By Allison Campbell-Jensen
While seeking feedback last fall on the collections of Minitex’s online learning resources that serve libraries across the state, Matt Lee says a gap became clear in “early literacy support — resources to help our youngest learners as they are embarking on the reading journey.” Lee is Minitex’s Associate Director in charge of Cooperative Purchasing & Electronic Resources, and Minitex is a division of U of M Libraries.
As of July 1, the online learning platform PebbleGo joined the suite of resources offered through eLibrary Minnesota (ELM) and libraries across the state to fill the need.
“This is a resource that seems very flexible, very supportive of all types of students,” Lee says. “It really seemed like an inclusive and open and equitable gateway to reading and to the research process.”
“We have such a diverse population that we need tools that can reach all of our students and all of their needs,” says Karen Landsverk, media specialist for Becker Intermediate School, who helped evaluate the program.
Highlights of PebbleGo
In providing support for readers-to-be, the program offers “multi-modality,” says Ashley Krohn, head of Library Media Services for Minneapolis Public Schools, which has used PebbleGo for a few years. For instance, not only does the learning platform emphasize multimedia content, but it also will read aloud to users who hover their mouse over an image when navigating to an article, press the play button on an article, or click on bold text which links to the glossary.”
Moreover, the program uses natural voices who enunciate clearly, notes Landsverk. The platform also offers games and a question of the day. “There are a lot of different ways to explore and keep engaged,” she says, and teachers can use articles and activities from the program.
The content aligns with Minnesota curriculum standards. The program teaches about animals and biographies in sections designed for kindergarten through third grade students, then focuses on states and Native American studies in the PebbleGo Next for grades three through five. “It’s so important for us as a state to not only study and understand Native American history, but also Native Americans in present day in Minnesota,” Lee says. “That was a thing that really stood out in PebbleGo.”
Its ease of navigation means students can begin to independently explore the database without a lot of explicit instruction by a teacher or school librarian, Krohn says. Parents, grandparents, and older siblings can help young users get ahead. “I would encourage our caregivers to engage with PebbleGo,” she says. “[It’s] meant for them to have independent exploration.” Krohn adds that to enhance and deepen your student’s experience, connect with their teacher or school librarian.
“One story that we hear over and over again when we are talking with media specialists and teachers and educators,” Lee says, “is just how important it is for students to make learning discoveries on their own.” In PebbleGo’s safe environment, students and teachers can follow targeted learning strategies — ones that go beyond relying on the first page of Google results.
The online learning program encourages critical inquiry — critical evaluation of information — that will serve these learners in the years ahead. PebbleGo, Lee says, is “introducing students to navigating this super-complicated information landscape, which is a skill they will use over and over again as they progress through elementary, middle, and high school and into college — just a lifetime of navigating information sources.”
He adds: “We think that it will serve as a ramp and gateway to all the information resources we’ve collected so far.”