Next up in our Certified BrainPOP Educator of the Month series is Matthew Farber of Denville, NJ. Read on to see how Matt fuses his love of history with his passion for ed tech in his social studies classroom. And, don’t forget to check back later this month to learn about June’s CBE of the Month!
What grade(s) do you teach? Subject area?
I teach 6th and 7th grade social studies. In 6th grade we cover world history, and in 7th grade content starts at Jamestown and culminates with civics and the US Constitution.
How long have you been teaching?
I have been teaching since 2008.
What inspired you to go into education?
Teaching is my second career. I had an undergraduate major in US History, which enabled me to become a social studies teacher after receiving an alternate route certification. I always had a passion for history and stories from the past. I also have an interest in educational technology; my feet are now in both worlds! I loved ed tech so much that I continued, earning a doctorate in education this spring. My favorite thing is designing engaging lesson for students using games and projects. My class is a Petri dish in which I co-learn with my students.
Which CBE class were you a part of? What do you like about being a CBE?
I attended a training at ISTE in Philadelphia in July 2015. The most meaningful part of being a CBE is that it is a true community of practice. I particularly like the sense of community, in which members and participants mentor one another on best practices using BrainPOP’s tools. And I enjoy getting a peek at new games and content, and then being asked to give feedback.
What is one of the most memorable projects you’ve done with your class using BrainPOP resources?
One of the most memorable projects using BrainPOP was the Columbian Exchange unit. I set up stations in my 6th grade classroom to teach about global interconnectedness, and the cause and effects of the Age of Discovery. Two stations were BrainPOP video-based: one on the Columbian Exchange, and one on Ebola. Here students compared how diseases spread when people travel, like smallpox in the 1600s and Ebola in today. Other stations including playing the cooperative board game Pandemic, and PBS LearningMedia video essay prompts on the Columbian Exchange. Students who completed stations early played related Time Zone X games. The BrainPOP activities anchored the content, making learning meaningful for students.
How has BrainPOP impacted a specific student (or group of students)?
BrainPOP has given agency to students over their learning. Many report that they binge watch videos, often for other classes or content areas.
How has becoming a CBE impacted you?
Prior to being a CBE, I worked with the team on book research, and other side projects. But now I feel closer to the BrainPOP community of educators. BrainPOP takes a lot of time and care valuing feedback from its users — both teachers and students alike.
What are you most passionate about when it comes to education, technology, and your approaches to teaching?
I am passionate about giving students agency to be self-directed learners. In particularly, I look for tools that have playful; affordances and student choice. As Lev Vygotsky observed, play creates the zone of proximal development. Without play there is no learning. In this sense, educational technology must be a playful tool to enable students to master content.
What’s on your BrainPOP wish list?
My BrainPOP wish list includes an authoring tool for students to storyboard and publish Tim and Moby stories — perhaps one that enables students to write branched, choose-your-own-adventure stories. I have had a lot of success when students write choice-driven narratives, and then read each others. In the process, they learn systems thinking, iteration, and empathy for the reader’s experience. It is always my goal to see students move from content consumers to creators.