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Interview with BrainPOP's Allisyn Levy

TeachHUB Interview

Interview with BrainPOP's Allisyn Levy If you haven't met Moby, then you're missing out.

Moby is the robot-friend who will help you get your students' attention, thanks to BrainPOP and their animated educational videos.  Allisyn Levy, director of BrainPOP Educators, was nice enough to give TeachHUB the inside scoop on BrainPOP's innovative approach to helping teachers bring some flair into their classrooms.

How did you personally get involved with BrainPOP?

This is my second year at BrainPOP. I was a classroom teacher for 11 years and left two school years ago.

I used to teach with a colleague here. She left our school to work for BrainPOP and had been telling me about it for about 2 years. I was already a big fan of BrainPOP and of using it with my students. I was ready for a change and to move out of the classroom, so she kind of lured me to the BrainPOP team.

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How does it compare to being in the classroom?

There are pros and cons, but my favorite days here are when I get to go into schools and work with kids and teachers. I feel lucky that I get to maintain that aspect because that’s really my passion: working on technology stuff with kids and teachers.


Since you’ve experience BrainPOP as a teacher and an employee, what is your favorite feature?

It’s funny, when I was in the classroom, I was using BrainPOP all the time and I felt successful with it. I loved it. The kids loved it. I moved with my third graders to fourth grade. I realize now that our system for using BrainPOP, though successful and fun, was limited. We would watch a movie and we would take the quiz as a class.


My favorite thing now is realizing all the things you can do within BrainPOP, and other resources too, before and during and after the movie. You don’t even have to stick to that limited format of watch the movie then take the quiz. You can take the quiz before the movie to see what the kids already know; you can use the activity pages or the FYI as high interest reading material.


The activity features and FYI are my favorite features.


For those teachers who haven’t used BrainPOP before, why should they use it?

I think the best thing about BrainPOP is that it’s so intuitive and easy to use and mindful of teachers’ time. It’s almost like it was designed to make teachers lives easier. That’s how I feel. 


You can quickly look up the topics we offer and see if there is a topic that fits into what you’re already teaching, which there usually is. It’s fun, interactive and gets student engaged and participating in the lesson. It provides high quality content in a fun way. That’s the attraction, that’s the appeal.


Is this as effective in grades 9-12?

BrainPOP topics are aligned to grade 3-8 state standards, but we get a lot of feedback from upper grade teachers who love it and find it really successful with their students. 


I’m more of an elementary person, so hearing that from other teachers is great. We do have labels on some of our movies that say advanced. There are particular topics which cater more toward the advanced level grade levels. It depends on the kids and the teachers, knowing your students and what they’d respond well to, and also how you present it to them. There are some teachers who use it as a reference to go off and do their own assignments with the kids. Some teachers have students make their own BrainPOP-inspired movie or comics based on our videos.


I did a whole project with my students on non-fiction comics. We used BrainPOP as a starting point for it. For high school students, it may be a matter of using it differently.


Each activity is aligned to state standards. How does BrainPOP keep up with that?

We use an organization called Academic Benchmarks, so they’re aligned to national standards and they’re updated as states change their standards.


It is something that we’re very involved with. We recently revamped our state standards tool, so now your results will be more refined. Instead of giving you millions of movies, it’s streamlined to get exactly what you’re looking for more efficiently. We also added a print feature, so it’s easier for planning or justifying what you’re doing to your administration.


What other ways do you verify the quality and the entertainment value in the movies?

We’ve got a couple of different teams that work together to create the videos and ensure the quality and humor. We also have  advisors that are teachers. We’ll run our movies by current classroom teachers that are experts in their fields. We have teachers for social studies, science, math and other subjects. They look over our scripts and give us feedback. They’ll watch the rough cuts of our movies and give us feedback on that. Sometimes internally, we’ll pass movies around and get feedback.


Finally, they’ll see the scripts and movies before it’s finalized to get some feedback on how the whole thing looks together with visuals.


I think we rely so much on getting classroom teachers’ feedback because this is who we’re gearing our products toward. They know students and they’re working with students everyday. They have that access better than we do, so we love hearing from classroom teachers.


How was the Moby character conceived?

Dr. Kadar is the founder of BrainPOP. He was an immunologist and was looking for a way to explain health issues concepts to kids. He thought using animation would be the most appealing way to get the information across in a kid-friendly way.


After having the idea, he met Mike who is our creative director and the voice of Tim. He is the one that sketched out the original idea for Moby and how he would look. There’s a piece of scrap paper framed in Dr. Kadar’s office with the very first drawing of Moby.


BrainPOP Educators is your newest feature. As the head of that division, can you tell me about that?

We’ve created an online community of teachers and parents that are using BrainPOP. BrainPOP Educators is meant for adults, not kids, so that’s why there’s separate registration. We offer things like answer keys to activity pages. It’s free and I made it as quick and easy as possible.
We’ve got graphic organizers, professional development materials, and fun stuff like bookmarks, posters and clipart. It’s meant as a resource for teachers and it’s meant to be collaborative. I know there are tons of educators creating materials to go along with what they’re doing with BrainPOP in their classrooms. Teachers are submitting lesson plans and their own graphic organizers and activities.
Another thing we’re doing on BrainPOP Educators is video tutorials. That way, you can give teachers a sense of what it would look like and sound like and how to use the different features. That’s something I’m continuing to grow. We also now offer webinars that are archived and accessible any time.
It’s really growing.


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