A 9-year-old girl is poised on the surface of the moon, a spaceship and stars in the background. Her fellow voyager, in the form of an orange, cylindrically shaped robot, responds to her conversation with an unintelligible mechanized beep. These two space pioneers are engaged in a lively discourse about the nature and origin of constellations. Is it a Nickelodeon special? The latest remix of Lost in Space? A juvenile version of 2001: A Space Odyssey?
It might look out of this world to us, but it’s just business as usual in the fourth and fifth grade combination classroom that Robert Miller and Donna Cady share with 39 students at Port Orange Elementary School, located on the east central coast of Florida. The class is in the midst of producing yet another Pawprint Production educational video. If the orange guy in the scene sounds familiar, it may be because you have seen him in the role of Moby on BrainPOP (www.brainpop.com), an animated, curriculum-based website aimed at intermediate-level students. Originally developed by Dr. Avraham Kadar, a pediatric immunologist, as an engaging way to explain medical concepts to his young patients, BrainPOP is now aimed at the school audience and has expanded to encompass a wide range of standard based subjects.
Cady’s and Miller’s students warmed to the creative and immersive lessons produced by this educational resource. "BrainPOP has become one of our core sites for background and review material," explained Miller. "As our class moved through the district curriculum, we would occasionally encounter a science or social studies topic that had not yet been covered by BrainPOP. That’s when we got the idea to develop our own teaching videos in their style. The site provides an excellent model for research, writing, communication, and presentation. It’s also a tremendous opportunity for meaningful technology infusion."
The two teachers dedicated a corner of the double classroom for student production, furnishing it with a green screen, a small bank of computers, production lighting, still and video cameras, and tripods. With the addition of enthusiastic students and some thoughtful instruction, Pawprint Productions (or P3, as the students have christened it) was born. You can view their work as well as a student-produced video on the making of these projects at www.brainpop.com/educators. Just click on the video tutorials button on the left side of the screen.
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