As part of our ongoing series of interviews with people making a difference in the education and technology fields, we spoke to Din Heiman, General Manager at BrainPOP, about how to make learning appealing.
BrainPOP creates educational content in the form of animated videos that engage learners of all ages. Find out more at brainpop.com.
SMATOOS: What’s your role at BrainPOP?
DIN HEIMAN (DH): As General Manager, I assist with both day-to-day operations and strategic directions. BrainPOP is a very trusted and popular brand, used by millions of learners – it creates a huge responsibility that each of us here share in.
SMATOOS: As a company, what’s your ultimate goal?
DH: We believe all kids are born learners. Come to think of it, so are adults. BrainPOP was designed to stimulate kids’ interest in learning more. With each new understanding comes a thirst for more knowledge. We hope to unleash some of that innate curiosity, and instill true engagement with learning.
SMATOOS: Tell us about the most interesting project you’ve worked on.
DH: Our most recent launch – GameUp (brainpop.com/games) – was truly dramatic for us. Believing in the power of games in learning, and a bit concerned about how slowly their potential is reaching classrooms, we created a space for publishers of outstanding online learning games to meet teachers and students. It’s free, it’s new (launched in June) and we are quickly welcoming new game developers and publishers to the network. The partner list is already quite impressive.
SMATOOS: What’s the most important thing to take into consideration when creating an educational game or app? What’s the most difficult part?
DH: Game, app, movie – the most important thing for those developing for the school market is to keep the learners top-of-mind. It’s tempting to develop for the needs of districts and schools, as they are ultimately the decision-makers and buyers. But outstanding educational products don’t lose sight of the importance of appealing directly to kids and to the teachers that are there in the trenches with them. Treat learners like your customers. Respect their input on what they’re expected to learn from. The medium changes, from desktop to tablet, from textbook to smartphone. The principles don’t. We’re often mistaken for a technology company.
SMATOOS: How did BrainPOP content become so widely used in U.S. schools? Can you describe your marketing strategy?
DH: Guided by the vision of Dr. Avraham Kadar, our amazing founder and CEO, we’ve stuck to our principles for over 12 years now. You wouldn’t believe our team’s talent, commitment and loyalty. We approach kids respectfully and keep teachers’ needs at the forefront. We love humor, so we use lots of it. We have a tone, an aesthetic, a pedagogy that we hope shine through each of the thousand or so curricular topics we’ve created. And we never stop improving our core offerings. This is especially important for content companies. There’s no repurposing of stuff, no tolerance for factual error and a constant drive to stay current.
SMATOOS: Do you think all classroom learning should be interactive? Is the paper book dead?
DH: Think about whom you’ve learned most from. Books aren’t passive, and computers aren’t interactive. Great teaching is interactive. Always has been, always will be. Great teachers are engaging. Engagement is interactive.
SMATOOS: What is it about BrainPOP that appeals to kids? How do you measure their response?
DH: Kids see beyond the shiny wrappers. Think about all the fancy toys that lay around unused just a couple days after Christmas. If you want to know what appeals to them, or to anyone, ask them. They will tell you what to improve, if you convince them that you are listening.
SMATOOS: Do you think about expanding outside classroom content into other areas? Or perhaps developing more international sites?
DH: BrainPOP has attracted global attention almost from its very start. We track this, and it’s amazing to see how diverse and inclusive the user base is, both domestically and internationally. We now have localizations for Latin America, Europe and Asia, with content in multiple languages and offices around the world. We’re particularly proud of BrainPOP ESL, an all-digital English learning resource for kids who grew up pretty much… anywhere.
Images from brainpop.com