December 29, 2003
Seed Germination Bug
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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!
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.
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.
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!
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!
December 09, 2003
Earthquake Hits ExploreLearning!
Here 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!).
- Earthquake Gizmo: Recording Station
- Earthquake Gizmo: Location of Epicenter
- USGS Report of Virginia Earthquake
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 184.108.40.206. 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.
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.
- All Gizmo Modules (PDF)
- Gizmo Modules Catalog (PDF)
- All Math Gizmo Modules (PDF)
- All Science Gizmo Modules (PDF)
- ExploreMath Gizmo Modules (PDF)
- ExploreScience Gizmo Modules (PDF)
Are these helpful? Can we improve them? Please send us your feedback!
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
Dividing Mixed Numbers
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
Fractions with Unlike Denominators
Geoboard: The Pythagorean Theorem
Improper Fractions and Mixed Numbers
Investigating Angle Theorems - Activity A
Investigating Parallel Lines and Planes
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 and Combinations
Permutations and Factorials
Points in the Coordinate Plane - Activity B
Polygon Angle Sum - Activity A
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
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
"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.
December 02, 2003
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.