From Bird Songs to Coding at BrainPOP
Founded in 1999 by Avraham Kadar, M.D., immunologist and pediatrician, BrainPOP was originally a means to explain the foreign concept of asthma to one of his young patients. In nearly 20 years, BrainPOP has become a leading online resource for students across the world, used in over one fourth of classrooms in the United States. BrainPOP is available in several major world languages, including American and British English, Spanish, French, and Mandarin, with hopes of expanding further. With its loveable characters, Tim and Moby, BrainPOP offers animated movies, educational games, concept mapping, review quizzes, primary source activities and more, designed to supplement what students learn in school and further their understanding. BrainPOP is always evolving and recently launched a new site design, based on constant feedback from students and educators. Allisyn Levy, VP of GameUp, elaborated on the importance of the constant changes to the site: “With our recent site redesign, we were focused on responding to our users’ feedback to enable accessing BrainPOP and GameUp across devices. Our site is now mobile-ready and we will continue to build in HTML5 to allow for the flexibility of school and home use across different devices. As a former teacher, I know first hand about the challenges of implementing technology, so everything we design asks what we’re doing to make teachers’ lives easier, and helps solve real problems. Teachers and students are involved in our design process from early on and we have dedicated staff who are continuously communicating with our users so that we can iterate and improve based on feedback.”
In a beautiful and bright headquarters overlooking 6th Avenue, the BrainPOP team brings together former educators, animators, scientists and numerous other experts to provide the most conscientious and informative resources for students from elementary school through high school. Levy commented: “There are a lot of strong, experienced teachers on our staff. You can tell the emphasis and value that BrainPOP places on the importance of listening to students and kids; designing for students and kids by having experienced educators on our team is incredible.” This influence is quite evident in the clear and concise way the videos are presented, allowing educators to pause each video at different points of discussion. Additionally, BrainPOP’s endless list of resources allow for comprehensive support for students and teachers to expand on concepts.
Using technology in non-traditional ways, BrainPOP strives to push students and educators to further explore what they learn in school. Each video follows a basic format in which Tim, a young man, and Moby, a robot, receive a question from a student and explain the topic at hand through background information and vocabulary words. Students then have access to interactive quizzes and primary source activities to review what they have just watched and even have the option of submitting their work to their teachers. One of the most interesting learning materials is the concept map, which allows students to visually organize the new concepts they have learned and can even go as far as to embed the related clips for reference. Recently, there have been many requests for socio-emotional topics, in light of recent current events. The BrainPOP team hopes to move forward with these topics by conducting active research in schools.
For the younger crowds, BrainPOP Jr. seeks to explain rudimentary concepts in interesting ways with characters Annie and Moby. BrainPOP also offers BrainPOP ESL for English language learners. Abuzz with creativity, the open layout of the office allows for team members to collaborate freely. BrainPOP combines the whimsy of animation with simple, unbiased discussions on all topics, ranging from the traditional academic subjects of science, math, English and social studies to more broad topics like Digital Citizenship.
BrainPOP also works closely with educators to provide supplementary resources for their lesson plans. Andrew Gardner, Director of BrainPOP Educators, “My job is to create, curate and provide all teacher support. All of the support resources for teachers appear on BrainPOP Educators. We just want to create the most helpful resource we can provide.” Educators can even apply to become a Certified BrainPOP Educator. As part of the Certified BrainPOP Educator program, candidates attend hands-on training workshops to better understand how to use BrainPOP’s tools to their fullest extent.
Several years ago, BrainPOP introduced GameUp, an extensive library of online, educational games to supplement topics students learn in schools. Supplied by a diverse group of developers, including the Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access and the MIT Education Arcade, the games on GameUp encourage students to think critically and expand on their prior knowledge. With topics ranging from bird songs to coding, the games on GameUp are not only entertaining but also incredibly useful in learning new skills.
With all of these facets combined, BrainPOP provides a cohesive user experience, from an introduction on the topic through videos to practice through gaming: “In my nine years at BrainPOP, we’ve gone from being known for movies and quizzes, to offering a much richer, more engaging wealth of resources that includes games, primary sources, playful assessments, apps, and much more. Now students can come to BrainPOP to see what they know about Coding, for example, create a concept map while watching a movie on Coding to construct knowledge as they go, play games about coding, and eventually, even create their own games to teach a concept like coding!” says Levy.
As BrainPOP looks towards the future, the company hopes to expand their reach and help educate as many children as they can, all over the world. #