Changes to PebbleGo Content

Changes to PebbleGo Content

September 20, 2021

When you sign in to PebbleGo this school year, you may notice some changes:  how articles are organized, the content of some articles, and a handful of articles that no longer appear. Why? 

It is an understatement to say that we continue to live in a particularly intense time for families, schools, and communities. The pandemic and other national events exposed needs, old and new, and accelerated their adoption. What equity looks like in our schools is an issue that must be grappled with on many levels, but one thing is clear: we owe learners a resource that offers them multiple perspectives, celebrates representation, encourages curiosity and critical thinking, and helps them make connections in our complicated world.  

In 2020, Capstone engaged a third party to help us with a year-long audit of PebbleGo content. As part of this review, several expert consultants intensively reviewed hundreds of PebbleGo articles. For more than a decade, PebbleGo has been helping kids research and learn; these experts helped us to stop, reflect, and think about what has changed, what has not, and what should change about PebbleGo’s content. 

Category Changes in PebbleGo Biographies 

Categories based on gender, race, or ethnicity have been eliminated. The articles that appeared in those categories are still available. They now reside only in the area(s) that represent their accomplishments (they have always appeared in these categories.) 

This change may seem counter-intuitive at a moment in time when many educators are specifically looking to lift up stories from often marginalized voices. Removing the categories was extensively debated, but the reality is identity is personal, defies easy categorization, and categories can unintentionally marginalize accomplishments. Is it important to know about Ada Lovelace only because she was a woman or because she was a female scientist who, as the first programmer, directly impacts so much of our daily lives? Additionally, categories that seemed inclusive on the surface were masking other issues. Not all Asians in PebbleGo are Asian American, for example.  

Then/Now Articles No Longer Appear; First Thanksgiving Article Transformed 

Some articles had been removed from the database, but have been updated as of August 5th

A common curriculum requirement is for students to understand how daily life—school, technology, and more—has changed over time. PebbleGo Social Studies had a series of articles that supported these standards. 

During our content review, we realized that those articles assumed both a linear evolution and a singular perspective. We removed these articles from the database while we evaluate more inclusive treatments that fit within the confines of a less-than-200-word article for early elementary students. 

The article on the first Thanksgiving was also removed but, in this case, two new replacement articles are available.  The original article made a more direct, but historically inaccurate, connection between harvest and Thanksgiving as it is celebrated today.  The first new article, The 1621 Harvest Celebration, gives an accurate depiction of the first encounters between the Wampanoag and colonizers. The second new article, Thanksgiving, provides historical context to the holiday and describes how it is celebrated today. 

General Updates 

Hundreds of articles were reviewed during this process to see if they met current educational standards. We are proud to say most articles required little to no updates. Articles that were updated fell into two general categories: 

Providing a more expansive perspective

The country articles in PebbleGo Social Studies are a good example of this. Prior to the update, the articles for countries that have a history of colonization tended to start an explanation of the country’s history with the advent of colonization, ignoring the rich history of the area prior to colonization. That has been addressed with the updates. 

Acknowledging consequences/controversies

Some history and biography articles in particular tended to have a very linear focus when, of course, context is key to understanding both. As an example, the John Muir article now celebrates his role in forming our national park system while also acknowledging that parkland came at the expense of the Indigenous people who lived there. 

Our commitment to quality content in PebbleGo is unwavering. This means we must also be committed to continually reviewing the articles, images, videos, and other supporting content within PebbleGo to make sure they meet the evolving needs of learners and support current curriculum requirements.  If you have a suggestion or concern about PebbleGo’s content, please reach out.