February 23, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Stellar Databases: SLJ Readers’ Favorites and Other Essential Electronic Resources

Everywhere you look, librarians are on the hunt for databases, databases, and more databases. But which one is best? More importantly, when you get past the bells and whistles and confusing talk of “solutions,” which offers material that your students will use? And which one will be accessible to them? Wonder no more. We asked our readers what their most beloved resource is—our poll revealed a runaway favorite—and we also combed through this year’s database reviews and our recent tech survey to present below a list of electronic resources that make the grade.

PebbleGo, Capstone Digital

K-Gr 3–SLJ readers were vocal—and almost unanimous—in their appreciation of this fun, informative resource. Contributors praise the Capstone Digital database created for students in kindergarten through third grade, not just for its excellent nonfiction conSLJ140401w_FT-StellarData-1tent, but also for its ease of navigation and age-appropriate supplementary materials, including videos, pictures, and glossaries. For teachers and librarians, it also contains citation information and suggested cross references.

Subjects include animals, a section that boasts 200 entries; biographies (which recently added another 62 entries); Earth and space; and social studies. Librarian Sandy Pearsall of Conrad Weiser West Elementary in Womelsdorf, PA, notes, “It was difficult to find good nonfiction research materials for the varied levels of our students’ reading ability. PebbleGo has solved that problem. It is an excellent resource that is used over and over again.”

Teacher librarian Marilyn Rothberg of General Wayne Elementary School in Malvern, PA, is another ardent fan. “The database excels in its writing clarity, the appropriateness of the subtopics for each article, the ability for the text to be read out loud (and in a natural voice), the videos and pictures included, and the glossary help,” she says. “Our students enjoy researching topics on PebbleGo,” Rothberg continued, adding, “our teachers are happy to have found another source for nonfiction texts to support the Common Core. As a librarian, I love the citation information found at the bottom of the article and the cross references suggested.”

Other librarians praised PebbleGo as being ideal for their youngest patrons. According to Patricia Canini, library media specialist at Lincoln-Titus Elementary School in Crompond, NY, “PebbleGo is very user-friendly and suitable for kindergarten students—as not many databases are!”

(Capstone unveiled PebbleGoNext on April 10 at the Texas Library Association Conference. Click here to read SLJ coverage of this new product.)

BiblioBoard, Bibliolabs

See for the full review by Jennifer Prince.

Gr 6 UpBiblioLabs’s interesting new hybrid offers 14,000-plus public domain ebooks as well as images and 10,000-plus pages of other primary sources, and, unusually, a way for users to save locally created materials for patrons to access. The platform provides schools and libraries with curated collections called anthologies, which are bundles of content on specific themes. Once inside an anthology, users browse Pinterest-style through a gallery of high-resolution images—book covers, drawings, photos, and more—with each image linked to further information. If the icon is of a book cover, the attached link provides full access to facsimiles of that title’s content. BiblioBoard is also accessible via mobile devices such as the Kindle, Nexus 7, Nook, and iPad.

SLJ140401w_FT-StellarData-3Air & Space and Smithsonian Magazine Archive Database, Gale Cengage Learning

See for the full review by Brian Odom.Gr

6 Up–Emerging from the great American museum and research facility, the Smithsonian, this database represents the first time the archives (up to the current issues) of Air & Space Magazine and Smithsonian Magazine have been made available to student researchers. Users can now easily search across the institution’s wide-ranging subjects that include science, the arts, history, nature, and international cultural heritage. Air & Space canvasses the innovative world of aviation and space exploration with articles from each field’s history, present technologies, human-interest stories, and future possibilities, while Smithsonian is widely recognized as a solid source of information on humankind’s arts and culture.

SLJ140401w_FT-StellarData-2Digital Literacy, Rosen Digital

See for the full review by Jennifer Prince.

Gr 7 Up–Digital Literacy provides users with a know-how that will allow them to maximize the usefulness of a variety of online resources and be smart and responsible while doing so. The most significant strength of this database is the high relevancy of the articles to today’s students’ needs and the wide breadth of information covered in them. Articles are presented under the headings “Cyberbullying and Safety,” “Communication Basics,” “Social Networking,” “Privacy and Digital Ethics,” “Search and Research Skills,” “Tools for the Digital Age,” “Careers and Entrepreneurship,” “Internet Biographies,” and “Gaming.” The strong presence of audiovisual accompaniments will be of particular use to users who are studying English as a second language and to those who struggle with reading comprehension. Links to dozens of videos are embedded throughout the database content, and Rosen also provides interactive tutorials that help with, for example, recording a podcast.

Rourke eRead and Report

See for the full review by Jennifer Prince.

K Up–Rourke’s “eRead and Report” provides one-stop shopping for schools and libraries seeking science, social studies, fiction, math, and “high-interest” ebooks. Some of the books for very young children are written so that they can be sung to the tune of a children’s song. For that same age group, the resource also provides rebus stories. Each title is not only Common Core compliant but comes with student assessment functions as well, with test results immediately available to teachers. Purchase includes unlimited access for an entire building, with the material being accessible using PCs, Macs, tablets, and smartphones. All of the collections feature terrific illustrations. Some of the titles have full-color photographs, while others have bright, cartoony drawings. All text is in large, plain font.

National Geographic: People, Animals, and the World, Gale Cengage Learning

See ow.ly/uqEyk for the full review by Kara Schaff Dean.

Gr 6 Up–“National Geographic: People, Animals, and the World” is part of the National Geographic Virtual Library. The database allows access to full-text books on travel, science and technology, history, the environment, animals, photography, and peoples and cultures. Also included are full-text articles from National Geographic Traveler magazine from 2010 to the present, 325 videos, 655 full-color maps and atlases, and 600 downloadable images.

SLJ140401w_FT-StellarData-4Britannica School, Britannica Digital Learning

See ow.ly/uqGXs for the full review by Cara Moffett.

PreK Up–This resource that offers material for even the very young contains more than 140,000 current and expertly written informational articles and countless multimedia items including video and audio files, maps, illustrations, photos, primary source documents, ebooks, recommended websites, and much more. The homepage features three encyclopedia files: “Elementary,” “Middle,” and “High.” Additionally, “Britannica Learning Zone” is offered within the Elementary interface for preschool students. A distinguishing feature of the material is that within each file there are three reading levels to choose from—Level 1 (Elementary), Level 2 (Middle), and Level 3 (High)—so that whichever option is purchased, users at varying reading levels will find accessible material.

Career Cruising, Career Cruising 2.0

See ow.ly/ur6pA for the full review by Cheryl LaGuardia.

Gr 9 Up–Career Cruising 2.0 is a web-based career guidance system designed to help students choose and plan their working futures. It includes self-assessment tools and copious up-to-date information about postsecondary schools, scholarships and financial aid, and effective job searching, along with advice on how to keep a job. The main difference compared to the previous version is that Career Cruising 2.0 focuses strongly on the student’s self-built portfolio (My Plan), with each of the main sections of the system (Assessments, Careers, Education, Financial Aid, and Employment) feeding directly into that plan.

Merriam-Webster Unabridged, Merriam-Webster, Inc.

See ow.ly/ur743 for the full review by Cheryl LaGuardia.

Gr 6 Up–Merriam-Webster Unabridged is an American online dictionary containing over 700,000 definitions, 143,000 etymologies, and 100,000 word-in-context quotations from well-known writers. Using the advanced search feature enables users to access citations from the Merriam-Webster citation files (a collection of over a million real-world usage examples that the publication’s editors use to track words and their meanings). This edition, the largest revision made in 50 years, includes 5,000 new words and definitions, supplementary notes providing additional context, and usage paragraphs offering guidance and suggestions for words with disputed usage. The dictionary is supplemented on a continual basis. The new site also has a blog, quizzes, top 10 lists, and word-popularity rankings.

EasyBib, ImagineEasy Solutions

In the survey that drove Lauren Barack’s recent “Device and Conquer” article for SLJ (ow.ly/utWO2), librarians mentioned EasyBib as one of their favorite tools. The citation generator (which also offers lesson plans and advice for those teaching citation skills) is free to use for those creating MLA-style entries; libraries where students or staff use APA or Turabian style must sign up for institutional subscriptions. The most commonly cited item types (website, book, newspaper, journal, database) are tabbed options on the homepage; another tab links to “All 59 Options,” a list that includes choices from cartoon to patent and more. See ow.ly/utYq0 for tips on using the service with elementary school students.

Glogster, Glogster EDU

Glogster, another tool cited by those who took the tech survey, allows users to create “glogs”—online multimedia posters. Its interface is easy to use: students can choose from pre-made image galleries or upload their own materials, and it’s also possible to use animation, draw, and include attachments, data, and more. A free version is available, but those who choose the premium option can take advantage of extras such as class and school sharing of posters, student portfolios, tech support, and—best of all—no ads. It’s easy to share glogs on multiple social media sites, too.

Elizabeth Michaelson is a freelance writer and editor in New York City and a contributing editor for QualityHealth.com. She previously worked as a librarian in the Queens library system.

This article was published in School Library Journal's April 2014 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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