Sunday, February 21, 2010

Guest Blogger for BrainPop - Using BrainPop With Student Response Systems

I was invited to be a guest blogger for BrainPop. They have over 76,000 registered educators. Heady stuff. I decided to go ahead and post it here as well for my 7 followers. Enjoy!

I also made a screencast of the process which can be viewed here:

Using BrainPop With Student Response Systems

I began using BrainPop with classroom responders four years ago. At the time I was using a Promethean ActivBoard and ActiVote student responders. I started out by entering the questions from BrainPop quizzes, along with questions of my own, into ActiVote quizzes using the Promethean software to assess students. It made grading so much easier than paper and pencil, not to mention all the paper it saved. I could show the printed quiz on the Promethean for students to answer allowing them to answer the questions at their own pace instead of having to wait for all students to answer before going on to the next question. They don't actually have to see the page the individual question is on to answer it on the ActiVotes. The quiz can run in the background. So instead of displaying each question one at a time, I could display all the questions at once on the ActivBoard or a printout of the questions that way we didn't have to wait for everyone to answer before we move to the next question. When the quiz was done, I exported the results into Excel and posted the results for students to review and transferred the grades into my gradebook. We also got instant feedback by viewing the results in pie charts and other graphs and discussed the questions that gave us the most trouble.

Then I discovered how to use the ActiVotes for on-the-fly quizzes. I noticed that the ActiVote response status bar sits at the top of the ActivBoard software, so I started using it with Classroom 2.0 resources such as BrainPop by lowering the browser page to just below the ActiVote status bar. I then used the Promethean pen to label the pertinent parts of the website we were viewing so students could answer multiple choice questions I posed. Once all students answered, we could view their responses and I could easily assess the whole class’ understanding as we went through the video.

Two years ago I changed schools and began using a SmartBoard and their Senteo Smart Response system. The Senteos are a more sophisticated response system (although Promethean now has a comparable product) and allowed for numerical answers as well as multiple choice, but on-the-fly questions were not as easy for me to figure out. I continued to convert the BrainPop quizzes into Smart Response quizzes for assessment and grading using a similar method to what I did with the Promethean software. Smart Response quizzes run in the background while I display a complete list of the questions on the SmartBoard in the foreground or a printout. However, recent upgrades in the Smart Notebook software have made it very easy to use the Senteos for quick checks. The most recent Smart Notebook update allows a transparent view so you can have full access to all the Notebook tools even when viewing websites or other software. So, now I can use the transparent view while watching a BrainPop video and pause the video to check for understanding with the Senteos.

The way to do this is to have a blank Smart Notebook page open in transparent view over the BrainPop. Transparent view can be activated by clicking on “View” then selecting “Transparent Background.” You can write over the video with the pens, highlighting for emphasis and making notes using the floating toolbar that appears when in transparent view. When you reach something you want to ask a question about, pause the video and switch out of transparent view using the floating toolbar and open up the Smart Response tools. You have a choice of inserting a multiple choice, yes/no, true/false, or numerical answer. Select the type of question you want and switch back to transparent. If you are using multiple choice, the letters will still be visible and you can drag them to the location you desire. When everyone has answered, switch back out of transparent view, open the Smart Response tools, and stop the question. Select “properties” and show answer key and you can select the correct answer. Results can be displayed graphically and also exported to Excel.

These new features have really opened up many possibilities and have really added a lot to my 21st Century teacher toolbox. My students love BrainPop and it really brings a lot of life to my classroom. I am looking forward to the day when we can get closer to full integration between the various tools we use in the classroom, such as SmartBoards and BrainPop, but this brings us one exciting step closer.