I have been working in the library to get more online resources and varied reading available to our students. We have a school wide subscription to TUMBLEBOOKS which kids love. We also have started using iPod Touches and Kindles but are at the very beginning stages. I want all of our students to have access to a variety of tools for reading and learning.
One of the huge challenges I have had with many online literacy tools is how inaccessible they are to young children. Even if they are marketed for young children, many do not support students who are new readers. With my understanding of literacy in grades K-4, I am really looking for something that supports students as readers, writers and researchers and often the tools aren't build that truly support young children in growing in these areas.
One of my favorite resources that I purchased is a subscription to Pebble Go. Pebble Go is a nonfiction tool designed for students in Grades K-3. There are two databases available--one on Animals and one on Earth and Space. Our school purchased a subscription to both from Follett for a total of $695 for the year. One of our district librarians had mentioned it several timed and I looked harder at it at the SLJ Leadership Summit in October.
I LOVE LOVE LOVE Pebble Go. This week, I introduced it to 1st-4th graders at our school. The subscription we purchased allows students to access it from home or from school with our school's password. I can't tell you how many kids told me they visited the site the evening following the introduction I gave.
There are sooooo many things to love about this tool:
-Pebble Go is a great nonfiction resource for kids. The text is simple, yet filled with great information. The images go with the text and there are videos, maps, and sounds that go along with the text. Each topic is divided into subtopics and "tabs" with headings so students can access specific information. I love that kids can learn from a variety of media on a topic. There are also many different ways that information is categorized which is great for kids of this age.
-Pebble Go gives students lots of layers of support. There are visual searches for students who need that but there is a search box for students who want to type in a search. There is a "listen" option for students who want text read aloud to them or who need search categories read aloud to them. Students can also choose to read text on their own. The entire resource gives layers of support and kids can use the supports as needed.
-There are words highlighted for students to get more support. If they do not know the highlighted word, clicking on it gives them a pronunciation and definition (read aloud to them if they'd like). Most of these are science specific words related to the topic.
-There are supports for students who are using Pebble Go for more formal research. There is a button that students can push on each page to "Cite the Source". A pop-up window provides the info which makes for a great intro to citing sources. Students can also use photos and print articles in a printer friendly format (font and layout continue to support young readers.
I see this as a great intro to research, but more importantly, it is a great source of nonfiction reading for young children. It was a hard decision to decide to spend $700 of our library budget on these two databases but one of our goals has been to add more "readable" nonfiction text. Although we have a great deal of nonfiction, it is hard to find lots of nonfiction that can be read by new readers. This tool has hundreds of topics and the nonfiction text is accessible to readers at many reading levels. I also see it as a huge support for content learning and a great language support for our English Language Learners.
An added bonus is that our older kids are enjoying the resource. Some siblings have come in and told me that they've explored the site together. The tool is so supportive of young children, that they need no help to use it well once they've been introduced to the basics. And it is so interesting in terms of the information, that it is engaging for older kids too.
Pebble Go has a great white paper that shares more details about the product. There is also a video on the Pebble Go site that helps explain it better.
I have never really reviewed an online resource like this, but I am so excited about this one that I wanted to share it. I think it is well worth the 70 books I didn't buy because of I used the money for this. Instead of having 70 kids check new books, out, all of our K-5 students have access to this great nonfiction 24/7. One of the things I learned early in the year (through a survey) is that our students spend a lot of time on computers but don't really know of great sites to visit. I have been trying all year to help them see the possibilities of things they could do on the computer that support them as learners.
I have always been impressed with Capstone's nonfiction resources for young children. They understand the supports young children need. It is so nice to see that understanding transfer to online products. I hope we see more things like this--things specifically designed to support young readers in ways that are embedded in authentic reading and learning.