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December 29, 2003

Seed Germination Bug

Image of an error in seed germination Gizmo In the Seed Germination Gizmo we noticed a minor visual bug that is shown in the image (an extra box and the word controls should not be present). A few days ago several changes were made to our 'library' of common images used in the Gizmos. That is the likely cause of the problem. This will be fixed as soon as one of our key multimedia developers returns from vacation (probably on Jan 5, 2004 at the latest). We apologize for this delay.

It is possible that this visual bug will be found in other Gizmos. Please let us know if you encounter similar errors.

I hope you are all enjoying the holidays!

Update: This bug was fixed and uploaded on Jan 5, 2004.

Posted by Raman at 07:17 PM in Site Status/Known Issues | Permalink | Comments (1)

December 23, 2003

Can NORAD Track Santa?

Every year since 1998 NORAD has been tracking Santa and putting the live data on the WWW. How fast would Santa and the sleigh have to move in order to travel across the planet in one day? How can Santa get down a chimney? What is the history of Santa? Find out more at the NORAD Tracks Santa Website.

Posted by Raman at 09:47 PM in Fun/Humor | Permalink | Comments (3)

December 18, 2003

Really Old Photosynthesis

Scientists have recently found evidence of photosynthesis that occurred over 3.7 billion years ago! That is much older than the photosynthesis that is happening in the plant that sits next to my desk.

If you'd like to learn more about photosynthesis, read the news article and play with the Gizmo.

Posted by Raman at 09:00 AM in Science (Real World) | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 16, 2003

Christmas, Dogs, and Mars.

Christmas is just around the corner. I know many of you will probably be opening gifts, enjoying a breakfast, or walking your dog. I'll be keeping an eye on a Beagle that is not a dog, it is a rover that will be landing on Mars early Christmas morning. Good dog.

I hope everything goes well for the Beagle 2 British led exploration of Mars. Be sure to check out their blog. I was sorry to hear that the electrical problems on the Japanese probe could not be corrected.

Beagle 2 Website

Posted by Raman at 10:32 AM in Science (Real World) | Permalink | Comments (2)

December 12, 2003

Misconceptions About Moon Phases

There's an interesting article in the November 2003 issue of The Science Teacher (vol 70, no 8) about students' misconceptions regarding phases of the Moon. Studies have shown that only about 25-35% of students correctly answer questions about Moon phases at the middle school and high school level (Sadler, 1987; Baxter, 1989). These misconceptions seem to persist through college:

thumbnail of moon phases GizmosTargus (1987) conducted...research with college students and found that 65% had no knowledge and 23% had fragmentary knowledge of the phases of the Moon.

The authors of the Science Teacher article describe a lesson plan for addressing these misconceptions, which I think would work very well with the Gizmo Moon Phases. I was also excited to see the authors use a pre-test/post-test 'action research' approach to see how successful their lesson plan was — if anyone uses Moon phases (or any other Gizmo for that matter) and collects data on its effectiveness, we'd love to hear about it!

Posted by Paul Cholmsky at 02:24 PM in Science (Real World), Using Gizmos | Permalink | Comments (0)

Accessible Gizmos

Accessibility is an important issue in education. As the web has rapidly expanded in recent years, it becomes more and more integrated with classroom education. Having content accessible to all students and teachers is a high priority for us here at ExploreLearning.

Accessibility icon used by ExploreLearning When browsing through our Gizmo listings, have you ever noticed the icon with the Accessibility Options text next to it? The image indicates that the Gizmo has full keyboard accessibility, along with a number of other considerations that add to the overall accessibility of the Gizmo.

If you would like more information about the accessibility of our Gizmos you can download either of the two PDF's below. The Gizmo Accessibility PDF discusses the accessibility of the Gizmos in detail, and the Keyboard Accessibility PDF provides information specific to controlling the Gizmo from the keyboard.

I hope you find these useful. If you have further suggestions please send us your feedback.

Update: We've modified our accessibility info for Gizmos. Please refer to our Accessibility Info Page for details.

Posted by Raman at 08:50 AM in Site Announcements, Using Gizmos | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 11, 2003

Arlington Public Schools visit

On Tuesday, David Lapides and I met with teachers and Instructional Technology Coordinators who will be using Gizmos in the Arlington Public School system. A great session, lots of energy and excitement. After spending so much of our time in the last few months developing the 'new' ExploreLearning.com, it's been a real thrill for us to get back to doing these workshops more regularly again. There's nothing like face-to-face discussion for brainstorming, exchanging ideas, and learning from each other!

One of the recurring 'hot' discussion points from these events is the use of Gizmos in cross-disciplinary teaching. For example, using science Gizmos as examples of applied mathematics -- in the case of a Gizmo like Mouse Breeding, how to calculate the probability of a mouse having a certain genotype based on its parents' genotypes. Or, using Gizmos from the 'math' side of ExploreLearning.com like Distance-Time Graphs to review essential mathematical concepts and skills before moving on to more advanced topics in physics.

If you have ideas or lesson plans for cross-disciplinary teaching that you'd like to share with other ExploreLearning.com users, please send them on in!

Many thanks to Laurell Wiersma for organizing the Arlington session!

Posted by Paul Cholmsky at 03:00 PM in Road Trips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Henrico County and Science

Dave, ExploreLearning's founder, and I went down to Henrico County yesterday afternoon and met with more than forty middle school science teachers who will be using Gizmos in their classrooms. The teachers (as is so often the case) were full of energy and had lots of ideas for new Gizmos.

With all those new ideas I have a feeling I will be kept rather busy!

Posted by Raman at 08:24 AM in Road Trips | Permalink | Comments (1)

December 09, 2003

Earthquake Hits ExploreLearning!

thumbnail image of earthquake GizmoHere in Charlottesville we were just a hop, skip, and a jump away from a 4.5 magnitude earthquake this afternoon. I'd never felt an earthquake before, but I did make a few Gizmos to understand how scientists determine the location of the earthquake. Useful links are below (be sure to notice the travel times for the P waves on the USGS web site!).

Posted by Raman at 06:57 PM in Science (Real World) | Permalink | Comments (0)

User Support: Mad Props!

Recently, customer Celeste Capone, a network technician supporting a junior high school in Baldwinsville, NY, gave us some "mad props" (as the kids like to say) regarding her user support experience with ExploreLearning:

This did solve the problem! I have to admit, when I saw your message, I thought it was one of those cop-out responses that we often get from vendors, but it was an easy enough fix (especially since it didn't even require a re-boot), so I figured I'd humor you. I was wrong, and it worked like a charm! The teacher is thrilled, too. I told him he definitely got his money's worth for his subscription. I was also impressed at the speed of your reply, something else we don't see very often.

Thanks again for your assistance.

Thank you, Celeste, for choosing EL and giving us the chance to resolve the issue.

If you're wondering, here's the problem as stated:

One of our science teachers has set up an account to use your labs in his classes. We are having a problem with an error that appears when the students are logged onto the network and try to launch gizmos.

They receive an error that the Shockwave update is required. The systems are locked down, so students are not able to download or to install applications. However, if I log into the systems as an administrator, and run the update patch, I am able to launch the gizmos. But, when I log the students back in, they still receive the same error message. In addition, even before running the upgrade, the version number on the Shockwave executable file is 8.5.1.102. I have also granted the student users full access to the \winnt\system32\macromed folder, as suggested by Macromedia.

And this was the solution: Download the latest version of the Shockwave uninstaller, run it while you are logged in as an administrator, then re-install Shockwave and set the permissions as specified.

Posted by ExploreLearning at 02:30 PM in Help (User Support), Testimonials | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 04, 2003

Can't Find a Gizmo?

We have received numerous requests to publish a single list of all of our Gizmos. While many find our catalog to be a very useful tool, others - such as Pat West - simply wish to browse a list of titles.

Does there exist a list of all gizmos for math other than the categorized one? I do not find the categorized by grade level or course lists helpful when I want to find a specific gizmo for a topic I am teaching. Specific titles are more much more helpful. Thanks.

We hear you Pat!

As a result, we have prepared a series of PDF documents that list our Gizmos in a variety of ways, and include direct links to the Gizmo Details pages.

Have a look at our selection.

Are these helpful? Can we improve them? Please send us your feedback!

Posted by rob at 10:45 AM in Site Announcements, Using Gizmos | Permalink | Comments (1)

December 03, 2003

78 New Assessment Questions

We are pleased to announce that 78 new sets of Gizmo Assessment Questions are live. We now have Assessment Questions for 95% of our math library - with more on the way in the coming weeks.

Here is the list of the Gizmos that now have Assessment Questions:

  3D and Orthographic Views - Activity A
  Adding and Subtracting Integers
  Addition of Polynomials - Activity A
  Area of Parallelograms - Activity A
  Circle: Perimeter, Circumference and Area
  Classifying Quadrilaterals - Activity A
  Comparing and Ordering Decimals
  Comparing and Ordering Fractions
  Comparing and Ordering Integers
  Comparing and Ordering Rational Numbers

  Compound Independent and Dependent Events
  Compound Independent Events
  Constructing Box-and-Whisker Plots
  Distance-Time and Speed-Time Graphs
  Distance-Time Graphs
  Dividing Fractions
  Dividing Mixed Numbers
  Elapsed Time
  Estimating Population Size
  Estimating Sums and Differences
  Exploring Data Using Histograms
  Exploring Linear Functions
  Exploring Number Systems
  Exploring Prisms and Cylinders
  Exploring Quadratic Functions
  Exploring Slope - Activity A
  Exploring the Mean, Median and Mode
  Exponents and Power Rules
  Finding Factors with Area Models
  Finding Patterns
  Fractions with Unlike Denominators
  Geoboard: The Pythagorean Theorem
  Histograms
  Improper Fractions and Mixed Numbers
  Investigating Angle Theorems - Activity A
  Investigating Parallel Lines and Planes
  Line Plots
  Modeling and Solving Two-Step Equations
  Modeling Linear Systems - Activity A
  Modeling One-Step Equations - Activity A
  Multiplying Mixed Numbers
  Multiplying with Decimals
  Order of Operations
  Ordering and Approximating Square Roots
  Ordering Percents, Fractions and Decimals
  Ordering Percents, Fractions and Decimals Greater Than 1
  Part:Part and Part:Whole Ratios
  Percent of Change
  Percents and Proportions
  Percents, Fractions and Decimals
  Perimeter, Circumference, and Area - Activity A
  Permutations
  Permutations and Combinations
  Permutations and Factorials
  Points in the Coordinate Plane - Activity B
  Polygon Angle Sum - Activity A
  Probability Simulations
  Proportions and Common Multipliers
  Pyramids and Cones - Activity A
  Rectangle: Perimeter, Circumference and Area
  Rotations, Reflections and Translations
  Scatter Plots - Activity A
  Scatter Plots - Activity B
  Similar Figures - Activity A
  Similar Figures - Activity B
  Simple and Compound Interest
  Sine and Cosine Ratios - Activity A
  Solving Formulas for any Variable
  Solving Inequalities Using Multiplication and Division
  Solving Two-Step Equations
  Stem-and-Leaf Plots
  Sums and Differences with Decimals
  The Pythagorean Theorem - Activity A
  The Slope-Intercept Form of a Line - Activity A
  Theoretical and Experimental Probability
  Triangle Angle Sum - Activity A
  Using Algebraic Expressions
  Using Tables, Rules and Graphs

Posted by rob at 03:12 PM in Site Announcements | Permalink | Comments (2)

"Math Is Hard"

A recent Washington Post article discusses why learning math can be so difficult for students. More and more research suggests how important gender differences can be:

JoAnn Deak, a psychologist and author of "Girls Will Be Girls: Raising Confident and Courageous Daughters," said most schools approach math in the early grades "as if there is one kind of brain" -- though neuroimaging suggests that most girls develop language skills faster and most boys develop spatial and visual abilities faster. This helps explain why boys traditionally have been seen as "better at math," and why some girls have steered away from it.

Different teaching approaches early in a child's life can make up for these gender differences, Deak said, but most teachers don't try.

Have any of you who are math teachers had any success with trying different approaches to teaching math based on gender?

It'd be interesting, too, to do a study with Gizmos to see if they benefit one gender more than another in learning new math skills.

Posted by ExploreLearning at 09:35 AM in Edu/Tech, Math (Real World) | Permalink | Comments (2)

December 02, 2003

Computer Illogic?

The San Francisco Chronicle has a thought provoking piece suggesting that technology is "dumbing down" the classroom particularly in the primary grades. And there's an interesting and heated discussion of the article over at Slashdot.

This graf from the Chronicle article is apropos:

… Ironically, one of New Tech's biggest weak spots is in math skills, perhaps the primary prerequisite for advanced high- tech jobs.

At ExploreLearning, of course, we are trying our best to help eliminate those "weak spots" in the technology based math curriculum teachers have available.

Posted by ExploreLearning at 11:33 AM in Edu/Tech | Permalink | Comments (1)