My very favorite educational resource has been BrainPOP.com since I began teaching in 2001. It started as a great site for showing quick videos to students that were always more interesting to them than listening to me. We used the quizzes to check comprehension from the movie and talk more about the topic. As the years passed BrainPOP improved their website to include games, a concept mapping tool, a tool teachers can use to create their own quizzes and an amazing sorting game called Sortify that has challenged both students and teachers more than once. Students can submit their work using the BrainPOP tools to their teachers through My BrainPOP. Teachers can assess student learning using spreadsheets, screenshots and authentic work submitted by their students. The options BrainPOP provides their teachers for differentiation and assessment are limitless.
I have spent the last year working closely with the BrainPOP team to learn more about their website, how to use it effectively and all the work that goes in to producing it. I was lucky enough to help in their booth at the MEA/MFT teacher's confernce in Missoula in 2014. Then they invited me to be a part of a Professional Development Advisory Panel in New York City in 2015. That led to a collaboration with two amazing BrainPOP pros Cathie Gilner and Nili Bartly. We created training materials over the summer for BrainPOP to teach educators about how to use their tools for assessment. I even got to record a webinar using the materials we created. This fall I joined an online course so I could officially become BrainPOP cerified. While I was a CBE in my heart all along it feels good to carry legitimate credentials now. All of these experiences helped me to explore and use the webiste at a higher level. Each tool has been carefully developed by a team of experts aligned to standards and tested by teachers and students all over the world. I trust the BrainPOP site more than any other for quality content and creative approaches to instruction.
With all the love I have for the website, sadly I have not been able to use all of these features in my classroom because we have iPads and BrainPOP's flash heavy site could not load. This fall I have been sneaking across the hall to the second and third grade room to teach those students to use the site on the school's new Chromebooks. I would leave the room so excited about how the kids worked within the site creating concept maps and snap thoughts. While it was incredible to work with older kids and to be with my former students playing with tech just like old times, I couldn't wait to do the same things with my own class.
My wishes came true this weekend when the new mobile friendly BrainPOP site went live!
Now subscribers can access the full BrainPOP site using ANY mobile device or computer. This was big news for me and my students. I cheered out loud on Sunday when I got the news.
We didn't waste any time getting our iPads set up to use the new BrainPOP. I got the first graders going with their usernames and passwords to MyBarinPOP. We began by taking a quiz I created using the quiz mixer about Thanksgiving. My smartie pants first graders even figured out how to use the speak selection tool on their iPads to have the quiz questions read to them. After the quiz they went right to the movie about Thanksgiving laughing out loud at Moby's beeps and Tim's jokes. They took another quiz and then began playing with the Make A Map tool. They needed very little instruction from me on this. I simply said, "this is like Popplet. Use these keywords and images to share what you have learned today." They went to town! Time was up before many of them could finish but they submitted their work and ran to recess telling each other how much they love the "new BrainPOP." After recess we started our weekly Genius Hour. I showed them how they could search the BrainPOP site for videos about their topics. The room began to sing with Moby's beeps and Tim's voice. Every once in a while someone would look up and say, "Mrs. V, can I take a quiz?" "Mrs. V can I make a map?" It was just what I had been waiting for!
The most exciting part of our day yesterday was when one boy showed me his concept map about snakes. I noticed he had worked quietly and persistently on this map for most of our Genius Hour. He had several snake images on the screen and had begun labling nodes below the images with sentences about snakes. I was blown away by his stamina as he worked on the concept map. I was even more impressed by the sentences he had attempted to type on the screen. It really, truly brought tears to my eyes. This was a boy who does not typically verbalize his learning. Reading and writing has been challenging for him and yet using these tools he was able to start to share his learning. He was so proud of his work and read me his sentences. I am so blown away by the power of these BrainPOP tools after just one day of using them on our iPads. I can not wait to see what we will do next!