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Pros: Cartoon videos and interactives make tough subjects accessible for young students.
Cons: The site's deeper, more collaborative learning activities could use more support. The "movie" style can feel repetitive.
Bottom Line: This extensive collection's videos and games break down ideas in a straightforward and thoughtful way.
Teachers can use BrainPOP to introduce new topics into the classroom. Students can watch a video as a class and demonstrate understanding by completing ready-made mini assignments like responding to a quiz, making a concept map, putting together an auto-edited movie, or filling out graphic organizers or worksheets.
Individual logins are available for teachers and students, or teachers can share the content with the whole class. Teachers can also print out the materials, or students can submit their work for feedback online as well. Depending on the learning goals, teachers can pick and choose specific topics for students to study, or they can let kids explore and follow their interests for some independent study time.
BrainPOP Educators offers professional development (PD) and training opportunities, lesson ideas, best practices, and other resources to help teachers with integrating BrainPOP into the classroom. BrainPOP offers a separate space for younger students, BrainPOP Jr.; a space for English-language learners, BrainPOP ELL; and BrainPOP Science, with full lessons and interactive investigations. Each of these variations requires a separate account and costs more money.
Editor's note: In the past, Common Sense Education has partnered with BrainPOP. However, Common Sense Education's reviews maintain editorial integrity and independence.
Moby and Tim are a cartoon robot and British Japanese boy who narrate animated videos on BrainPOP, a website that teaches students about a wide range of challenging topics such as genetics, geometry, and economics. It's easy to get lost in the mountain of videos, but the site is logically arranged, with most videos sorted by topic. An updated assignment builder also helps guide teachers through choosing topics and assessments that match their students' needs. Content themes range from standard academic subjects like math and English to health, hot tech and engineering topics, and social-emotional learning units based on the Collaborative for Academic Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) model. Monthly features, such as a February spotlight on U.S. presidents, keep things relevant.
The Tim and Moby videos are the main focus of BrainPOP, but each video comes with links to quizzes, deeper reading materials, activities, and sometimes games from BrainPOP GameUp (a featured video game section that forges further connections). Students can also demonstrate learning through concept maps with the Make-A-Map feature, or make videos or other content with Make-A-Movie, or through Creative Coding. Everything kids create is shareable.
MyBrainPOP helps teachers keep track of learning, allowing them to see quiz results, do class-wide analysis, and provide feedback on learning. It also provides access to the Quiz Mixer, a custom assessment creator. BrainPOP Educators is a resource community available for lesson ideas, news, and training. School and district plans provide more features and detailed reporting.
The videos on BrainPOP simplify complex issues in a short time. Students can take quizzes in Classic mode or Review mode, the latter requiring a correct answer to move ahead. The questions are of the standard multiple-choice variety, so they don't require much critical thinking. The reading materials section offers a deeper look into what the short intro video covers, though students will more than likely skip that section unless directed there by the teacher.
BrainPOP's clear explanations cover a wide range of sometimes difficult topics, but they're often a bit superficial. To help with that, there's an impressive collection of deeper interactive activities. A new pause feature stops the video at key points and asks multiple-choice and short-answer comprehension questions. When available, games such as Sortify and Time Zone X also allow students to apply some of the knowledge they learned in the video.
The Make-A-Map activity lets students create custom concept maps with keywords, images, and their own writing. And other features, such as the ones that allow kids to make their own BrainPOP-style movies or use coding to demonstrate what they've learned, offer more options for digging deeper. This sort of creation material can be powerful, but students will likely still need guidelines and goals to help. Overall, BrainPOP is logical, well thought out, and enriching.