“One of the greatest tools available is BrainPOP, an animated video resource that covers all subjects, all areas, and all grade levels. In short, 6 minute videos, students are able to get great instruction on any topic.” – Adina Popa, USA

Adina Popa is a Microsoft in Education Global Forum veteran and a tireless collaborator who naturally plays the role of education ambassador. In fact, Loudoun County Schools includes “International Ambassador” in Popa’s official title. Her work to create global classrooms culminated in the creation of Power of Everyone (shared at the Prague Global Forum) and TEDxAshburn.  When visionary educators like Popa, who has won numerous awards and presented at education conferences around the world, find ways to use technology to enhance learning, people take notice.

Popa’s career spans many grade levels and two continents. She taught high school English in Timisoara, Romania, music in Florida and 5th grade in Ohio. Today, Popa’s primary duties include training and motivating teachers, creating and delivering model lessons, collaborating with teachers, and researching new curriculum trends. As part of her process, she builds partnerships with schools and educational companies to design collaboration projects, exchange best practices, and support 21st century learning. One such partnership is with BrainPOP, where Popa serves on the Educational Advisory Board.

We’ve covered BrainPOP before as part of our 2014 Back-to-School App Guide and in an interview BrainPOP executive Kari Stubbs – who is a big fan of Popa’s work.Here, Popa describes just a few of the ways she applies technology to 21st century learning:

  • Surface RT: Successful co-teaching is dependent on deliberate co-planning of stakeholders.  However, in many cases ELL teachers cannot teach and co-plan at the same time (there are too many general education teachers and too few ELL teachers in many buildings).  This is not an obstacle for us!  Through grants we provided Surface RTs to our teachers who are now able to co-plan and co-teach effective lessons that reach our students during their first instruction, with little need for tiered intervention.
  • BrainPOP: Engages kids and supports teachers with animated, cross-curricular content like movies, interactive quizzes, educational games, and beyond. Available as a Windows 8 app or online at brainpop.com.
  • BrainPOP ESL: An English language learning and teaching tool from BrainPOP. It offers animated movies that introduce grammar and vocabulary, plus supporting features that reinforce its lessons. Available as a Windows 8 app or online at brainpopesl.com.
  • 1:1 e-mentoring: Through a non-profit organization (In2Books), Loudoun County Public Schools students are paired with adult e-mentors and over the course of the school year each student/e-mentor pair reads five diverse, award-winning books. Throughout the year, the student and his or her adult pen pal exchange letters about the important issues in the books. At the same time, students are discussing the book in the classroom as they study its genre and genre-related strategies. The e-mentors are lawyers, doctors, stay-at-home moms, teachers, book editors, football players, busy professionals who want to give back to community, but don’t have the time during the day to go to schools in person.
  • Power of Everyone: Collaborations in authentic environments, facilitated via videoconferencing sessions.
  • Gesture-based learning: Students use Xbox Kinect in their classrooms to create authentic problems, create presentations, social skills stories, and many other learning opportunities that promote engagement and motivation to succeed.
  • TechSmith Educational Solutions.  Meeting agendas and information, as well as classroom instruction are delivered in a flipped setting through screen-capture tools such as SnagIt.
  • We’re proud to have BrainPOP as a partner, and we love to see how educators like Popa apply their games-based learning innovation in real-life classrooms.

Here’s today’s Daily Edventure with Adina Popa.

 What drew you to the field of education? Why is it important to you?
I love to teach.  Always loved it.  I remember teaching my little brothers how to tie their shoes, how to complete their homework, and, among many others, how to speak respectfully to their elders, including me (that’s when I first encountered resistance to change).  It wasn’t until later, much later, in college, when I realized that teaching runs through my veins.  I feel most accomplished when I know I make a difference by engaging students in their learning and helping them succeed.  

As a full-time educator, I am always searching for innovative ways to teach the standards. From robotics in the math curriculum, to re-enactments of historical trials in the English and Social Science curricula, to NASA-guided simulations that save islands or lost spaceships in the STEM curricula, to embedded multimedia (such as BrainPOP) in any subject, to international connections that transform classrooms into global communities, students are excited about school. This keeps me continuously drawn to the field of education.

Can you tell us about a favorite teacher, or someone who made a difference in your education?
I believe that teachers can be found inside and outside of the classroom.  I recently started a new leadership position as a School Improvement and Accountability Specialist (ELL) for Loudoun County Public Schools.  As I help schools with best practices and effective instructional strategies, I realize more and more what I want to do when I grow up:  become a school principal.  For this reason, I am learning from two accomplished leaders, both having led schools (and districts) to excellence: Timothy Flynn, Director of Instructional Services and Dr. Virginia Crawford-Patterson, Supervisor of Elementary Education for Loudoun County Public Schools.  They are my teachers and I am deeply inspired by the difference they have made in students’ lives by believing that everything educators do revolves around student achievement.

Please describe how your professional achievements have advanced innovation in education.  What has changed as a result of your work?
I am a global educator, connecting schools with museums, adventurers, award-winning authors, Ministries of Education, embassies, and classrooms from around the world.   Together with peers and experts, students learn content through gesture-based technologies, service learning projects, multimedia integration (such as BrainPOP), and STEM-rich initiatives.  I write proposals and secure funding through grants and business partnerships for the global projects.  I have also been asked to consult with members from several ministries of education on effective instructional technology implementation.  

In your view, what is the most exciting innovation happening in education today?
21st century learning allows students to collaborate with peers (locally and globally), and purposefully work together towards a cause that is completely tied to the curriculum.  Each child has the opportunity to participate in projects that save the world, and each child can leave a legacy. 

If you could give one educational tool to every child in the world, what would it be? Why?
One of the greatest tools available is BrainPOP, an animated video resource that covers all subjects, all areas, and all grade levels.  In short, 6-minute videos, students are able to get great instruction on any topic.

What is your country doing well currently to support education?
There is a strong emphasis on higher-level thinking activities within each lesson.  This is a great initiative as students will be better prepared for their futures, where problem-solving and out-of-the-box thinking are quintessential components of professionalism.   

How must education change in your country to ensure that students are equipped to thrive in the 21st century?
We must rethink the way we plan our lessons.  What we did five years (or even one year) ago no longer applies as highly effective instruction.  We must plan for daily formative assessments, differentiated activities, and the implementation of higher-order thinking skills for at least 80% of each lesson. We must do this in each classroom, all the time.  

About Adina Popa, School Improvement and Accountability Specialist
Virginia, USA

  • Current residence: Washington, D.C.
  • Education: BA in Elementary Education; Master’s Degree in Instructional Technology; Post-Master’s Certificate in Educational Leadership and Administration.
  • Websites I check every day: http://www.brainpop.com/educators and http://www.pil-network.com
  • Person who inspires me most: Dan Popa
  • Favorite childhood memory: Caroling with friends.
  • Next travel destination (work or pleasure): Florida
  • When was the last time you laughed? A few minutes ago Why? I enjoy conversations with family and friends, no matter how silly they become.
  • Favorite book: Each new book becomes my new favorite.  The current favorite is Strengths Based Leadership: Great Leaders, Teams, and Why People Follow by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie.
  • Favorite music: Jazz/Opera
  • What is the best advice you have ever received? Never be afraid of change! Embrace it and help others do the same.
  • Your favorite quote or motto: “’My lesson was great, but students didn’t get it’ sounds very much like ‘the surgery went well, but the patient died.’”

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