Get to know a CBE

Voice and Choice with CBE of the Month Tomika Altman-Lewis

Posted by cemignano on

We’d like to welcome August’s Certified BrainPOP Educator of the Month, Tomika Altman-Lewis, to the blog! Tomika is full of ideas and her journey into education is inspiring. Read on to learn more about how she’s using BrainPOP with students and how becoming a CBE has changed her teaching.

What grade(s) do you teach? Subject area?
Previously, I was an elementary gifted teacher/specialist and this upcoming year I will be a K-5 Math/Science Specialist/Interventionist.

How long have you been teaching?
This is my 14th year of teaching and I have taught every grade level Kindergarten – twelfth grade, and various subjects from Family and Consumer Sciences (Home Ec.) to Study Skills to Science.

What inspired you to go into education?
Growing up I always taught younger kids in my neighborhood how to read or helped them with their homework so I guess you can say teaching has always been a part of me. But what truly inspired me to go into education, was my son. I was fascinated with how he learned and grasped concepts quickly. I decided to study child development so I could learn how to better support him. As he got older I became interested in gifted education; especially with providing enrichment services for underrepresented groups of students i.e minorities, students with twice-exceptionalities (gifted in one area but have a learning disability in another area), and English Language Learners.

Which CBE class were you a part of? What do you like about being a CBE?
I completed my CBE certification at ISTE 2016 in Denver, Colorado. Prior to becoming a CBE I did not have access to BrainPOP so I was not aware of the various tools that BrainPOP provided. The CBE program made me cognizant of the interactive options such as Make-a-Movie, games, literacy integration, Make-a-Map, and more. My current school district provides BrainPOP, so thanks to the CBE program I’m able to use BrainPOP with fidelity where my students are more than just consumers of the movies but able to produce their own projects.

Also, once you complete the CBE program you are granted access to the BrainPOP CBE online community. I consider it one of my Professional Learning Networks because I’m able to ask and and answer questions and receive insight on the amazing things other CBEs are implementing in their classroom.

What is one of the most memorable projects you’ve done with your class using BrainPOP resources?
One of the most memorable projects that I have completed with my class using BrainPOP resources was to encourage my students to “Smash Apps”. App Smashing is when you use more than one app or website to complete a project or create a final product. Some of the ways that my students have App Smashed has been to take a screenshot of a “Make-a-Map” they created and then use Screencastify to explain their map. Another example was when students used an app that allowed them to sample and create instrumentals and used such to create a rap using key vocabulary from BrainPOP movies.

How has BrainPOP impacted a specific student (or group of students)?
One way that BrainPOP has impacted a group of students was just this past school year. I taught in a program for highly gifted students and I used BrainPOP to review concepts. My students were quite familiar with BrainPOP and they thought it was primarily watching a quick movie and taking a quiz. They didn’t realize the vast variety of tools that are available such as Make-a-Movie. It was exhilarating to see my students engage in these tools, discuss what they learned, and share such with their peers Regardless of a child’s ability: gifted, learning disabled, or not, BrainPOP piques their interests. BrainPOP allowed some of my quieter students to build their confidence with speaking in front of groups and find their voice because they loved to share their final products with others.

How has becoming a CBE impacted you?
Becoming a CBE has encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone and integrate technology more. Prior to completing my CBE certification, I thought I was authentically integrating technology, but I realize I was only touching the surface instead of swimming in the deep end (This is in reference to the SAMR Model Swimming Pool visual). So not only did I step out of my comfort zone, I felt validated, because I was able to share some of the quirky and creative ways I utilize BrainPOP at ISTE. I never thought about presenting at ISTE but BrainPOP encouraged CBEs to share during a sprint and it was heartening to share something I am passionate about while learning from other CBEs.

What are you most passionate about when it comes to education, technology, and your approaches to teaching?
When it comes to education, I’m passionate about students developing a growth mindset and having opportunities to personalize their instruction while integrating technology. When I first started teaching, “differentiation” was the buzzword and now with the integration of technology the buzzword is “personalization.” So I’m passionate about students taking ownership of their learning and creating opportunities that not only differentiates instruction but allows students to share their voice and connect with the curriculum in a real-world way.

What’s on your BrainPOP wish list?
There are a lot of things on my BrainPOP wish list such as virtual and augmented reality options; the ability for students to embed their own drawings to “Make-a-Movie”, as well as clips, from BrainPOP movies; a “share button” option where students can share projects with other students and work on them simultaneously and collaboratively, similarly to a Google Doc; and videos about growth mindset/grit/”The Power of Yet.”