December 21, 2004
Holiday Reading on Bonds
If you have ever wanted to know everything there is to know about the Nobel Prize winning Linus Pauling, you should visit the Linus Pauling: The Nature of the Chemical Bond web site. The site is extensive, and contains over 800 scanned documents, photographs, audio clips, and video excerpts covering the life and research of Linus Pauling.
I have a feeling this site will keep me busy during the holiday break!
Holiday Office and Support Schedule
ExploreLearning's offices will be closed on Friday, December 24 and Friday, December 31. Customer support hours (telephone 434-293-7043 and email firstname.lastname@example.org) will be curtailed from Monday, December 27 through Thursday, December 30. We promise to get back to you as soon as possible when our offices re-open on Monday, January 3, 2005.
During this period, you can still activate a 30-day Free Trial directly from our website and instantly have access to our full library of ExploreLearning Gizmos.
Thank you for your support and we wish all of you Happy Holidays.
December 20, 2004
Introducing "InstaTrial," A Quicker, Easier Way to Activate a Free Trial
We are pleased to announce an important piece of new and improved functionality on the ExploreLearning website: Instant Free Trial Activation.
If you've previously had a Free Trial with ExploreLearning, then you know that the process for activating the trails was, er …, a bit cumbersome to say the least. But not anymore. In keeping with our philosophy to always strive for a better ExploreLearning website, we totally revamped the system.
Now you can enjoy the benefits of an ExploreLearning Free Trial simply by picking a username and password and telling us who you are and where you teach (if you're a teacher rather than a home user). The entire process can be completed in just a couple of minutes.
Moreover, now the Free Trials, both the home version and teacher version, come preloaded with a sampling of ExploreLearning Gizmos in various subjects. A Free Trial user can, of course, choose to modify the Gizmo Lists in any of the Free Trial classes, adding, deleting, rearranging Gizmos just like any other ExploreLearning subscriber.
If you're not already an ExploreLearning subscriber nor a previous Free Trial user, why not take a moment and activate a Free Trial for yourself?
December 16, 2004
Site Maintenance — Fri. 12/17 6 p.m.
We are implementing a system upgrade that will require a temporary shut down of the ExploreLearning site. Currently, this work is scheduled to being on Friday, December 17, 2005 at 6:00 p.m. EST. We expect that the site will be temporarily unavailable for a period lasting between 1 and 3 hours.
We apologize for any inconvenience this causes you.
Update: The upgrade work is complete.
Case Study: Anne M. Gill, Math Teacher, Alabama
Anne M. Gill teaches math at St. Paul's Episcopal School and has had great success at integrating ExploreLearning's Gizmos into her classroom teaching to the point where she says, "I now do not start a lesson without checking Explorelearning to see what gizmos they have on the topic!"
Let's learn more about how Anne uses the Gizmos in her teaching by asking her a few questions.
What Gizmo did you have the most success (and/or fun and/or satisfaction) teaching with?
What was it about this Gizmo that made the lesson successful?
When you graph a feasible region by hand, it is not possible to plug in every value to the objective function. The kids do not have the ability to prove the theorem that states the maximum/minimum will occur at the vertices of the feasible region. This [Linear Programming – Activity A] Gizmo allows the students to move the points around to see that the maximum/minimum will occur at the vertices.
Without the Gizmo, students must take this on faith which I do not believe is an effective teaching practice.
How did you use the Gizmo in class? (For example, Did students work individually on computers? In pairs? Did you use the Gizmo as a demo for the whole class? Did you assign the Gizmo as homework?)
The students worked individually on their own computers. I also used my computer and a projector to show the class. Before showing the gizmo, I worked a linear programming problem on the board. When it came time to find the maximum/minimum, I introduced the class to the gizmo. I had the students work through a variation of the exploration guide provided for homework.
If you’ve used other technology and/or teaching methods to cover this same math or science concept, did you find the that the Gizmo helped you cover the topic more quickly/easily, less quickly/easily, or about the same? Explain.
I have not used other technology to cover this material. I have taught Linear Programming without the Gizmo, and I have found that students can repeat the process to solve a problem — But [without the Gizmo] they do not understand why it works. The Gizmo helped with understanding.
How did the students respond to the Gizmo?
My students always respond well to the gizmos. I get a lot of "a-ha" moments when using this and other gizmos.
Describe the technology setup in which you used Gizmos. (E.g., Networked classroom? How many computers? Laptops? Cart? Projector? Interactive whiteboard?)
My classroom is on a wireless network. Each student has their own laptop, and I also run the Gizmo on my computer that is connected to a projector.
Thanks for your time and insight, Anne. It's great to hear how you're using the Linear Programming to help students really understand the concept rather than the students just rotely following the method to arrive at the correct answer.
No problem. I now do not start a lesson without checking Explorelearning to see what Gizmos you have on the topic!
December 15, 2004
Secure Login and Mac Sys. Req. Change
We recently made the following changes to the ExploreLearning Site:
- The position of the login button/link for the secure and standard login has been transposed. Previously the default was a secure login. Now the default is to login via our standard server.
- If you require a secure login, please use the link labeled "[use secure login]"
- This change was made to enhance system performance.
Mac OS System Requirements
- The minimum system requirement required of users on the Macintosh Operating System (OS) has changed from 8.6 to 9.2.
- This change was necessitated by a change in the Macromedia Shockwave Plugin such that it no longer supported Mac OS8.6. (Shockwave is required to use ExploreLearning's Gizmos.)
Education Technology Leadership Conference
ExploreLearning was very excited to unveil our display booth at the VDOE Technology Conference in Roanoke, VA last week. Take a look at the snapshot of our booth! It was a great conference, we talked to many EL users who love the site and are excited about how Gizmos are making a difference in their classrooms. We gave away a lot of free trials and are busily setting up those accounts for teachers all over the great state of Virginia.
If you missed the conference and want a trial account, drop us a note and we'd be happy to set you up in the new year. Have a merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, and we look forward to lending you a hand in your mathematics and science classrooms in the new year.
December 09, 2004
Searching Functionality Improvements Underway
We are currently working behind the scenes on adding search functionality to the site that will allow you to search for Gizmos by keyword, title, and pedagogical concept covered. Additionally, this same search functionality will allow you to search the ExploreLearning site as well, including the help files and the weblog.
We expect to have this new and improved search capability available sometime soon after the New Year and in time for your Spring school term/semester.
Unfortunately, due to some other site changes we've made or are making, the search function we've had in place for the previous year is no longer working as satisfactorily as we'd like. Feeling that a search that returns poor and/or confusing search results is actually worse than having no search at all, we've opted to remove the search function entirely at this time.
We apologize for any inconvenience this causes you.
December 07, 2004
Discarded Cell Phone Case = Seed Germination
Materials company Pvaxx Research & Development, at the request of U.S.-based mobile phone maker Motorola (MOT.N), has come up with a polymer that looks like any other plastic, but which degrades into soil when discarded.
Researchers at the University of Warwick in Britain then helped to develop a phone cover that contains a sunflower seed, which will feed on the nitrates that are formed when the polyvinylalcohol polymer cover turns to waste.
Is that cool or what?
December 06, 2004
Student Teacher and Gizmo Success
One of the things we've been trying to do at ExploreLearning is get our Gizmos in the hands of student teachers so that they can begin incorporating Gizmos into their math and science teaching from the moment they start their professional careers.
One such student teacher, Diana Chau, in the bachelors/masters program for future classroom teachers at the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia, studying secondary mathematics education recently wrote of her experience with ExploreLearning:
My teaching with technology went well this semester. At the beginning when I was teaching matrices, I predominantly used the overhead graphic calculator projector to show students how to use their calculators to solve matrices. I used TI-connect to take screenshots of matrices to use in class worksheets and in guided notes. Because the students are extremely calculator dependent, it helped them to know what to expect when they entered information correctly into a calculator.
Once we started the quadratic functions chapter, our main source of technology was using ExploreLearning.com [view the Quadratic functions and inequalities Gizmos]. I used the graph screenshots from the factored, vertex, and polynomial form quadratic function Gizmos to create a sort and match graphs and their equations activity. [Note: We'll be making this worksheet available for download shortly -- ed.] Students rotated from a graphing packet station, sort and match station, and to an ExploreLearning.com station where they used the above mentioned Gizmos.
I created a worksheet that provided step-by-step directions. After using each gizmo and finishing its assessment, students using the ExploreLearning.com explanations would explain why they got a questions right or wrong and briefly state whether or not the gizmo was helpful. This was a great chance for them to explore information in pairs. … [The students] seemed to gain a deeper understanding of the topic. Many of them were able to infer patterns and rules from playing with the Gizmos. Since most of the students had been exposed to algeblocks in Algebra I, we used the Gizmo version as a class for discussing factoring. The kids seemed to enjoy it, and it reviewed the use of manipulatives for the SOL [The Virginia Standards of Learning test].
Overall, the use of technology was a great experience for me, Erik Gauss [the cooperating teacher], and the students. While the use of the graphing calculator had already been incorporated into the classroom, it did not impact the students as much as using Explorelearning.com. Using the Gizmos allowed students to discover mathematical relationship and develop their own understanding. Since it was interactive, it truly held their attention.
What I found is that even though technology is exciting to incorporate into the classroom, it presents a number of problems, including its reliability for working and students ability to understand how to use the technology. I also learned that technology cannot just be thrown into a lesson; the connection to the curriculum must be extremely obvious to the students.…
Excellent work, Diana. Thanks for the report. We all were impressed with the clever use of the Gizmo screen capture feature in the cut up/matching activity. That's a great way to make use of a built in Gizmo feature to follow up and reinforce the hands on, interactive work the students can do with Gizmos.
Collaborative Acid Rain Project
I recently heard about a project for teachers that wish to integrate the web with the classroom to help investigate, and perform research, on a real-world concern - acid rain.
Spring Acid Rain Watch is a collaborative project that involves classes from many regions of the province and the world who communicate using a simple Internet technology. Together, the classes form a team of researchers who share their process, their data and their analysis. The age group aims for 10-14 year olds. Participating teachers can receive technical, scientific and pedagogical help on-line.
The project will run from January 31 to April 30 2005. Interested teachers can register and their class can become part of this team. More information of the project can be found on the project web site. (the site can also be viewed in French!)
Since you will need to know about acidity when performing measurements for acid rain, feel free to drop by the pH Analysis Gizmo where you get to test the pH of many common substances.