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By Charles G. Doe - Posted May 1, 2009
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Overall Rating:5 Stars
Ease of Use:A
Product Support:A

Company: Capstone Press, Inc., 151 Good Counsel Drive, Mankato, MN 56002. Phone: (800) 747-4992; Internet:  

Price: $395 per building per year. Volume discounts are available. A free demonstration version is offered online.

Audience: K–2 emergent readers, both at home and at school.

Format: Web-based subscription database with audio, video, and still images for computers with Windows, Mac, or Linux operating systems.

Minimum System Requirements: Basically, a fast internet connection and a newer computer are required. Video and other elements of the site, however, generate some additional hardware and software requirements.

Windows computers should have a 450 MHz Pentium II processor, 128MB RAM, Windows 2000, 1280 x 1024 monitor resolution, support for sound, Internet Explorer 6.0 or Firefox 2.x, Flash Player v9.0.115, and JavaScript.

Mac and Linux computers have essentially the same requirements. Macs require Power PC GC, 500 MHz, Intel Core Duo 1.33 GHz processor, Safari 3.x, and Opera 9.5 or Firefox 2.x. Linux machines require Red Hat Enterprise Linus (RHEL) 5, openSUSE 11, or Ubantu 7.10 with Firefox 2.x or SeaMonkey 1.11.

Description: Aligned to national curriculum standards, PebbleGo introduces K–2 students to database and research concepts with information about hundreds of animals. The program navigation, the level of difficulty of the text, the read-aloud component, and other features are designed for use by emergent readers.

Reviewer Comments:

Installation: The installation essentially consists of being sure the proper equipment with the correct software is available, followed by arranging a subscription. Installation Rating: A

Content/Features: PebbleGo, named after the Capstone Press Pebble Books series, is a subscription database designed specifically to help K–2 students learn to use databases and perform research tasks.

The program provides animal information in a database with a visually pleasing interface. Since reading ability can be one of the big problems for younger children doing research, PebbleGo offers a number of features designed to make research possible despite the characteristically low reading level of this audience.

The program is attractively designed with information about approximately 200 animals, including different classes of animals (amphibians, mammals, reptiles, etc.), animal behavior, home territory, and more. The information examines body, habitat, food, life cycle, and fun facts in a type of slide show.

The text is carefully leveled and age-appropriate. The image on the body slide can be printed as an activity that provides a list of body parts and blank spaces, offering the opportunity to correctly label the animal.

Students can click an on-screen button to hear the sound an animal makes. Another button offers a brief video clip. Additional buttons enable students to print information about an animal, obtain citation information, move to other parts of the database, or produce a template page that can be printed and used to share information about a specific animal.

The important features of PebbleGo are the navigation and reading functions that make it possible for K–2 students to use this kind of research tool. Pleasant voices read words aloud to identify some of the nav­i­­gation buttons. Hearing the spoken names of the animals on these buttons should help students learn unfamiliar words. Information about each animal can be read aloud, accompanied by word-by-word highlighting.

PebbleGo can be searched using search terms, a skill that is probably difficult for K–2 readers. The best way for younger children to find animals or to explore the database is through a series of buttons on the first screen. These include navigation buttons for games, a "Vote for Your Favorite Animal" button, an "Animal of the Day" button, and 16 buttons that lead to various classes of animals and their information.

Each button has a word that is read aloud and a picture representing the information to be found by clicking that button. Clicking "Insects & Spiders" leads to a screen with two buttons, one for each classification. A click on the "Insects" button leads to a screen with 11 buttons, each with a picture of an insect and a navigation arrow to another screen. Clicking "Dragonflies," for example, leads to one of the excellent informational articles.

Clicking a "Games" link on the first screen leads to a page with buttons for six different games. These include games such as "Predator and Prey," in which pictures of predators are matched with pictures of prey. Students may find the games a little difficult at first, but frequent use and practice will help them learn about the animals and enjoy the games.

Teacher and parent resources include an administrative login to set up usernames and passwords and to access a usage reporting function. Clicking the "For Parents and Educators" link in small print at the bottom of most pages leads to a database of state education standards, a few lesson plans, and a few additional activities for students that can be printed for use.

Overall, this is an excellent and well-designed resource. It is pleasing to the eye and ear and carefully thought-out, accomplishing what it intends to do. The only possible problem I can see is that younger children may have some difficulty despite the various program aids and may require extra help. This program will work best if students have had some prior computer experience. Content/Features Rating: A

Ease of Use: PebbleGo is easy and intuitive to use. Children may need a bit of help getting started, but experienced computer users should have no problems at all. Ease of Use Rating: A

Product Support: Product support is available via email or a toll-free telephone call. In general, once the account is set up, users will encounter very few problems. Product Support Rating: A

Recommendation: PebbleGo is a delightful, well-designed, and well-thought-out resource for elementary education. I highly recommend this program for all K–12 schools and other education settings. Highly recommended.

Reviewer: Charles Doe, media specialist, Hastings Area Schools, Hastings, MI.

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