April 23, 2014

Gizmo of the Week: DNA Fingerprint Analysis Gizmo

406DETApril 25 is DNA Day! On April 25, 1953, a series of papers by Francis Crick, James Watson, Rosalind Franklin, Maurice Wilkins, and others were published in the journal Nature. These seminal papers established our understanding of the structure of DNA and suggested how DNA replication occurred.

In commemoration of this and other accomplishments in genomics, you and your students can celebrate DNA Day with a variety of Gizmos, including Building DNA, RNA and Protein Synthesis, and DNA Fingerprint Analysis.

The DNA Fingerprint Analysis Gizmo uses a simplified version of DNA fingerprints to establish the uniqueness of each individual’s DNA, and it allows students to connect DNA sequences to traits.

Happy DNA Day!

Posted by Heather Jones at 01:36 PM in Science, Using Gizmos | Permalink

April 17, 2014

Lesson Material Updates: Polling

In February, we shared that several of the Lesson Materials for our statistics Gizmos were updated. We are back at it and have added three more.

Polling City

Polling: City

Polling: Neighborhood

Populations and Samples

Incorporate these and other statistics Gizmos into an integrated lesson, combining social studies and mathematics to teach students about polling and how using samples of a population can help predict elections.

Posted by Heather Jones at 01:21 PM in Site Announcements, Using Gizmos | Permalink

April 16, 2014

Expert Corner: Differentiating with Student Exploration Sheets

LauraC-2014Laura Chervenak has been with ExploreLearning since 2010 as the VP of Professional Development. She has taught high school science, and is the founder and former director of GOAL Digital Academy. Laura is National Board Certified in Science/Adolescence and Young Adulthood, with a B.A. in Zoology and an M.S. in Anthropology.

When conducting whole group lessons with students, you can use Gizmo Student Exploration Sheets to guide the lesson path and your questioning with students. But you may wonder, is it desirable to print out those sheets for my students, or should I do something else?

As always, you will want to look to your lesson objectives to make that decision. If you are using the whole group Gizmo lesson to engage your students and get them to begin thinking about a concept, it may not be necessary for them to have a document to write on. On the other hand, if you are using the Gizmo later in your lesson to build understanding, the support of a document to guide them might be very beneficial.

Keep in mind that you don’t need to use the entire Student Exploration Sheet “as-is.” You can pick just one activity and modify the Word document to meet your needs. You can also create entirely new documents by using the snapshot feature in each Gizmo to embed pictures, graphs, and data into your documents. A quick question around a picture can be a great formative assessment to be used before, during or after a lesson in your sequence.

Other ideas for student documents that can support whole-class instruction:

Before the lesson:

• Prior Knowledge questions from the Student Exploration Sheets can be handed out as bell-ringers as students enter class.

During the lesson:

• Create an outline of the lesson on which students can take notes. As you proceed through your planned whole group lesson, what do you want students to notice? What conclusions would you like them to come to? Create a student document to scaffold questions and observations for the students so that they can achieve the objectives of your lesson.

• Provide data recording templates for individual analysis. If your whole group lesson includes collecting data that will be reviewed to identify patterns, it will help students to have a document they can record the data on as you collect it as a group. Not only will the students be able to practice the skill of recording data accurately in a table or other appropriate format, they will have their own copy for the analysis exercises.

After the lesson:

• Create a follow-up activity that applies the concepts learned during the whole group lesson. In the ExploreLearning PD Team, we love creating writing prompts for Gizmos that support the Common Core standards.

• Exit tickets. One of the questions from the Student Exploration Sheet may lend itself perfectly to a question for your students to answer before they leave class.

• Differentiated homework (with or without a computer.) By using snapshots of Gizmos and data, you can create homework where students can practice the skills learned in the whole group lesson without the need for a computer. Or, for students that have computer access at home, give them a second option so that they can use the Gizmos at home.

If you've created interesting lessons around a Gizmo, please help out your colleagues by sharing your lesson materials on the Lesson Info tab of the Gizmo.

To see our previous articles on whole group instruction, go to http://blog.explorelearning.com/implementation-ideas/

Posted by Heather Jones at 11:14 AM in Implementation Ideas, Training and Professional Development, Using Gizmos | Permalink

ABC’s and 123’s of Federal Funding

Recent transitions towards digital content have put schools and districts in a crunch to find funding to support the change. In addition, complicated funding guidelines can be challenging for schools when deciding how and when they can spend these funds. If you participate in budget planning, consider these federal funding sources that can supplement your program’s budget for content and professional development.

  1. School districts can use Title II-A funds to pay for personalized professional development for educators, which could help teachers master various ed-tech tools, such Gizmos and Reflex. According to a study by digedu, while 93% of teachers think that technology has an impact on student engagement, 46% report that they lack the training to use the technology effectively. Help make the most out of your technology investment and provide teachers with the training they need… and want!
  2. Ed-tech resources purchased through Title III-A can be used to improve teaching and learning for English Language Learners (ELL). Gizmos incorporate research-proven best practices to support ELL instruction, including rich visual support, virtual models, and varied activity levels to scaffold and differentiate learning.
  3. Districts can leverage Title I-A funds to purchase devices, such as laptops or tablets, in addition to digital curriculum and professional development, as part of a comprehensive district-wide ed-tech plan. See results from Title I schools that have invested in Reflex and have seen amazing progress in math. Also, learn how a Title I teacher supports economically disadvantaged students in her school’s computer lab with Gizmos.
  4. Title VI funds contribute to student success in small and rural school districts. Read the Maine Impact Study of Technology in Mathematics to learn how a professional development program that included Gizmos had significant impact on teacher effectiveness and student learning in rural schools in Maine.  
  5. Department of Defense Grants focused on STEM are helping programs across the nation enhance student learning. Gizmos has been proven to be an effective approaches for improving STEM teaching and learning. Read how Gizmos can support STEM education or watch a high school science teacher explain how to use Gizmos to support STEM.
  6. The Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) helps fund educational opportunities for special education students and provides services to meet their unique learning needs. Reflex and Gizmos have been used with success in many schools with students with specific learning disabilities, as well as students with autism and cognitive disabilities. Gizmos help teachers provide a challenging, personalized learning experience for all students including those with disabilities. Reflex is adaptive and individualized and works well for a classroom of students with different needs, skills and goals. Read more about Reflex in Special Education.

Posted by Heather Jones at 11:05 AM in Purchasing/Subscription Info, Using Gizmos | Permalink

Educator of the Month: Elise Gordon

EliseGordonElise Gordon is the Math Resource Teacher at a Title I school in Palm Beach County School District in  Florida. She has her Master’s degree in Elementary Education from Palm Beach Atlantic University and has been teaching for the past ten years. Prior to teaching, she was a physical therapist for 20 years, and has her BS from the University of Connecticut in Physical Therapy.

Elise Gordon runs her school’s math lab where students in grades 2-5 visit once a week for an extra hour of math focusing on building, drawing and writing about mathematics. Many of her lessons incorporate Gizmos. Elise feels that the rich visual support and varied levels of activities provide students with “just the right challenge.”

Lantana Elementary uses Gizmos as part of a Title I initiative to help support the needs of economically disadvantaged students. Elise shares, “Many of our students have parents or guardians who work two jobs, and they have limited involvement with the school. Also, students often don’t have access to computers outside of school.” Her role helps provide these students with the extra support they need to help close the achievement gap.

In the computer lab, Elise incorporates Gizmos in her lessons in various ways. To model a process 1016DETor concept, she will often use Gizmos in whole class instruction. For example, she uses the Quilting Bee Symmetry Gizmo to demonstrate finding lines of symmetry and whether a shape has rotational or line symmetry. “Gizmos use technology as a bridge between pictorial and abstract mathematics allowing the children to manipulate the math.”

She also uses Gizmos during partner work and for enrichment of students who need a further challenge in a specific topic or extra practice. She shares, “I have created lessons around the Finding Patterns Gizmo where the students build, draw, and write to continue the pattern started in the Gizmo. Gizmos allows the students to ‘experiment’ with cause and effect in mathematics and gives them non-punitive feedback. The Gizmos quizzes are of high quality, too.”

A big thanks to Elise for all she does to support student success with Gizmos!

If you would like to share your experience with Gizmos to be profiled in upcoming blog posts and/or newsletters, fill out our teacher spotlight questionnaire.

Posted by Heather Jones at 11:03 AM in Case Studies, Testimonials, Using Gizmos | Permalink

Prepare for End-of-Year Testing with Gizmos

GizmostestLooking for ways to help students prepare for upcoming state tests and end-of-course exams? Try creating a personalized review with Gizmos. Research suggests that a computer-based individualized study schedule can help students retain significantly more material to prepare for a test given at the end of a semester and a month later.



When preparing students for end-of-year testing, remember the Three R’s:

·        Review concepts from early in the school that students may have forgotten

·        Reinforce most tested items on state and end-of-course exams

·        Re-teach concepts that students struggled with most during the school year

Whether they are at home, at school, or traveling during spring break, students can access Gizmos on their computers and iPads anywhere they have Internet. By the time the test comes around, students can be confident and ready to ace those exams.

Explore the Gizmos library today!

Posted by Heather Jones at 11:00 AM in Training and Professional Development, Using Gizmos | Permalink

April 14, 2014

Gizmo of the Week: Water Pollution

April 14th marks the 50th anniversary of the death of Rachel Carson, a researcher and writer who started the environmental movement in 1962 with the publication of “Silent Spring.” Carson first became concerned with widespread pesticide use while working for the Fish and Wildlife Service in the 1940s.

Water polution“Silent Spring,” which documented the devastating effects of DDT on wildlife, brought environmental issues to the forefront and led to a ban on DDT use.

The Water Pollution Gizmo presents a variety of types of water pollution, including toxic, sediment, nutrient, and bacterial. Students learn about each form of pollution and identify the kinds of pollution that apply to a variety of real-world scenarios.

As an extension to the lesson, have students create public service announcements on how to reduce water pollution in their communities. This makes a great Earth Day activity!

Posted by Heather Jones at 07:57 AM in Science, Science (Real World), Using Gizmos | Permalink

April 11, 2014

Educator Spotlight: Jennifer DeMik

Jennifer DeMik teaches 7th and 8th grade math at Liberty Middle School in Tampa, FL. She is the math subject leader and is the school’s SAC Chair. She received her BA from Eckerd College and her MA in Sociology from the University of South Florida.

With over seven years of teaching experience in Hillsborough County Schools, Jen has been through numerous annual evaluations. This year’s annual review was scheduled during her “most difficult” class, but she wasn’t worried because her lesson plan had a secret weapon… Gizmos! Her whole group Gizmo lesson scored “Exemplary” in all domains of evaluation, which included demonstrating knowledge of content and pedagogy, designing coherent instruction, organizing physical space, showing professionalism and using assessment in instruction.

Percent of Change GizmoJen used the Percent of Change Gizmo during her lesson, which allows students to apply markups and discounts using interactive percent rulers. “The full lesson spanned over a 3-day period. The Gizmo reinforced concepts such as percent of change, sales tax, tip, discount and markup as one great big global concept.” As a result, students were able to improve number sense for percents with this dynamic, visual tool.

The lesson description below was taken from her peer-evaluation: “She effectively planned and utilized the Gizmo to further student learning as well as demonstrated a wide range of effective pedagogical approaches during the lesson. Students were strategically paired and then adjusted as needed for the lesson. Students were provided opportunities to peer and self-assess when comparing responses, checking with the calculator and viewing the Gizmo.”

If you are considering using Gizmos with your students, Jen has one thing to say, “If people don't believe this stuff works, they clearly haven't used it enough or even tried it!”

Try Gizmos today to see how you can take your students’ learning to the next level!

Posted by Heather Jones at 09:49 AM in Case Studies, Testimonials, Using Gizmos | Permalink

April 07, 2014

Gizmo of the Week: Target Sum Card Game

1020DETApril is National Math Awareness month, and this year’s theme is Mathematics, Magic, and Mystery. Card games are a great way to make the connection between mathematics and magic. The Target Sum Card Game Gizmo is a fun and engaging game that utilizes basic arithmetic skills, estimation, and logic.

In the Gizmo, students are dealt a hand of cards with the digits 0-9. The goal is to arrange the cards in different place values so that the sum is as close as possible to a given target. This is relatively easy to do when the number of cards is small, but the challenge increases rapidly as the number of cards increases.

Students can modify the game in a variety of ways and even play each other head-to-head. After using the Gizmo, try playing the game with real cards!

Posted by Heather Jones at 07:36 AM in Math (Real World), Using Gizmos | Permalink

April 01, 2014

ExploreLearning, a Cut Above the Rest

6a00d8341e234753ef01a51198a2b4970c-320wiThe SIIA CODiE finalists were announced this week, and ExploreLearning Reflex and Gizmos were on the list!

During the past 28 years, the SIIA CODiE Awards have recognized software and information companies for achieving excellence. The CODiE Awards remain the only peer-recognized program, so each CODiE Award serves as an incredible testament to a product’s innovation, vision, and overall industry impact. ExploreLearning has been represented among CODiE finalist for 9 straight years.  

Gizmos was carefully selected as a finalist for Best Mathematics Instructional Solution. This prestigious award recognizes the best mathematic instructional product that provides deep learning experiences for students, supports standards-alignment, and reflects current curriculum practice.

Reflex is among the Best Learning Game Finalists. Reflex was selected for its ability to provide a motivating learning environment and enable students to learn educational concepts.

Review the full list of 2014 CODiE Award Finalists. Winners will be announced in May!

Posted by Heather Jones at 03:31 PM in Edu/Tech, Press Clippings, Using Gizmos | Permalink