We have always thought of ourselves as being pretty technically savy, but when the Covid-19 pandemic hit and teachers all around the world were thrust into teaching from a distance, we realized how little we actually knew.
The first thing we did was going through our library of resources that we have in our store and realized that some of them just don’t translate well into digital resources. Some things are just better in person.
This meant we needed to look at new ways to reach our students. We’ve always used Google Classroom and feel pretty comfortable using it with our students, but it lacks the ability to have students practice skills in a way that can checked. We love task cards, but with distance learning they just aren’t the same.
We asked around to see what some of our friends or fellow creators were using and we kept hearing about Boom Learning.
What is Boom Learning?
Boom Learning is an internet based site where teachers can assign students “decks” with questions that are self-checking. Students will find out whether or not their answer is correct before moving onto another question. This gives students instant feedback so teachers can have students working on different decks at the same time.
Decks are purchased with points. Teachers can buy bundles of points and then use them as they wish to purchase decks. There are also many decks.
Decks that have been selected (free ones) or purchased will appear in the account holder’s library. From there, teachers can assign decks with a FastPin or Hyperplay Link.
A FastPin is a code that you can give students. They do not have to login to the BoomLearning site or have an account, but instead will enter their FastPin. This will take them directly to the deck to play, but it does not record responses or results for the teacher.
A HyperPlay Link requires students to have a login account (more information on that below) because it will prompt them to login. When students play with this link, it records their results for the teacher (if you have your account set up to do this).
To use Boom Learning, teachers create an account. There are various levels of accounts depending on the amount a teacher wants to pay or how they use the decks.
Basic Account: This account is free to use. You can assign students decks to play, but you cannot see their results or records. This is a great place to start if you’re looking to explore whether or not this is for you.
Premium Account: Allows you to set up a whole classroom (or even a few classrooms) where you can assign specific decks and watch the results of your students. This can help you choose different decks or check in with students.
Ultimate Account: This allows you to become a deck creator where you can make your own decks for your students or even sell them to other teachers. There is a pretty steep learning curve if you are new to creating resources in general, but there are lots of support materials available if you want to venture into that. There are countless YouTube videos and even Facebook groups for support.
All of the decks are housed on Boom Learning and all students play the decks on that platform, but you can provide the links or pins to play inside your Google Classroom, Seesaw, Class Dojo or any other internal classroom portal you use with your students. They will require internet access to use the cards, regardless of how they get the link to play. Students can play using the app when it is installed on their device.
What is possible with Boom Learning?
Cards within a deck have a few options about how students can answer them. Questions can be multiple choice where students have to select one or more correct answers. The responses can be text, sounds or images. They can even be a combination of these once your skills become advanced.
Questions can be fill in the blank. This can include letters or numbers. One thing we’ve learned is that when students spell words incorrectly the answers can be marked incorrect, so this is something to consider when using the cards. If you have bad spellers, fill in the blank is not always the best choice for them.
Drag and drop questions allow students to put up objects like text or images and place them into a drop zone. This is great for things like geometry or spelling words.
Why Boom Learning compared to Google Forms?
There are advantages and disadvantages to using either. Here are a few reasons why we choose to use one or other. We use both, but for different reasons.
Google Forms are free to use with a Google Account, but the Basic Account on Boom Learning is also free.
Google Forms can be self-checking for multiple choice questions when Quiz mode is selected. This doesn’t cost anything extra to create. While the Boom Learning Basic Account is free and there are some free, many decks still cost points to use. Good decks tend to cost a bit of money to help creators cover the costs of the clip art and their account.
Google Forms has limitations for making them interactive outside of selecting an answer. While videos, sounds or images can be added, they aren’t able to be interacted with by the user other than to watch, listen or look at them. On Boom Learning, images and text can be moved around by the user. Audio and video on Boom Learning tends to be easier for younger students to access without support.
Whether using Google Forms or Boom Learning, students may need their own login, especially when the teacher wants to record the results. It might be a Google Account or a Boom Learning Account. Both can also be used without when the teacher isn’t recording the individual results.
Generally we’ve found that students enjoy using the Boom Cards way more than using the Google Forms. They are more colourful, interactive and intutitve for students to use.
Most of all, for students that are learning to read or are learning English, Boom Cards provide more options to allow students to work on them independently. Many creators add audio to the instructions to read them to students and English Language Learners can have pictures, videos or translated languages added to cards to help them understand what to do on each card.
Boom Learning has an extensive support library and Facebook Groups to help you learn how to teach with Boom Cards or if you decide to venture into creating, they support you in that as well.
Google has a great library and Google Education has courses and videos to help you get the most out of using Google Tools.
Google Forms has an app, though I have not used it with students. Boom Learning also has an app which can be used for playing the decks.
How Do You Find Decks?
There are two main places you can find decks to play.
If you purchase points on Boom Learning, you can use these points to purchase decks directly from the stores on Boom. They have a pretty decent search engine to help you find what you’re looking for and each deck has a preview where you can play 4 of the cards to see if the deck is right for you. The search engine defaults to the newest decks, but you can sort them by price and relevance too.
Another place to purchase Boom Cards is from sellers on Teachers Pay Teachers. Add Boom Cards to your search terms. When you make a purchase on Teachers Pay Teachers, you will usually receive a PDF file that contains a special link. When you click on this link, it takes you to Boom Learning where you will be prompted to sign into your Boom Learning account (or create one) and then the deck will show up in your library within Boom Learning.
If you have difficulty with your deck through either way you purchase, you bet bet is to search the support section on Boom Learning or contact them for support as this will get you the fastest result.
Can You Make Requests?
We love requests and we’re always looking for new sets to create, but we tend to stick to what we know which is Grades 3-6 and generally Canadian content. That being said, we know lots of other sellers so we’re always willing to recommend someone if they better suit your needs.
It is challenging to reach out to the creators directly on Boom Learning, but most have information about their blog, TpT store or social media in their profiles, so start there.
How are Decks Edited?
Buyers of the decks cannot edit them, but as a teacher, you can hide a card from your class so they don’t play it.
Creators can make edits to their decks at any time, giving you the updates to the deck automatically. Creators will not change the cards, but they will fix problems or make corrections. Consider contacting the creator before leaving a bad review. Nobody’s perfect. You don’t have to redownload or update anything.
What if I Don’t Renew My Account?
If you decide not to play in the future, you still get to keep all the decks you bought, but your class size gets reduced back down to the Basic Account. So, you don’t lose your decks.
If you are a creator, the rules are slightly different and we recommend you keep your account in good standing and look at the information provided in the Help Guide on Boom Learning.
What Happens When You Get Addicted to Boom Cards?
Well, we’ve used Google Tools for about ten years and are Google Educator Certified. These tools serve many wonderful purposes, but there’s something magical about Boom Cards. They really are fun to make.
If you decide you want to make your own to sell or share with colleagues, you will need an Ultimate Account.
We LOVE making them. We’ve slowly been building our skills to make more complex questions or interactions for students, but the feedback from our students has made it so worthwhile.
They love playing them, too.
And in the middle of a global pandemic, Boom Cards became our saving grace. They are so fun to make and because we have the ultimate account we can see how our students are doing (or which ones aren’t doing them). They’ve been great at requesting topics for us to create so while we started by making our math unit and then some practice vocabulary for our English Language Learners, we have a big long list of things to create all the rest of the school year (and probably well into the summer).
What if I have more questions?
In perfect world, we would have the time to make you an instructional video explaining everything you would need, but like you, we are just keeping our heads above water with all the changing information at school each day.
So, we’ve done the next best thing.
Shanon Juneau of We Are Better Together has created a FREE course for teachers explaining everything you need to know. We’ve taken some of Shanon’s courses before and trust us, you’re in good hands.
Her course is called How to Use Boom Cards in Your Classroom. We are not taking any financial compensation for sharing the link and encourage you to pass it along to other teachers who might benefit from it.
What decks are available from the Brain Ninjas?
What do we have so far? We have listed the decks we’ve created in both our Boom Learning Store and our Teachers Pay Teachers Store. We work hard to try to make our prices the same on both sites, but occasionally there’s a sale on one site or the other or when you buy big batches of points on Boom Learning, they are discounted.
One of the best features of Boom Learning is that you can play four of the cards by previewing the deck. We always put the link to preview on Teachers Pay Teachers but you can also play it when you go to the deck’s information page. You can see our decks on this gadget. Just click on it to visit our Boom Learning Store or click on a specific product to see its details.
Math Grade 4-6 Fractions Bundle: on Boom or On TpT. This bundle contains six decks to practice identifying fractions, equivalent fractions, comparing and ordering fractions and converting fractions to decimals.
ELL/ESL Vocabulary Practice Bundle: We needed a way for some of our new to English students practice their vocabulary. These started as simple vocabulary flash cards, but as we’ve learned new skills we’ve been adding audio and making them a little more complex (without too much English for students). You can try out some of our different decks. On Boom or on TpT.
So, do you have a Boom Learning Account yet? Have you tried the cards? What decks would you like to see? We’ve love to hear from you and maybe we’ll even create your deck. Let us know in the comments below.