The SnapThought® Tool: Reflection, Communication and Assessment


BrainPOP’s unique SnapThought® tool is fundamentally changing the game play experience on GameUp for students and teachers. In this article we will explain how optimal use of this tool provides opportunity for reflection, communication and assessment – an interwoven trifecta of pedagogical goals.

What is the SnapThought® Tool?

On BrainPOP, The SnapThought® tool allows students to capture up to five snapshots of the screen at any moment during a game play experience.  Students can write summaries or comments associated with each individual image, and submit them to a teacher. Teachers can then view the snapshots, write a response and send it back.  Learn more by taking a look at the SnapThought® in action in this screencast.


With intense curricular demands in every discipline, teachers too often feel the need to cover content, content, content! There rarely seems enough time available for students to reflect upon everything they have encountered. The SnapThought® tool helps solve this problem. By providing a good prompt for a snapshot, teachers can build reflection right into the game play experience. Prompts can be focused or open-ended, and vary from explaining skills and strategies to addressing essential questions.

For example, let’s explore using the SnapThought® on GameUp’s Lure of the Labyrinth’s Employee Lounge, a math game by MIT, Maryland Public Television, and FableVision. This game provides a playful environment in which students explore the concept of equations with variables. Posing a thoughtful prompt can guide players to reflect on specific elements of the game.  When students snap images after each turn and write predictions for the value of different variables, they are taking that moment to stop, think and articulate the pathway of their mathematical thinking: In many cases these reflective moments can improve a chance at success.



Take a second to reflect back on a meaningful moment in your own education. What made that moment special? Did it include interactions with a teacher or peer? Not surprisingly, most often educational memories (or any memory for that matter) include an interpersonal connection.

Creating a SnapThought® requires time and effort. The process of snapping an image and reflecting upon it creates an artifact that documents a step in the learning process.  After submitting it to a teacher, students will likely want a response! Each response is an opportunity to provide concrete dialogue around the specific learning objective indicated in the initial prompt. Using the SnapThought™ as a communication tool can add an interpersonal connection to a learning game experience.

Lure snapthought


Soliciting responses to a game with a thoughtful prompt can provide great insight about each individual student’s learning process and progress. Depending on your prompt, viewing an individual student’s SnapThought® can show how she is  building understanding of a specific skill or concept. Viewing SnapThoughts from the entire class can inform your pedagogical decisions, such as guiding curriculum, considering mixed or leveled grouping, or initiating a project.

This qualitative assessment data may not provide quick insight into mastery of a concept, but it will require a teacher to take time to consider the thoughts and reflections of each student. By taking the time to explore student responses, there is great opportunity to see patterns within understandings or misunderstandings the students as a class may share.

Not sure if your students have access to the SnapThought® tool? Learn more about getting started with My BrainPOP on the FAQ page

Let Us Know!

Has the SnapThought® tool helped your students reflect?  Has it been useful for communicating with your students or collecting assessment data? Let us know in the comments.


  • mbjerede

    This looks like an interesting tool that can be used in a lot of authentic ways. I’m curious about how you see snapshot working in the field? I really like the idea of capturing your steps and thinking about them. Kind of like reviewing your logs after a World of Warcraft raid – analysis to improve your gameplay. I also like some of the prompts from the video, like “what rule would you change” – assuming there is meaningful change that could happen to the game, that’s an awesome question. But at the same time, I know from my own kids that premature reflection detracts from the experience – you need to let your brain get really engaged in the gameplay and reflect afterwards…stopping to think in the middle seems artificial sometimes and prevents you from getting into a real immersive learning experience.

    Different tools serve different purposes, of course, so under what particular circumstances do you see this tool as being the most effective?

    • Andrew from BrainPOP

      Thanks for your comment Marie a few thoughts:

      1) Most of the games on GameUp are “learning games” designed with clear learning objectives to be played within a traditional 45 minute class period . . .unlike WOW (or any MMORPG) , which allows you to play practically forever with millions of other players and non explicit learning objectives.

      Most new learning games are set up to aggregate quantitative data. We created the snapshot as a more flexible tool to collect qualitative reflections.

      2) As for reflecting in the moment, know that students can take snapshots and save them without annotation. Later in the game, they can come back to each individual snapshot and write. Point here is that students don’t have to snap and immediately reflect. Disrupting the flow of a game can absolutely ruin a learning experience – but, by allowing students to return and reflect later in the game, this tool doesn’t force disruption.

      3) This is a brand new tool, as we hear more suggestions for improvement, we’ll listen, so, please share your suggestions!