« August 2005 | Main | October 2005 »

September 27, 2005

Mouse of the Future?

I never actually thought about it before, but in the real world your two hands work on tasks at all time. Making coffee, eating a sandwich, and walking a dog are all examples where both hands are working on specific individual tasks.

However, when using a mouse you primarily just sit there moving one hand around to manipulate objects on the screen. A company called Tactiva is currently trying to market a product where a sensor detects the activity of both hands and places "virtual hands" on the screen so you can control two things simultaneously.

The demo movie looks pretty cool. I love technology.

I never thought about this when designing a Gizmo. I only think about moving one slider at a time, or clicking on one checkbox. In ten or twenty years I wonder what our Gizmos will look like. I can't wait to see :)

Posted by Raman at 09:23 AM in Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (2)

September 22, 2005

Testimonial: "High Quality Trainers"

Here's some excellent praise that came in for our own, Thom O'Brien:

Shoreline [Public Schools in WA] subscribed to Explore Learning for three of our schools this year (2 middle - 1 high) after having done a limited pilot last year. Our teachers are enthusiastic about having this tool. I'm writing, however, to report that this enthusiasm escalated considerably due to Thom O'Brien's wonderful training session today. I've dabbled with EL for over a year and learned more in the first 20 minutes of Thom's presentation than in all that time on my own — and I reckon others felt the same way. Thom combined an easy-going style with solid practical implementation tips and some marvelous ideas on how to integrate Gizmos with other applications we use. I had to literally kick our teachers out of the room at 3:00 to free up the room — else I think they would have stayed well beyond the scheduled time …

I have already spoken to Thom about his possible return for another session with other teachers, and the teachers from today were in favor of the idea.

Thanks for the great product and for having such high quality trainers available to your clients.

Jim Golubich
Professional Development/Instructional Technology
Shoreline School District

Thanks, Jim, for your kind words. We're glad to hear that the implementation is off to a strong start.

Thom is quite a guy. By the way, if any of you happen to meet Thom when he visits your school as part of ExploreLearning's Professional Development and Teacher Training on Gizmos, be sure to ask him about a very interesting job he had in the past. (Hint: "Three rings. Big Show.")

Posted by ExploreLearning at 02:02 PM in Testimonials, Training and Professional Development | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 21, 2005

Fun with Optical Illusions

I'm a sucker for optical illusions. Check out the image below and force yourself to reconcile the fact that all the lines in the image are straight despite what you see.

Posted by ExploreLearning at 10:27 AM in Fun/Humor | Permalink | Comments (9)

Too Much, The Magic Brush

This device they are calling "The Magic Brush" sure does make me wish I was a kid again.

The I/O Brush is the brainchild of Kimiko Ryokai, a researcher at the MIT Media Lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The device allows children to pick up colours and textures from their environment and paint with them on a large digital screen.

"By putting the camera into a paint brush, you are no longer pointing and shooting and thinking about capturing the environment, but using the environment to create something very new."

Posted by ExploreLearning at 10:20 AM in Edu/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Physics Photos

The American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) holds a photo contest every year. The winners of the AAPT 2005 High School Photo Contest have been posted online.

My favorite is definitely the one by Rebekah Sokol which won First Place in the Contrived Category. Wow. Really nice photo. Congratulations to all that submitted photos.

I wonder if an ExploreLearning user could win next year?

Posted by Raman at 09:14 AM in Edu/Tech | Permalink

September 19, 2005

IBM to Encourage Employees to Become Math and Science Teachers

This is an innovative approach to the math and science teacher shortage:

International Business Machines Corp., worried the United States is losing its competitive edge, will financially back employees who want to leave the company to become math and science teachers.

Posted by ExploreLearning at 04:38 PM in Edu/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 13, 2005

Site Maintenance Scheduled

In order to perform routine maintenance on our servers, the ExploreLearning site will be unavailable for approximately 1 hour at some point between 12:00 am and 6:00 am on Tuesday, September 14, 2005. The most likely time for the outage is 3-4 a.m.

We apologize for any inconvenience this causes you.

Posted by ExploreLearning at 01:59 PM in Site Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 09, 2005

Gizmos a Hit in Oklahoma

Janet Kingsolver, a middle school science teacher at the Classen School of Advanced Studies in Oklahoma dropped us a note the other day to tell us how things are going with her classes and Gizmos:

I was able to finally get started with my class and the gizmos today.  They loved it.  My biggest problem is keeping them from exploring the other gizmos I've put into their class.  We did a density lab today and several of the students commented on how real it made the term "density" for them.  I challenged them to find relationships within the lab and to do the math necessary to find the relationships.  They were very excited about it.  I'll try the questions and other things next time we work [with a Gizmo].

What a great start to the 2005 school year. Thanks for sharing the news, Janet.

In my own observations of students interacting with Gizmos, it's so pleasing to see how the students "get into it" so to speak. I mean since the Gizmos are our product, we expect that students and teachers will like them (we build them that way after all), but seeing it in action is really a great experience.

Posted by ExploreLearning at 04:34 PM in Testimonials | Permalink | Comments (0)

Teacher Home Page Interface Change

We've made a change to the Teacher and Home user versions of "My Homepage" to make the "Import Gizmos" function more clear and easier to use.

The change is as follows:

  • In the "Class Tools" links the "Get Gizmos" link has been replaced by an "Import Gizmos" link.
  • FUNCTIONALITY CHANGE: Clicking the "Import Gizmos" link will spawn the "Import Gizmos from Another Class" popup and functionality, i.e., users will no longer be first directed to the "Get Gizmos" page.

For additional information on Importing Gizmos, please refer to the following help document: Adding Gizmos to a Class or Classes

Posted by ExploreLearning at 02:15 PM in Site Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 08, 2005

Life Science Gizmo Idea = ExploreLearning Hat


We are looking for new ideas for ExploreLearning Gizmos(TM) for use in life science (middle school) and biology (high school) classes. Some of our best ideas have come from you, our customers and ExploreLearning friends.

Some of the Gizmo topics we have recently published are Human Karyotyping and DNA Fingerprint Analysis. We have several new life science Gizmos currently under development including: Interdependence of Plants and Animals, Drug Resistance, Paramecium Osmosis, and Drug Dosage.

Some of the broad topics/areas where we think a great Gizmo idea may be lurking include: human biology (digestion, circulation, skeletal structure, etc.), classification of organisms, microbiology, environment, etc. Anything related to life within and around us.

To be eligible for a hat, your submission should include the following information:

1) A title for the Gizmo
2) A brief abstract/purpose for the Gizmo
3) A short description of exactly what the Gizmo will do (typically three or four sentences)
4) Your school and role at that institution
5) Your mailing address (to receive your hat!)

Here's an example of how a recent idea (that is being Gizmo-ized) was described:

Title: Interdependence of Plants and Animals

Purpose: Students will design and conduct an experiment that demonstrates the role of plants and animals in the carbon-oxygen cycle.

Description: The Gizmo will allow students to drag up to a maximum of four elodea and/or snails in to test tubes that can be placed in light or dark rooms. The tubes will contain water with Brom thymol blue. As time passes, the students will be able to observe color changes in the water (due to increased CO2) during a 24 hour period. Small bubbles may also appear near the elodea when placed in a light room (due to oxygen production). Students will then be able to learn through observation that snails consume oxygen, and plants create oxygen.

You are eligible to receive one hat for each idea that is Gizmo-ized.  Let's hear from you by emailing "ide[email protected]" with the subject line "Life Sci Gizmo idea!"

Thanks from your friends at ExploreLearning

Posted by Raman at 08:35 AM in Site Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 02, 2005

Labor Day -- Office Closed 09/05

ExploreLearning's offices will be closed on Monday, Sept. 5 in observance of the Labor Day Holiday.

We will respond to customer service and technical support calls on Tuesday, Sept. 6.

We sincerely appreciate your business and apologize for any inconvenience during this time. Have an enjoyable Labor Day Holiday.

Posted by ExploreLearning at 01:17 PM in Site Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0)

EL Team Member Pens Science Scope Article

Congratulations are in order for ExploreLearning's Science Curriculum Specialist, Kurt Rosenkrantz, whose article "Celestial Mechanics" featured in the September 2005 journal Science Scope published by the National Science Teachers Association.

Kurt's article describes how simple instruments can by used to find your position on Earth.

Great work, Kurt. (And if I'm ever lost, I know whom to call for help.)

Posted by ExploreLearning at 11:16 AM in Science (Real World) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Study: Teachers Coming to Terms with Computers

This is certainly a good sign. According to ZDNet News:

The majority of U.S. teachers are comfortable using computers for daily tasks like e-mail, attendance and posting information about classes on school intranets, according to CDW Government, which provides advice on technology to schools and government agencies.

Seventy percent of middle- and high-school teachers use e-mail to communicate with parents, while just over half use intranets to take classroom attendance. About 54 percent integrate computers into their daily curriculum, the survey found.

Posted by ExploreLearning at 11:05 AM in Edu/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 01, 2005

Not Doing Copernicus Proud

More sobering news regarding problems with basic scientific literacy in our culture, a white paper (PDF) on the Public Understanding of Science reveals the following:

Only half of US adults know that the Earth rotates around the Sun once each year (NSB, 2000). One in five US adults say that the Sun rotates around the Earth, and 14 percent of US adults think that the Earth rotates around the Sun once each day (see Figure 2). A comparative study with Britain in 1988 found that only one-third of British adults understood that the Earth rotates around the Sun once each year … The level of adult understanding of the solar system shows little change over the last decade.

It's ironic that at one time the work of Copernicus et al was suppressed by those in power because ideas like the earth revolving around the sun were so revolutionary and presented a threat to the established view. Now, centuries later, the concepts of celestial mechanics are readily available and are universally taught, yet 1 in 5 US adults still hold a 15th Century understanding of our solar system.

On a positive note, anyone taking even the briefest look at the Rotation/Revolution of Near-Earth Planets Gizmo will come away with a clear understanding that the Earth does indeed rotate around the Sun.

Posted by ExploreLearning at 09:25 AM in Science (Real World) | Permalink | Comments (0)