Website review by Marianne Rogowski, Common Sense Education | Updated March 2020

CrossBraining

Bring STEAM projects to life using narrated video and GoPro cameras

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Grades
3–12 This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
Subjects & Skills
Science, Creativity

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Pros: Lots of adaptable lessons and sample videos provide inspiration for classroom use, and kids will love the hands-on experience.

Cons: While lessons are plentiful, there's no search feature -- only filters. Plus, it's hard to know which lessons are high-quality.

Bottom Line: Creative lessons support STEM and the arts engages kids as they demonstrate their learning through video.

Start by taking a look at the lessons and examples available on the Crossbraining website. Teachers, especially science teachers, are sure to find relevant lessons they can easily replicate in their classrooms. Even if you do not have the GoPro cameras, kids will still benefit from the engaging hands-on activities the site offers. Teachers can also design their own lessons within the platform and assign them to their students. Give kids a chance to design their own windmills using styrofoam and tape. Or teach students how to measure drag by designing and testing their own parachutes. Since students will be filming and narrating their process, you’ll be able to see their patterns of thinking and correct misconceptions when needed. Plus, you’ll be able to witness the excitement that hands-on learning generates.

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Crossbraining is a website where teachers can assign hands-on lessons, and students document their process via scripted, narrated video and written reflections. The site’s design is basic, with options to filter lessons by grade level, key terms, materials, or subject area (the developer is working on a standards-based filter). There’s no search feature, so teachers will have to spend some time browsing lessons to find the ones they want.

Teachers can choose to assign original lessons or select lessons from the community, and students record their progress by submitting videos and answering reflection questions posed by their teacher. The activities are largely hands-on and can be completed with common household or classroom materials. Having a GoPro camera definitely increases the “wow” factor for students and opens up more possibilities for learning, but it’s not an absolute necessity for all activities.

Through the experiential activities CrossBraining offers, students will practice skills like iteration, collaboration, and communication as they problem-solve their way through the challenges of each lesson. In addition, the activities promote SEL skills like perseverance, self-management, and relationship skills. Kids will need to work together and hear different perspectives on the best way to work through activities , and they will have to collaborate effectively to take and edit videos. Such experiences can make self-reflection powerful, especially if teachers include questions not just about the content of the lesson, but the process of working together to achieve success. With careful planning, Crossbraining’s numerous resources will immerse kids in concepts that paper and pencil based activities simply cannot match.

However, it's entirely up to the teacher to scaffold activities, give students feedback, and provide additional support for students' different learning needs. And the site itself could boast a more enticing and sophisticated design with more features. Being able to search and sort lessons would save teachers some time. That said, what the site lacks in pizzazz, design-wise, it makes up for in concept. While it would be helpful to have a rating system for lesson quality and a slightly more engaging user interface, the activities themselves promote engagement and collaboration, encouraging both students and teachers to think creatively.

Overall Rating

Engagement Would it motivate students and hold their interest? Is it visually appealing? Would it inspire teachers to try something new or change their instruction?

Since most of the activities on the site promote hands-on learning, most students will be engaged in the process. Teachers should pay attention to group dynamics to ensure tasks are equitably shared.

Pedagogy Does the tool help teachers promote a more student-centered experience? Will students gain conceptual understanding or think critically? Does it deepen teachers’ pedagogical thinking?

Experiential learning and self reflection are powerful strategies for building conceptual knowledge and metacognitive skills, especially when the activities are fun.

Support Can students and teachers get assistance when they need it? Is it created with people of different abilities and backgrounds in mind? Is learning reinforced and extended beyond the digital experience?

Video tutorials and sample lessons will help teachers get started. The onus is on teachers to scaffold activities, give students feedback, and provide additional support for students' different learning needs.


Common Sense reviewer
Marianne Rogowski Media specialist/librarian

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