2015. ABDO [ abdozoom.com].
This engaging database provides young researchers with standardized, accessible information on 160 different animals. Users can opt
to type in a search term or browse through three main categories:
habitat; type (e.g., mammals, insects, amphibians); or geographic
region. Subgroups (e.g., under mammals: horses, pets, and farm
animals, among others) help narrow down results even further.
Each entry’s main page offers a brief video (under 10 seconds) and
links to five sections: “About,” “Body,” “Habitat,” “Food,” and “Life
Cycle.” These sections each offer a few simple, declarative sentences
accompanied by engaging, full-color photos. Users can opt to have
the text read aloud, and each word is highlighted in turn. Scrolling
down provides access to “Zoom In” features: “Cool Facts,” “Quick
Stats,” “Range Map,” and an article citation. The crowd-pleasing
facts range from quirky to gross, and the comparative statistics are
reported in ways designed to make data accessible for young audiences (for example, a capybara is about the size of an acoustic guitar
and weighs more than a toilet). Each entry also offers a “Play and
Learn” section, with animal-specific activities (e.g., draw and color,
word searches, mazes).
Site-wide features include additional games (e.g., match the animal to its classification) and a few lesson plans each for kindergarten,
first grade, and second grade. Children and parents will appreciate
the user-friendly features, such as unlimited do-overs for games and
quizzes, the natural voice and expressiveness of the text reader, and
the overall graphic-rich, accessible layout. Librarians and educators will appreciate the easy accessibility and navigability plus the
emphasis on academic content and vocabulary, reinforced through
print, photos, and audio. Additional planned Zoom products will
address biographies and STEAM. Animals are always popular topics, and this tool will find eager audiences in classroom, school, and
public library settings. —Kathleen McBroom
Miss Humblebee’s Academy.
2015. Gale [ misshumblebee.com].
Miss Humblebee’s Academy makes the claim that any child who
completes this entire online curriculum will be kindergarten ready,
as measured by national standards. The site does offer an impressive
array of resources. Parents create accounts to gain access to hundreds
of standards-aligned lessons and supporting songs, stories, and activities. Young users (independently or in tandem with adults, based
on individual capability) can choose specific topics or be automatically advanced through uncluttered pages featuring age-appropriate
content, large print, and bright, cheerful, cartoonlike illustrations.
The site is very user-friendly due to intuitive navigation and overall
accessibility, and it is also available as an app for tablets.
Young users do not need to be able to read to fully participate.
All text, including instructions, can be read aloud, with each word
highlighted in turn (content is available in English only). Thematic lessons span five content areas (math, language and literacy,
science and social studies, music, and art). Children who already
have a grasp of basic math and pre-literacy skills will enjoy the
activities and benefit from the repetitive, entertaining exercises.
Incentives include personalized avatars and virtual stickers, coins,
and puzzle pieces. Young scholars receive these awards as they
work their way through content, whether they answer quiz questions correctly or actually complete all components of a lesson.
Children can take a “Cognitive Skills Assessment” at any time to
establish baseline levels. The site tracks subsequent student progress, and parents have access to user-friendly charts and graphs.
Parents can also request e-mail updates.
The appeal and benefits for home use are evident, but parents will
need to assume responsibility for establishing accounts and keeping
track of passwords (the site does allow for multiple family members
under one account and multiple simultaneous users). Teachers and
librarians will need to note that lessons are not divided according
to age group, so users can self-select by topic but not necessarily
appropriate level. Usage reporting is available at district and school
level. As an online learning resource, Miss Humblebee’s Academy
can traverse between the school library, classroom, home, and mo-
bile devices. —Kathleen McBroom
2015. [ pebblego.com].
This latest addition to the PebbleGo online database suite tackles a perennially favorite subject: dinosaurs (previous topics include
animals, biographies, science, and social studies). Users can choose
to browse through one of three main sections (“Beaked Dinosaurs,” “Birdlike Dinosaurs,” or “Long-Necks”) or use the search
function to type in a specific creature (more than 135 dinosaurs
are profiled). Major sections are further broken down into broad
subsections (e.g., “Early Long-Necks,” “Giant Long-Necks,” and
“Titanosaurs”). Thumbnail illustrations help researchers narrow
down search results.
Each entry offers five brief sections: “Body,” “Habitat,” “Food,”
“Behavior,” and “Compare to Today.” Clicking on any of these
headings brings up three straightforward factual sentences (which
users can opt to have read aloud). The comparison component iden-tifies behaviors also modeled by modern animals, such as living in
herds, laying eggs, or being herbivores. Citations are provided, and
researchers have the option of printing individual illustrations or
entire articles. Users can also access six basic memory games (e.g.,
Jigsaw, Word Scramble) that rely on site content. A “Question of the
Day” feature asks for personal input, for example, “Which of these
dinosaur names sounds the strangest to you?” Teacher resources include alignments to national standards; lesson plans (worksheet and
graphic-organizer dependent); and reproducibles (more worksheets:
word find, maze, crossword, pronunciation guide).
The publishers tout this as being appropriate for the preschool
crowd, but these youngest users might be put off by the lack of
animation, the small text and thumbnail features of the search
option, and the relatively dry text. Conversely, their early elementary counterparts will appreciate the well-organized layout, the site
accessibility and navigability, and the satisfyingly gory full-color illustrations (these vivid photo-like images are so lifelike that they
might cause confusion regarding actual representations). This teaching and learning tool would be a worthwhile supplemental addition
to public, school, and classroom collections. There are multiple curriculum connections, and audience demand for this subject remains
steadfast. —Kathleen McBroom
EARLY LEARNING DATABASES
Miss Humblebee’s Academy.