Why are kids so opposed to learning? I must have been a very unusual child because I was always begging my parents to take me to the museum, science center, or library. Of course, that was all we had back then. Technology was hardly a thought when it came to education, heck the Internet hadn’t even been invented yet. Nowadays it seems like young people only want to play video games or watch television, I know my kids do. If only there was a way to make even the most boring subjects fun and interactive. Luckily there is.
I recently came across a website called BrainPop.com, an educational site that teaches important concepts in core curriculum subject areas through short on-line movies, quizzes, and other activities. Although the main site has more advanced topics that are geared toward grades 3 and up, there are branch-off sites that include BrainPop Jr, BrainPop Español, and BrainPop ESL. I believe the site effectively uses animation and web technology, but there are some pitfalls.
– Cartoons will always be appealing to youngsters. The site is crammed, almost to the point of a migraine, with brightly colored, graphic images designed to engage kids. I’m not sure if the high school kids will relate to it as much, but overall animation is very cool and eye catching for kids and teens. I also like the consistency of the characters Moby the Robot and Tim.
– Monthly access is pretty cheap at only $9.95 a month and there are many free videos.
– BrainPop boasts to be an award-winning educational resource.
– The site includes animated movies, interactive quizzes, and activities. Students can explore hundreds of topics within the subjects of Science, Math, Social Studies, English Language Arts, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Music, and Health. Everything is organized according to subject area. There are also subjects about teen issues such as bullying and drug awareness. I also found that the search tools and easy-to-read buttons made it simple to navigate through the site.
– BrainPOP is accessible directly from Google Apps.
– Teachers who subscribe to the site can automatically track student progress on BrainPOP quizzes and integration with Google Spreadsheets instantly pulls quiz results into a teacher spreadsheet. Pretty awesome. Another plus for educators is the State Standards search tool.
– All the products are fully compatible with interactive whiteboards, learner response systems, projectors, Macs, and PCs. Not need to download, install, or purchase special hardware. Nice.
– I’ve said this before, but free is always king. All options require a monthly or annual subscription. The annual price is $100 dollars, which can be a little steep for families who aren’t certain they’ll be able to make their child sit down and watch the videos.
– There is just one quiz at the end of the video. It would be better to have multiple quizzes for students to choose from. It also seems like the quiz is more of a suggestion, rather than the interactive part of the video it was probably intended to be.
– BrainPop and BrainPop Jr only have a five day free trial. Whatever happened to the 1 month free incentive?
– There are 600 brief animated movies, but some of them are incredibly too brief and do not go into enough detail about the subject.
– I’m not 100% sure this site works for older or advanced students who may require more of a challenge. BrainPop claims it serves K-12, but from my experience 12th graders aren’t that interested in cartoon robots anymore (especially those who don’t blow anything up and only say “beep.”)
– There are also some pretty strange sections of the website like “How to with Gary and Gary” where students can take advice from a father and his son on “How to change a diaper.” The Infancy lesson will even teach kids how to take care of a baby. Of course there are older siblings who need to take care of younger brothers or sisters, but in my opinion, too many high school students drop out of school because of unwanted pregnancies. I think students in grades K-12 shouldn’t worry so much about the needs of infants.
– Then there is Bob the Ex-lab Rat… which is disturbing in and of itself. First off, I disagree with animal testing and wouldn’t want my child watching a video hosted by a bandaged and neurologically impaired sewer rat.
– I also found that the few videos hosted by female characters were about puberty and menstruation. Why can’t BrainPop feature girls (or girl robots) in more of their videos.
– Technical requirements for running BrainPOP are an Internet connection and the Macromedia Flash Plug-in. That can be a drawback for those living out in the middle of nowhere where speedy internet service isn’t always available, but you can view some of the videos on an Iphone.
All in all, I watched maybe two or three free videos and felt like I learned a little something. My last thoughts on BrainPop are simple. If the moving icons and bright colors on the homepage don’t pop your brain, the thousands of things you can potentially learn about probably will.
– Dr. Drew