Review by Emily Pohlonski, Common Sense Education | Updated January 2013

Spongelab

Science community shows promise despite site's significant glitches

Common Sense says
Teachers say (2 Reviews)
$avg_user_learning_rating
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Grades
5-12 This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
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5 images

Pros: The exciting, bright graphics will appeal to students and draw them in.

Cons: Spongelab is plagued with technical bugs; even the support page has video tutorials with dead links.

Bottom Line: Although the flashy graphics are appealing, technical issues make it frustrating to use.

Teachers can use Spongelab as a way to direct kids toward specific simulations, animations, videos, case studies, or quizzes. As kids explore the science resources, they're rewarded for their efforts in the form of points. Credits, points, and badges are awarded liberally, but it takes quite a few to purchase an item in the Spongelab Marketplace. As teachers spend time on the site, they earn points, too. These points can be redeemed at the Spongelab Marketplace in exchange for discounts on science supplies. While these may be motivating rewards for a teacher, students might not find them that exciting.

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Spongelab, a global science community, provides free interactive science resources, including games, videos, animations, case studies, lesson plans, and quizzes. Kids register with an email address, a password, and some demographic information, such as what country they live in. Once logged in, they click the Explore tab to find content by subject and language, or to see what's been uploaded recently -- from an image of a wheat harvest to a simulation called Build-a-Solar-Cell. Teachers also can put their own lessons on the site and have kids follow them online. 

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Spongelab provides interactive simulations, videos, and images, all aimed at teaching kids science using a variety of multimedia content. Its heart is in the right place, but it seems that for every good quality, there's something the site could improve on. Some games, like Biochem Gems, appear flashy and fun at first glance but ultimately aren't intuitive and don't have much learning value. Other activities, like the supercool Genomics Digital Lab, show promise but are slow to load (plus, kids have to navigate through several menus to play). Build-a-Cell has great graphics but isn't that much fun; kids simply drag and drop images into a cell. Knowledge Mine lets kids answer biology trivia questions, but there's a technical glitch that causes the images to block the answer button. Frustrating! If Spongelab could fix all these annoying bugs, they'd have an outstanding science resource on their hands.

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Overall Rating
3

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?
2

Hidden beneath beautiful graphics, major technical problems make games move slowly or not work at all, frustrating kids and causing them to lose interest.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?
3

Some games are flashy and fun and look great, but they ultimately involve only superficial learning. Activities are available in multiple languages.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?
3

Most games provide kids feedback as they progress, which is helpful. Kids can learn from their mistakes based on the data provided.


Common Sense Reviewer
Emily Pohlonski Classroom teacher

Teacher Reviews

4
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Featured review by
Debra H. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
3
Useful for differentiated instruction in human anatomy & physiology

I could imagine using this site as stated above. I would like to explore the option of creating my own lessons to assign to the students. I am reluctant to spend much time on it until it gets better reviews concerning glitches and speed.

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