Ms. Barker has been teaching for 15 years and has been recognized as a 2011 and 2012 Microsoft Partners in Learning US Forum winner and a 2012 Global Forum Winner. She is a finalist as the TCEA 2013 Classroom Teacher of the Year and nominated for the Kay L. Bitter Award at ISTE 2012 and 2013. She is a Discovery Education Network (DEN) Star Educator and on the DEN Texas Leadership Council and Innovation Team, a GlogsterEDU Ambassador and Reseller (code 5E9515), an ePals Ambassador, and a Smithsonian Classroom Teacher. And of course she is an avid BrainPOP user!
Times are changing. It is no longer enough to know content. The days of “reading, writing, and ‘rithmatic” for the sake of passing a test are gone. As educators, it is now our obligation to guide students through problem solving situations that require content knowledge and building, collaboration, and resourcefulness in order to successfully find a solution…if there is a solution at all. As a second grade teacher, I found this transition of pedagogy easier in math and science than I did for language arts. Seven and eight year old children are still learning to read. I found myself in a quandary about how to establish this type of critical thinking requirement in reading and writing.
I developed the iConnect Project as an overlying concept that required students to engage in literature on a deeper level. I came up with the “iConnect” concept while thinking about ways to bring a more well-rounded, meaningful learning experience to my students. As part of the iConnect movement in my class, our focus is on how we connect to our curriculum and making connections across our curriculum, but more importantly, how we connect to each other and our world. Through the overlying iConnect concept, we connect with authors and discuss the joy of the writing process, the deeper meanings and effects of good literature, and explore a variety of genres and writing styles.
We also connect with classes across the world in a literary fair that brings an engagement in reading and understanding text, but also teaches an appreciation for new cultures and ideas. It is our ambition to connect with others in meaningful ways to enhance learning for all. The Magic Tree House Literary Fair began as a book club for my class and campus. It snowballed into a multimedia literary festival of cultural exchange. Participants in this innovative reading collaboration commit to reading the Magic Tree House series of fiction and non-fiction companion books by Mary Pope Osborne. Throughout this journey, they share the joy of reading with students around the world from over 7 different countries. Students share through social networking sites such as Edmodo to make literary connections through reading responses, book analysis, author studies, and more. They also engage in a multimedia collaboration and compete with each other in expressing their literary experience using Web 2.0 tools, gaming, and community service projects. Students work together in mixed groups from around the world and submit their work for judging.
In order to enhance the comprehension of the text, and offer substantial content from which students may pull information to complete their projects, I needed to include reliable, engaging, accurate, and comprehensive digit content. BrainPOP and BrainPOP, Jr. were obvious choices. BrainPOP is so much more than a cute, quick movie. We are moving away from consumption in learning toward a new era of productive learning. BrainPop offers exceptional content for student consumption while also providing many opportunities for students to engage in and apply what they learn. The educator’s section offers lesson plans and activities, blogs and a network from which teachers can find new and innovative ideas for integration into their curriculum. This project has been recognized by Microsoft Partners in Learning as a 2012 US Forum Winner and a 2012 PIL Global Forum finalist, representing the United States in the Global Forum, November 2012 in Prague, Czech Republic!!
Successful integration requires ingenuity, innovation, breaking out of one’s comfort zone. It requires letting go of control and giving it back to the students. It is being a guide and facilitator, rather than a lecturer. There are so many sites that allow you to use quality digital content in an effective way as a tool for productive technology integration. BrainPOP is a solid example of one of those sites!