Friday, December 02, 2016

Not recommended: PebbleGo Next

Eds. note: Please scroll down to see additional review content, submitted on December 5, 2016.

In the last few months, I've been getting email from AICL readers who are asking if I've looked at Pebble Go Next database. Here's a description:
PebbleGo Next is the next step in research for students grades 3-6. Launching with a States and American Indian studies module, PebbleGo Next is carefully aligned to grades 3-6 curriculum objectives. The databases is simple to navigate and offer key reading supports such as read-along audio and word-by-word highlighting along with a variety of downloadable, including prompts to inspire critical thinking.
PebbleGo Next is published by Capstone. On their page, they write that they're the leading provider of nonfiction materials for struggling and reluctant readers.

The "American Indian" content of the PebbleGo Next database is arranged in geographical sections, called "Cultural Areas." Framing our nations as cultures is a typical error. We are--first and foremost--nations. A better arrangement would be something like "Tribal Nations in the Southwest" instead of "Southwest Culture Area." Not using our status as nations means that PebbleGo Next has no way to address important facts, like this one: we have jurisdiction over our reservation homelands.

Based on the lack of crucial information 
about our sovereign nation status
and what I list below in my close look 
at the Pueblo tab in the "Southwest Culture Area," 
I do not recommend the PebbleGo Next database. 


The single, most significant error, is the failure to use the word "nation" to describe the Pueblo Nations of the southwestern part of the U.S.

We do not call our ancestors "Anasazi" which means "Ancient Ones." Anasazi is a Navajo word. The best way to refer to our ancestors is...  ancestors.


Use of "the Ancient Ones" in "After a drought in the 1300s, the Ancient Ones moved south and built villages along the Rio Grande River" is awkward. Better to say something like "After a drought, the Pueblo peoples moved south and built villages along the Rio Grande River."

The information about Pueblo homelands being "ruled" by Spain from the 1500s to 1821, and Mexico from 1821 to 1848, and then the US from then on, is simplistic. Each of those nations (Spain, Mexico, U.S.) recognized the Pueblo peoples as nations. This was acknowledged by a series of canes, given to Pueblo leaders, by officials of those nations. The last one was from President Lincoln. For reference, see the documentary, Canes of Power.

Use of "Anasazi" in the timeline is incorrect.

The entry for 1680, in the timeline, is incorrect and incomplete. That year (1680), the Pueblo Nations drove the Spanish out of our homelands.

Traditional Homes, Food, and Clothing

All the information is in past tense.

Family Life

All the information is in past tense.


Finally, a page with a present tense word ("Today...") but the information is too broad and some of it is incorrect because of the broad description.


It is good that present tense is used, but why is the section called "Beliefs" rather than Religion? Information, as with the page on Government, is too broad, making some of it incorrect.


In the first paragraph, past tense is used to describe traditional dances, ceremonies, and prayer. The second paragraph is written in a way that suggests that we've moved away from that, to doing it for tourists and as "festivals" that we "celebrate throughout the year." That is inaccurate.

Modern Life

The description of our traditional homes "sometimes covered in adobe" is inaccurate. Our traditional homes are made of adobe bricks, and, plastered with adobe mud, and/or stucco.

The information on "jobs" is incomplete. Native people do more than just work in factories, vineyards (?) and uranium mines. Some of us are teachers, lawyers, engineers, librarians.

The line that "many return home to their villages on the weekends" suggests that those with "jobs" can't live in their homes on reservation lands each night, which is not true. Some do, some don't. Written as it is, the suggestion contributes to a perception that our homelands are isolated and stuck in the past, which isn't true.

Update, December 5, 2016

Jenna Wolf, tribally enrolled with the Muscogee Creek Nation, and librarian at Beaver Country Day School in Massachusetts, submitted this review of the Muscogee content at PebbleGo Next:
I have navigated through PebbleGo Next and also found a lot of issues. The section on Muscogee (Creek) Nation fails to mention much about land allotments after the Trail of Tears, and it only briefly mentions the Dawes Act in its timeline; nary any mention of the implications of signing and forced signings thereafter, as well as how its used as a roll now for tribal enrollment. Just a few things I noticed. The history section just MENTIONS the Indian Removal Act and the Trail of Tears, in the timeline only and not in the narrative section. Big mistakes and blaring holes.
I also did a cursory read through some of the other tribes to which I have personal affiliation via friends and family (Navajo, Isleta Pueblo). I was disturbed on a basic level just about the language used--so much past tense BEYOND the history section and many problems with the Modern Life section. Take for instance the section of Navajos--it mentions they are weavers and jewelers but CAN also have other jobs. This is similar to a book I weeded from our collection about the Navajo which said "they even like to wear blue jeans!".
Just wanted to give you some quick feedback about what I noticed.
This would not be a complete or appropriate resource in my opinion.


Tawa Ducheneaux ePort said...

Thanks Debbie! I wrote them a letter. Maybe if more of us do this, they'll reconsider their research and authorship. It sounds like it was written in the 1940s. It was so confusing to read about ourselves in the past tense and it shouldn't be part of any K-12 curriculum anymore.

Amanda said...

Thanks, Debbie! We currently use PebbleGo for our K-2 students, and I was debating adding this module of PebbleGo Next to support our 2nd grade Native American unit. This makes my decision for me. (And I also have to say that I will be sharing some of your resources and articles with our 2nd grade team to encourage them to revisit how they teach their unit.)

Franki said...

Thanks Debbie. This review is helpful. I really like some of the original resources on the original Pebble Go. It is an accessible resource for young children. I was not aware of the addition of Pebble Go Next but it is disappointing that a resource we trust has been irresponsible with information.

Jamalia Higgins said...

Thank you for this review! I have often wondered about the value of these books at an elementary level. I am not in any way suggesting erasure or delay, but given the structured curricula in many schools today, it makes me skeptical that many educators could properly give a historical framework to put a book like this in the proper context at that age level. By no means am I excusing misinformation when I say this! Is there a better way? I sure wish I had the solution.

Soma On A Stick said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Debbie Reese said...

Soma On A Stick,

Thanks for writing to them! And for sharing their response, too.

Some important things to note:

I generally don't care if readers write to me and use "Ms. Reese." When I taught at the University of Illinois, I asked students to call me Debbie. I do that in workshops, too.

Capstone's response uses "Ms. Reese" and "opinion." Both discredit my status (Dr. Reese) and my expertise. I am one of the founders of the American Indian Studies program at the University of Illinois. I've presented and been invited to give keynotes at gatherings of Native scholars. My PhD is in early childhood education. So, all in all, Capstone's response to you is interesting.

When they do post credentials of their experts, can you do a screen cap or copy/paste of it?

On one thing, Capstone and I agree: "it is essential to present that information in a respectful and accurate way." Where we disagree is that they do the same thing generations of publishers have done, which is to collapse distinctions between--in this case--one pueblo nation and another. The goal is accuracy. My suggestion: select a single pueblo. Be accurate about that one. List the others. Note that there are differences from one to the next. That presentation of information would be far more accurate than what they chose to do, and what they choose to defend.