Name: Dr. Wayne Burnett
Job Title: Deputy Head, Primary; Information Literacy Teacher
School: German European School Singapore (GESS)
About the school: GESS is an authorised IB World School, offering tuition in English for students from 3 years old to high school across all three IB programmes, the PYP, the MYP and the IB Diploma.
About the teacher: Dr. Burnett is IB PYP and MYP Authorised, a Certified BrainPOP Educator, an Accredited Trainer for the Early Childhood Development Agency (in technology), and recently completed a doctorate in educational robotics and science teaching.
In a "nutshell," what makes BrainPOP special?
BrainPOP and BrainPOP Jr are special because they present the content in a clear, easy to understand way with a dash of humour.
Students can easily get a head start on content and skills to be learned. The quiz helps to ensure understanding as well. Being online means they can access BrainPOP at home, another real benefit.
With specific regard to the IB program, how are you using BrainPOP?
I think the key to its usage in the PYP is looking at it from the inquiry cycle perspective. It is really useful in the early stages, Tuning In and Finding Out. This is when students are developing a foundation of basic knowledge that provides the launching pad for further inquiry, going deeper into subjects and pursuing answers to their own inquiries.
The FYI section supports these latter stages, giving students the possibility to learn more about a given topic. For example, I might be doing a unit of inquiry looking at simple machines (central idea: we use simple machines to make work easier).
I would have the students watch the videos pulleys, work, wheel & axle, levers, gears, and inclined plane to give them the background to understand the topic.
Of course, I will also have lots of hands on work with simple machines and complex machines. But, if students are interested, they could find out about the different classes of levers, the funicular railway, etc. in the respective FYI sections.
Could you speak specifically to how BrainPOP works in the culture of an IB school – primary years and middle years in particular?
PYP and MYP are both intended as inquiry-based programmes. Students are researchers and BP and BP Jr gives students access to an information resource they can use to answer their own questions.
Naturally, there are many times when teachers are directing them to specific videos to learn specific information, particularly in the Tuning In and Finding Out of the inquiry cycle.
But, later as students look to answer their own curiosity, both BP and BrainPOP Jr give them the opportunity to do so. The FYI section also gives them the chance to go deeper (Sorting Out, Going Further).
What factored prominently in your decision to purchase a BrainPOP subscription?
We've had BrainPOP for must be close to ten years now. It was one of the first subscription services we added in English at GESS. I looked for a website that could be used across a range of subjects to introduce a new topic or reinforce the content.
It helped that there was humour in the videos and then follow-up activities for each topic. It was important that the content be explained in an easy to understand format and could be used in either whole class or individual format.
It was also nice that it could be accessed outside of school hours.
In your opinion, why is BrainPOP is an effective tool - and/or, which of its features do you find most useful and why?
The main tool really is the video. Just watching it and then following up with a discussion is already a huge benefit. It works because it's easy to understand.
Also, the range of videos is extensive and several can be used together to cover a topic. I usually use the quiz when they access BrainPOP individually and ask students to let me know how they are doing.
This focusses their viewing. It's important that BrainPOP is accessible on mobile devices as well as we have iPads and so do many families.
What general observations do you have about your teachers using BrainPOP?
By accident, our subscription was interrupted. It was interesting and insightful how quickly teachers asked about it. Clearly, it is being used regularly. It is used often to start a new unit, but also given as homework.
What specific feedback have teachers or students given you about BrainPOP?
The younger years teachers noted that BrainPOP was challenging for their students, but they tried to use it nevertheless, perhaps a testament to the value they saw in it.
They were especially happy when we brought in BrainPOP Jr. Some teachers have students listen to a video twice before trying the quiz. This gives students an opportunity to be assured they understand the content, something which is especially important for our students for whom English is an additional language.
Giving access at home has been great. It's a bit like the flipped classroom, students can watch the video out of school and then discuss what they've learned (or reinforced) at school afterwards.
Do you think BrainPOP is an effective tool for your teachers/students? Why or why not?
Yes, it is or teachers wouldn't use it.
It's well presented, easy to understand, easy to use, has good activities, and covers a wide range of topics.
I've noticed that the activities have changed over time, perhaps becoming more academic, but at least the comic is still there. The sense of humour is an important part of BrainPOP. Over at BrainPOP Jr. the range of activities is wonderful for the age group.
What is your greatest concern about subscribing to BrainPOP?
Well, of course, we have to find the budget for it. But, the length of time we have subscribed to BP and BP Jr despite free resources on YouTube and elsewhere shows that we believe we are getting value for money.