Blogger Gary Stager is never afraid to speak his mind, and often provides a lot of food for thought. I’m a regular reader.
Sometimes, though, as all iconoclasts do, I think he goes a bit too far. His critique of VoiceThread was one of those times, and his just-published post that begins “Brainpop gives me a headache,” I think, is another one.
He critiques the use of Brainpop animations in class (using their recent one on the events of 9/11) as simplistic and not worthy of use in a classroom.
I’m a big fan of Brainpop movies (and of Voice Thread) for English Language Learner students of all ages. They are accessible, especially now that they are all closed-captioned, engaging, and short. They provide listening and reading opportunities, along with imparting basic content knowledge.
I would say the Gary’s critique of the site holds true for most content on the Internet and elsewhere. The key to teaching, and learning, in my view is what you do with students prior to and after their reading or watching the material. Sticking a student in front of an individual computer without combining that action with activities that access prior knowledge, without including small group collaborative learning, or without adding other engaging questions to provoke higher-order thinking skills is just taking the “easy way out.”
Brainpop provides a nice little introduction to factual material — no more, no less.
And, in my opinion, it does a pretty good job at doing just that.