Educational games and resources have gone through a transformation from clunky game play and poorly designed content in their early days, to breath-taking visuals, clever interactive content and exciting storylines today. But the proof of the pudding can really only be from how these games perform in the classroom through feedback from teachers and students. This is where real-life case studies of educational technology games are showing how they can positively (or negatively) transform a classroom. Many games, tools and apps give testimonials from teachers describing their satisfaction with the product. However, when these recommendations show positive results with students with varying educational needs and in culturally-different countries, it shows that the technology is something special.
BrainPop is a highly popular educational platform with an array of different brainpop games, brainpop videos, lesson plans, research and apps all in one website. The site contains resources for Science, English, Social Science, Math, Engineering, Technology, Health, Arts and Music, all linked to educational standards with a handy standards tool. Many of the games have won prestigious awards, such as their highly commended Guts and Bolts game which introduces students to the functions of human body systems. The site does not just focus on providing the games, but also supports educators with a community site which gives training to use the resources in the classroom, classroom ideas, educator conferences, and tips for teaching with games.
The platform has been used in over 25% of US schools, proving its popularity with US educators, but it is its work with schools worldwide that has shown some of its more interesting outcomes resulting from educational technology.
In Haiti, a country which has had its fair share of difficulties in recent times, BrainPop is being used by L’Ecole de Choix, or “The School of Choice,” to encourage a ‘learn by doing’ approach. Many of the children in the school come from a background of extreme poverty, where electricity, plumbing and other basic services are absent from their homes. Some come from a farming background, where they have important responsibilities to help with the running of the farm. Many had never attended school before, and had divergent levels of educational ability.
The school sought educational resources that would be easy to learn with little guidance from teachers, but also be relevant to their curriculum and engaging enough to motivate students. BrainPop was chosen and introduced to teachers through webinars, where each teacher selected different BrainPop resources to integrate into their own lessons. Language teachers used BrainPop Francais and BrainPop in English to supplement French and English lessons, Science teachers supplemented their lessons with interactive resources on the life cycle of insects and BrainPop movies are used to encourage discussions and hands-on activities in the classroom.
Teachers from the school found that by using BrainPop students were becoming less reliant on the teacher and becoming more active within their own learning. Through using an educational model which differed from a traditional model of repetition and memorization, students would go and use BrainPop on their own and learn by themselves. The schools’ Principal Clisbee describes the transformation in the school by using this type of learning model: “When the school first opened, the children appeared sullen and very quiet. Since we make learning fun at Choix in a school environment that is bright and engaging, the students now smile and laugh and fully socialize with each other and the adults at the school. They have fun, and it shows on their faces and in the way they carry themselves.”
In addition to increasing student motivation, engagement and interaction, BrainPop is aligned with common core standards, similar to the Haitian curriculum, which allowed the teachers to systematically assess student learning. As many of the students would not have been to school before, and a wide range of different ages, levels and abilities were present in the classroom, this alignment to educational standards allowed teachers to identify students who were underperforming and who needed extra help and guidance. Using BrainPop in this classroom environment has demonstrated that elearning can be successful in developing countries with support for teachers and well-developed, curriculum-focused multimedia resources.
BrainPop uses a variety of colourful animated characters in its games and videos, and it was for this reason that The Children’s Institute, Verona, New Jersey used the technology for their students with students with learning, language and social/emotional challenges. Computer specialist Randall Palmer explains: “Most of our students are on the autism spectrum which means that they have strong visual processing skills,” he stated. “That’s one of the reasons the movies work well with our kids. BrainPOP is very straightforward and engaging; it follows the same sequence every time, and so students are comfortable with that. Our kids like the characters of Tim and Moby, and I really think they identify with Moby because his ability to communicate is limited.” The school found that BrainPop movies were able to sustain student attention long enough for learning to take place, and students often chose the technology as a free time activity.
What is interesting about the case studies presented by BrainPop is their diversity. Rather than just being used by typical K-12 students and classrooms, their resources are being used by all types of students with different educational needs. It is heartening to see how an educational technology company is providing for all types of students, and is working hard to make their resources accessible to all.
BrainPop is available for subscription under a variety of different pricing models. However, for schools that do not want to make a full subscription to the platform, there are a range of BrainPop apps that can also be purchased for a smaller amount such as the BrainPop Featured Movie app.