Common Sense Review
Updated April 2016

BrainPOP

Clever animated hosts Tim and Moby masterfully tackle complex topics
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Common Sense Rating 4
  • Animated videos featuring hosts Tim and Moby teach students about a wide range of content.
  • Each month the site features special content.
  • Interactive quizzes are part of the BrainPOP experience.
  • The site is arranged in a logical way, with most of the videos sorted by content.
  • A social area for teachers called BrainPOP Educators offers lesson plans, webinars, discussion forums, and more.
Pros
Videos and interactives are engaging and make tough subjects easy to understand.
Cons
Teachers will need to provide deeper learning opportunities to supplement the site's simplistic explanations.
Bottom Line
Cartoon videos in this extensive collection break down ideas in clever and thoughtful ways.
Jason Shiroff
Common Sense Reviewer
Classroom teacher
Common Sense Rating 4
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 4
Use of animated characters and a sly sense of humor make for an engaging learning experience. Games and interactives offer kids a chance to get more deeply involved in the subject matter.
Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer? 4

A wide range of videos broken down into content areas and topics touch on all the main areas of a curriculum. While the quizzes are shallow, other interactive elements could create more meaningful learning experiences.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students? 3

A help section is readily available, as is a tour of the site. English-language learners can access BrainPOP ESL (not included as part of a BrainPOP account). Teachers have access to BrainPOP Educators for training and resources.

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How Can Teachers Use It?

Teachers can use BrainPOP to introduce new topics into the classroom. After watching the video as a class, have students create concept maps that specifically address connections between the keywords and images in the content. Individual log-ins are available for teachers and students, or the content can be shared with the whole class. You can print out materials such as quizzes, but students can submit their work for feedback online as well. BrainPOP Educators offers PD and training opportunities, lesson ideas, best practices, and other resources to help you with integration into the classroom.

BrainPOP offers a separate space for younger students, BrainPOP Jr., and a space for English-language learners, BrainPOP ESL. Unfortunately, these require separate accounts and cost 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.

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What's It Like?

Moby and Tim "host" 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 content. Monthly features, such as a February spotlight on U.S. presidents, keep things relevant. The Tim and Moby videos are the bread and butter 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 make concept maps with the Make-A-Map feature, which can then be shared with teachers.

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.

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Is It Good For Learning?

The videos on BrainPOP are surprisingly effective and engaging and simplify complex issues in a short amount of 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 there is very little critical thinking taking place. Students will more than likely skip the reading materials unless directed there by the teacher.

When available, games such as Sortify and Time Zone X 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. This sort of creation material can be powerful, but students will need guidelines and goals to make sense of their meaning. Overall, BrainPOP is logical, well-thought-out, and enriching.

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