BBC Click has always been a firm favourite and must watch for the BrainPOP team so you can imagine how excited and honoured we are to be featured.
“To keep the children entertained and educated, BrainPOP is a digital learning platform for mobile and desktop that makes soaking up knowledge feel more like playing a game, with the help of two fun characters, Moby and Tim. The website uses animations, games, interactive quizzes and loads of other fun stuff to reinforce the learning experience. “
The BBC reported on Monday research that shows kids “would rather struggle alone” with Maths than ask for help and that they are worried they might “look foolish”.
“A survey of 1,000 10- to 16-year-olds found two-thirds would rather struggle alone or ask friends or family for help…The reasons pupils gave for not asking for help more often were that they were worried about looking foolish, were embarrassed or did not want to draw attention to themselves.”
Hands up who hasn’t felt like this at some point – fear of reaching out in case we stumble and fall. Adult approval and peer judgement at this age can be very powerful (de?)motivators.
BrainPOP has core qualities that can help kids independently sidestep this issue, to help them build confidence away from the glare of an audience.
1) Peer vs Authority - BrainPOP uses the power of narrative and engaging characters “posed as peers” rather than “instructing as authorities” to help students grasp complex topics. Tim and Moby create a personal aspect to learning through a conversational tone, the more informal “you” or “I” language, and a familiar voice.
Kids can turn to BrainPOP to engage with Maths concepts in a comforting child-friendly environment without the need for adult guidance. Tim & Moby are non-threatening and empathetic characters who exist to support learning. Tim & Moby never judge, only help.
“Peter Lacey, of the Association of Teachers of Mathematics, said schools should focus on developing pupils’ confidence in mathematics slowly, rather than racing through concepts with undue haste and leaving some students behind.”
2) Reinforcement – Kids can watch BrainPOP movies again and again or re-take the POPquizzes until they truly understand the concept. We address the knowledge and understanding behind the practical application of problem solving.
For example, our Exponents topic doesn’t provide endless examples showing workings involving exponents; it tells them what an exponent is so they gain the understanding required to work out maths problems in class. In the movie, we follow Tim and Moby as they travel in a microscopic submarine around a human body.
By using the example of calculating white and red blood cells, these characters show us what a base number is and where an exponent is written in relation to it.
They teach us a couple of different ways to talk about exponents, as well as why exponential numbers can get so big so fast. We also find out how to write exponents, and how to expand them into their fuller form.
A comprehensive explanation, with natural pause points and key vocabulary highlighted throughout, all in under 5 minutes.
The pedagogical benefits of BrainPOP don’t stop at Maths either.
3) Learning Outcomes – every movie starts with a letter from a child. The famous BrainPOP letter sets the expectations of the student at their level. Each POPquiz allows students to get instant feedback and retake the quiz multiple times should they wish.
4) Control – they can pause, rewind, fast forward, and replay movies at their speed and understanding. Having control over their own learning significantly increases understanding of the concepts.
5) BrainPOP supports various learning styles – Whether kids are visual, logical, social or solitary learners, BrainPOP is a flexible resource that can accommodate them.
While we think it important to highlight the benefits of BrainPOP for those students afraid to ask for help we would never encourage kids not to ask for help. That’s why we produced a Getting Help topic with the overarching message to ask for help whenever you need it. Please take the time to watch it and show it in class.
This is the fourth and final guest post in our Digitalk series, where we ask teachers to showcase their class blogs. The aim is to promote blogging in school as an incredible tool to improve literacy, confidence, connections & ICT skills.
I have never been more excited about learning than I am right now.
Blogging and the world of Web2.0 tools has revitalised my teaching, my enthusiasm and my dedication to the pupils I teach and the staff I lead.
You should see the effect blogging has had on my pupils at Heathfield Community Primary School. I have been blogging with my pupils for 16 months now and in that time I have seen tough Year 6 pupils that were switched off from education become excitable enthusiastic learners who are now passionate about learning and their role within it.
The BBC recently reported live from Heathfield Primary School in an article highlighting our success with blogging. They mentioned that Heathfield had “stumbled upon this tool”. As indeed we had.
Dianne Spencer (our Headteacher) had sent me on a fact finding mission to Chorlton Park Primary School in Manchester through the SSAT to see what tools other schools were using.
A seemingly simple challenge, but one that created pins and needles in my mind – I knew what I wanted but also knew that blogging was a tool that took a while to develop.
Writing was, and still is, an area that Heathfield were working to improve. This time 12 months ago, we were not only trying to raise levels of achievement, we were desperately trying to build the enthusiasm and engagement levels of our Year 6 pupils.
Teachers are competing against the PS3, XBox Live and other forms of home entertainment, but I knew that if this was done right, blogging could make writing cool. It was also clear that a motivation for the pupils would be an audience – something blogging could provide like no other.
12 months on, the engagement levels are something we are so proud of. Our pupils are switched on, excited, engaged and take above expected levels of responsibility for their own learning.
So in just 12 months, how have we got where we have?
People often associate ‘Heathfield Primary School’ with ‘Blogging’. I’m sorry but I have to insist that there is so much more to it that just having a blog.
Every class blog at Heathfield is different – with it’s own colour, character, and charisma, driven by it’s authors.
It may be a truism but in every school every teacher has a different understanding and competency with ICT. Introducing blogging to other members of staff was carefully thought through. It’s a credit to our teachers that ALL blogging training was done in teachers’ own time on a one to one basis at the pace set by the teachers.
Within a couple of months, the then Year 6 blog (old Year 6 Blog) had about 10,000 hits and comments were coming in from around the globe. However, not all the children were as excited as others and even to this day, blogging hasn’t transformed the lives of every learner at Heathfield. There is still work to be done but each child in each class has that opportunity to showcase their learning to a global audience.
This audience have been instrumental in impacting learning for so many. It was lovely to take some current Year 6 pupils to the BETT Show in January to present a seminar about blogging. How great must it have been for Binyameen and Raja to be stopped repeatedly in the main arena and asked to be interviewed or just to shake the hands of their readers?
Our learners are global learners. Our learners are now authors. Authors who have (by my calculations) an audience of 500,000+ and 3000 comments from over 120 countries since September 2010. Our current year 6 were our first year group to know something pretty special was going to happen them this year. Why? They had watched with dropped jaws as the previous year 6 pupils transformed before their eyes.
Our current year 6 differ massively from the previous year 6. These guys just want to write, create and show off to their audience. I ask them to blog their learning and ‘consider their audience’ – and if they forget, their audience tells them!
Heathfield have been blessed by quite substantial media coverage too, though inevitably the media sometimes doesn’t always give credit to what blogging really is.
For me, blogging is a tool, that when used at the right time in the right moment can transform lives of learners. I would like Heathfield to be seen as a ‘roofless school’. Anyone visiting one of our blogs can see deep inside the school and absorb the wonderful rich learning is taking place each day.