• 02 Nov
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    This is the first of three guest posts from Matt Lovegrove, an independent online safety trainer, speaker, and practicing teacher.

    Matt has used BrainPOP in his teaching for many years and we invited him to share his thoughts, experience, and insights on this important topic with you all.


    Online safety is big at the moment.

    Schools are now required to ensure that ALL staff are actively involved in teaching students to use technology safely and responsibly.

    Technicians are asked to provide and manage ever more complex blocking, filtering, and monitoring tools.

    But everything moves so quickly that it’s hard to keep up. Seemingly every week a new app, trend, meme, or game makes an appearance and it’s back to the drawing board.

    This leaves teaching staff and parents feeling lost. How can they possibly keep up with the apps and websites their children are using?

    So fundamentally, what is online safety, and who’s responsible for it?

    E-safety (now referred to by Ofsted as ‘online safety’) has been about for a long time, but recently its status in society has been raised.

    This is in response to children getting into trouble on the Internet and the headlines this generates. They may be communicating with strangers, accessing or making inappropriate material, being bullied (or bullying), playing games that include themes that aren’t age appropriate, and more.

    We know that this happens, but at the same time we mustn’t forget just how brilliant technology is and how it can improve the way we live.

    Take ownership of the problem

    We, as adults, need to embrace and understand the technology that children are using and help support them to use it safely.

    Yes, we need to safeguard, but ultimately we should all be aiming to empower young people to use technology responsibly by themselves, and being there for them to lean on when they need a hand.

    The role of parents

    Parents need to do their part to help their children to use the Internet properly, much like they explain crossing the road safely or not talking to strangers.

    Dr Tanya Byron, in her 2008 report on new technologies and risks ‘Safer children in a digital world’, put it perfectly with this analogy…

    “Children will be children – pushing boundaries and taking risks. At a public swimming pool we have gates, put up signs, have lifeguards and shallow ends, but we also teach children how to swim.”

    Children will benefit massively from having parents who are there to support them ‘swim the depths’ of the Internet.

    • Answer questions or concerns on the spot
    • Model responsible communication
    • Help your kids build a healthy level of scepticism!

    These 3 behaviours will greatly help children be successful independent users of technology.

    Develop a culture of online safety education at school

    Teachers have a duty to educate students about online benefits and risks.

    To do this, teachers first need to have a good understanding of the ways that young people communicate and share online. The problem is that many teachers feel out of touch with technology; some are even afraid of it.

    A simple session working with students, observing the apps they use and how they work, would help enormously. Ofsted’s 2015 online safety research noted “The involvement of the wider school community in writing online safety policies remains low”.

    Try to change this. Involve a cross section of the school community in building policies and delivering training.

    Most young people would enjoy sharing their online world with their teachers if they felt that the “grown ups” had a genuine desire to listen and learn.

    Get support from your techies!

    Technical staff have traditionally been given the responsibility to make sure there are appropriate safeguards built into the new technologies.

    There is, and always will be, a place for online safety management tools.

    Beyond the tech, things like allowing personal information to be hidden, having an easy to use reporting system, and having real people moderating content will greatly help children use online services safely.

    So who IS responsible?

    This is an issue that can’t be tackled by one person in a school, or pushed to the side as a pastoral issue. The buck can’t be passed to the technical staff or ICT coordinator to add increasingly burdensome (and expensive!) software and infrastructure.

    The bottom line is a responsible online safety culture owned by the whole school community is the most effective way to establish real and long term online safety for children.

    The best online safety isn’t about scaremongering and lists of rules that begin with ‘don’t’.

    It’s about giving everyone the tools, the knowledge, and the understanding to use technology positively and tackle any associated issues and risks confidently.

    If we ALL take online safety seriously, we can ALL make a difference to young people’s lives.

    In my next post I’ll be looking at practical ways schools can start to build that culture.


    Matt Lovegrove is an independent eSafety trainer, speaker, and practicing teacher. If you need training or support for your school, please get in touch with Engage eSafety.

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  • 28 Apr
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    Today we welcome a guest post from Lenny Dutton, Digital Librarian/Technology teacher at Halcyon London International School and blogger at the UKEdChat Educational Blog Award 2014 nominated www.excitededucator.com. She talks about why her school adopted BrainPOP and the variety of creative ways she employs our resources in her teaching.

    Halcyon logo

    “Halcyon London International School brings a new standard of life-readying education to one of the most culturally diverse, academically rich and historically important cities in the world. Opened in September 2013, Halcyon is the only not-for-profit, co-educational, exclusively International Baccalaureate (IB)* school in central London.”

    Halcyon Lenny

    Using BrainPOP to flip the classroom

    At Halcyon London International School we use BrainPOP UK regularly across all subject areas, both for homework and in class. Although we are a secondary school we still use the videos, as they are perfect for reinforcing what we are teaching, for introducing new areas, and to support our ESL students.

    The initial reason we bought BrainPOP was to help flip the classroom – we get students to watch a selected video at home, then they answer a few short questions on a Google Form about what they have learnt.

    This means students can focus on the video at home and re-watch parts if they need to. The form helps us to not only see if the student has done the work, but we can check for understanding.

    The results help us plan lessons better, as we can target students who didn’t understand the video or plan the lesson to go over parts lots of people have had trouble with.

    Mixing it up

    Of course I use videos in class too. I usually use BrainPOP’s quizzes to create my own multiple choice quizzes, adapting the questions and adding my own. I do this in a Google Form, and use the add on Flubaroo so the quizzes get graded for me! It’s fantastic for when I want to introduce a new topic I have never taught before too, like coding.

    Halcyon students using BrainPOP UK

    Broadening pupil (and teacher!) understanding

    We are a brand new, tiny school, so only have one teacher for each subject. This means you are often covering lessons for which you have little content knowledge, so I personally use BrainPOP to refresh my memory before doing this. I am always delighted with the amount of content BrainPOP UK has as I am always able to find something to help me when covering and also to bring into my class.

    We also create lists of videos that students can watch if they choose, to broaden their knowledge. This was particularly popular among our grade 6s when they did their SRE unit in Science. BrainPOP has a lot of videos about reproduction and puberty! I’ve even found that I can use some of the videos during Debate Club, such as the Feminism video for the debate “This house believes feminism has gone too far.”

    Spotlighting digital and information literacy skills

    I am a technology teacher, so use the Design Technology videos often in my classroom. However, I am also the school’s digital librarian, so use the library and information literacy videos and encourage other teachers to use them.

    I think that being shown these videos several times reinforced how important these skills are, and watching them several times means students will definitely retain the information from the videos (and have no excuse for plagiarising!).

    BrainPOP recently highlighted all their information literacy videos, so I was able to show them to teachers easily and also sent them home in the e-newsletter.

    I really enjoy using BrainPOP UK. I love the huge range of content, how clear and concise the videos are, and how it helps improve my teaching. My next aim is to embrace the Lesson Ideas more and to use the GameUP feature more.

    I would recommend BrainPOP UK to all teachers and librarians, both in primary and secondary!

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  • 04 Oct
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    Today we’re welcoming ICT subject leader and seasoned BrainPOP educator, Dawn Hallybone, to POPtalk. She’s guest posted for us on how she’s used BrainPOP “on the go”, as a classroom teacher and parent.

    She’s been discovering new ways to interact with BrainPOP resources and has kindly shared some tips below, that you could potentially implement tomorrow.

    What is Mobile Learning?

    MoleNet defines it as:

    “…the exploitation of ubiquitous handheld technologies, together with wireless and mobile phone networks, to facilitate, support, enhance and extend the reach of teaching and learning.

    It is the words in bold that particularly appeal to me as a teacher and as a parent, and BrainPOP, always at the forefront of educational innovation, have stepped into mobile technology. Kids shouldn’t wait for it be ‘school’ time to access learning – they should have access to learning wherever they are.

    Moby holding an iPhone

    The first thing to know is that the BrainPOP App for iPhones, iPod Touches and iPads is free – a huge bonus for teachers and parents. It features a movie of the day as well as another 21 movies that can also be accessed, 3 from each of their 7 curriculum categories.

    It looks as clear on an iTouch as it does on an iPad. This potentially enables the learning  to be supported and enhanced both at home and in school, as there’s a good chance some homes will have one or more Apple mobile devices.

    And I’m not the only one to think that this app is rather good as it has just been included in Tap magazine’s 100 Greatest Apps of All Time in the ‘Learn’ category!

    The app can be used in many ways, but here’s a few ways I’d recommend you try to get started with a mobile version of BrainPOP:

    1. Watch the movie of the day in the morning – very often these are chosen to combine with items in the news.
    2. Find one movie that interests you, watch it and share with a partner – what did you learn, what made you choose it?
    3. Ask children to use it to research a topic – use that to perhaps produce a talk or presentation.
    4. Share a movie at home with a family member – the movies can be played on the TV via a Wii or Playstation 3.
    5. What would you ask Tim and Moby to explain? Send your questions to Tim & Moby, care of the BrainPOP team. All questions on the site come from children.

    There are obviously many more uses – the POPquiz option at the end of a movie is a great way of assessing learning and children can take this quiz on their own device and keep trying to improve their own score.

    But “mobile learning” could also come under a “multi channel” approach e.g. accessing resources where the pupils want to interact with it.

    As well as the app, BrainPOP UK have also created “POPboxes“. These are elements for a webpage (free again!) that feature the movie of the day that can embedded into a webpage, blog , VLE, intranet, school website etc – you do not have to sign up to BrainPOP to access this either and it automatically updates the movie every day.

    We have installed these on our school blogs and year group blogs – another way for the children and parents to access this fantastic resource and use at home.

    So if you haven’t got the app or the POPBox – what’s stopping you?

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  • 23 Nov
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    At the Scottish Learning Festival TeachMeet in September 2010 we were lucky enough to catch Jen Deyenburg, a Canadian teacher who’s moved to Scotland, give a talk about “geocaching” in school. We were fascinated and just had to invite her to guest post on POPtalk to help spread the word about what sounded like a fantastic learning experience that kids would love. Watch this video to see Jen being interviewed by Canadian TV spotlighting one of her geocaching lessons:

    We didn’t know at the time but Jen is also a big BrainPOP fan and had used BrainPOP topics in some of her lessons to explain concepts to her class before they began geocaching. So before you say “Geo-what?” we asked Jen if she would write a small beginners guide to combining geocaching and BrainPOP. She happily obliged and we are happy to post it below!

    All over the world there are more than 1 million treasures just waiting for you and your students to find!

    The official geocaching site defines the practice as:

    Geocaching is a high-tech treasure hunting game played throughout the world by adventure seekers equipped with GPS devices. The basic idea is to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, outdoors and then share your experiences online. Geocaching is enjoyed by people from all age groups, with a strong sense of community and support for the environment.”

    The idea is simple: you locate a cache (usually a plastic container), sign a log book, and log your find online. Caches are hidden all over the world, just waiting to be discovered.

    Some caches have small prizes you can trade, or trackable travel bugs that each have their own code, and a page on the official website so you can see where they have been and where they are trying to go. For example this cache is all about two submarines from World War II that you can see when the tide is out, off the coast of Scotland.

    There’s only a couple of rules:

    1. If you take something, you leave something.
    2. If you remove a travel bug you are supposed to move it along to another cache. This is one of my travel bugs “Dorothy the Dalgliesh Dolphin” . She has been all over Canada and the UK.

    I hide temporary caches in the school yard, designed around learning activities. But I also use caches on the www.geocaching.com network to learn about history, geography, or the local area.

    Most caches are hidden somewhere that is a place of interest, whether it is a beautiful spot, or a place of historical, geographic, or geologic significance. It is a great way to learn about a place you are visiting!

    Combining geocaching & BrainPOP

    When introducing a new technology it’s great to show students how it works to get a better understanding of the real world application. I use the BrainPOP UK Global Positioning System movie to help my students understand GPS and that they aren’t just working with the technology in their hands, but also in space.

    One of my favourite geocaching lessons was a science lesson. We used the BrainPOP UK PH Scale movie to learn about the concept and to learn how to test acids and bases using litmus paper.

    We used our GPS units to go out and find hidden geocaches around the playground with a sample of a substance.

    Using PH strips, or litmus paper, we tested the substances. If the students thought it was an “acid” they followed one set of coordinates, a “base” another set. If they chose the correct set of co-ordinates they got another substance to test. If they chose incorrectly they found a quick reminder of how litmus paper worked, then they had to try again!

    Another great benefit of using GPS devices is distance measurement and estimation. The handheld unit shows how far away a marked waypoint, or geocache is, and counts down distance as you get closer to a cache (or counts up if you are going the wrong way!).

    The BrainPOP UK movie Estimating Distances is a great way to tie in Maths with Geocaching and help students understand distance relationships in real life when they are caching on the playground and how this compares with a map.

    Once we find a distance in real life on the playground using the GPS (for example the distance from the door of the school to a cache) then we can create a map of our playground and create a map scale to represent the distance on our map.

    Try geocaching using GPS with your class. It’s a great new way to get outdoors to learn!

    Jen Deyenberg, Primary Teacher, Scotland.

    More about Jen: Read Jen’s fascinating blog: www.trailsoptional.com . Jen was a Microsoft Worldwide Innovative Teacher 2009 and was nominated Best Individual Tweeter & and Best New Blog at the Edublogs awards 2009

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