each one with a number of subtopics to explore. Once students decide on the focus of their research, they can click or scroll through eight different slides related to the chosen topic. Short text-based descriptions, images, videos, and games provide students with a well-rounded exploration of science- and social studies-related topics. A read-aloud feature with a word-by-word highlighter supports English-language learners (ELLs). Students may also opt to play games such as Quick Match or Jigsaw.

Teachers can view which articles are the most popular with their students -- handy information to have when planning related lessons. However, the site doesn't include individual student logins, so there's no way for teachers to analyze how specific kids are using the site.

PebbleGo Next is chock-full of information, but it's what students do with the research that matters. It's important to immerse students in a topic by providing multiple avenues for learning, and the site accomplishes this beautifully by fostering multimodal literacy skills. Kids can read, listen, see images, watch videos, and play games; when taken all together, these activities have the potential to contribute to a deeper understanding of subject matter. In addition, the read-aloud feature supports students who struggle with reading or prefer auditory content. While the games are fun, most don't go deep enough to significantly improve student understanding.

It can be a challenge to get students engaged in research, so teachers may need to explore the site's blog for ideas to spark kids' interest. Teachers will also need to consider scaffolding lessons to support students as they develop increasingly sophisticated research skills. Reinforcing digital citizenship concepts such as information literacy and copyright guidelines go a long way toward helping students build a solid foundation for future research projects.

Overall Rating

Engagement

While research might not be at the top of every student's desired activities, the site is approachable and contains enough variety to spark kids' interest.

Pedagogy

Kids will need support with paraphrasing and extracting the most important ideas and details; the site's citation features will help students comply with basic copyright guidelines.

Support

The user interface is consistent and simple to navigate, so kids will easily be able to find what they're looking for. Differentiation comes in the form of multimodal learning options and a wide variety of topic choices. 


Common Sense reviewer
Marianne Rogowski Media specialist/librarian

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