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October 28, 2005

How do I get the most out of Gizmos?

ExploreLearning Gizmos are great learning tools, but how you get the most out of them? How do you make time spent with a Gizmo effective learning time for your students? These are questions we've heard a lot from teachers, and they are crucial questions.  No tool automatically causes students to learn.What approaches seem to work for a lesson using Gizmos?

We've put together three documents that we hope will help answer those questions.

Posted by Dan at 03:05 PM in Help (User Support), Quick Tips, Training and Professional Development, Using Gizmos | Permalink | Comments (1)

Case Study: An Interview with Janet Kingsolver, Science Teacher, Oklahoma City

Janet Kingsolver teaches middle school science in the Oklahoma Public School District, and although she's only been using ExploreLearning Gizmos for a couple of months, she's finding the Gizmos helpful in helping students visualize science concepts. Janet's students like the Gizmos so much she writes, "My biggest problem is keeping [my students] from exploring the other gizmos I've put into their class [page]."

Let's learn more about how Janet uses the Gizmos in her teaching by asking her a few questions.

How did you first hear about ExploreLearning?

My sister won the program at a conference and gave it to me.

What were your first impressions of the site and Gizmo when you signed up? What keeps you using ExploreLearning?

It was fairly easy to get into, and the Gizmos were interesting. I keep using it because my students get excited about them each time they use them. I see my students studying relationship between things in concepts and getting excited about finding them. I also like the integration of the data tables and graphs into the changes of information in the concepts.

How are you using ExploreLearning? What features do you like the most? Have you used ExploreLearning and/or Gizmos in ways you hadn't anticipated?

When I begin a study of a concept I introduce it in class with as much foundation as I can using models, visuals and words. Then we go to the lab to work on a Gizmo. I ask the students to follow the Exploration Guides to certain points. Then I ask them to use the Gizmo to change things and look for patterns in changes. We then go back to the EG for more details.

I like the graphics and the ability to move objects to change things. I like the correlations shown between changes, numbers, and on the graphs.

I didn't think I would have the kids explore relationships as much as I do.

What Gizmo did you have the most success (and/or fun and/or satisfaction) teaching with?

thumbnail image of the Ideal Gas Law  Gizmo Density, Ideal Gas Laws, and Element Builder. Each one had their own "specialness," .

What was it about these Gizmos that made the lesson successful?

Density was good to actually show how size/mass/density are related. The students who had not been able to see this before were amazed at how they saw it working. The ranking of the objects was the most fun for them.

The Ideal Gas Laws really showed the differences between Boyle's and Charles' Laws. The kids liked changing the pressures and watching the graphs change. They were very impressed by the straight and curved lines of the graphs and said they finally understood direct and inverse relationships from watching the graphs being built.

The Element Builder has been fun as I watch the kids try to find how changing protons, neutrons and electrons changes the periodic table. We had discussed before going to the Gizmo how the electron dot diagrams had been built, trying to see a pattern. They are now beginning to see how that pattern fits with the groups on the periodic table. Also the radioactivity and charges of the ions is becoming clearer as they experiment with adding electrons.

How did you find and choose these Gizmos for use in your class?

As I studied the text book I was to use this year, I paired it with all the Gizmos available at the time. As I tried different ones, I could see how they might be integrated into the lesson plans I was making. I saw that density, gas laws and periodic tables might be a challenge to my students and chose those to help with it. And they have

How did you use the Gizmos 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?)

We go to a lab to work on the Gizmos. Most of the students are working individually, though some end up working together, and almost all are discussing with someone else about their findings as they work. I monitor their work, asking questions, putting some ideas from one student out to others, pushing them on to other possibilities, and keeping them working in an orderly manner through the Exploration Guide.

After the Gizmo is finished we go back to class and review the findings, ask more questions and discuss possible answers based on what we have found in the Gizmos.

Did you make use of the Exploration Guide that accompanied the Gizmo? If so, how? If not, why?

I didn't use it for the first lab (Density). I had them put it on the screen with the graphics and follow it precisely, answering each question on another sheet of paper for the 2nd lab (Ideal Gas Laws). I printed the Guide on paper for them for the Element Builder lab. They were to write answers on the paper, and relationships they found on empty space around the guide.

[Note: For additional tips on using the EG in class, see Teaching with Gizmos - Part 2, Using the Exploration Guide and Assessment Questions.]

Did you make use of the Assessment Questions that accompanied the Gizmo? If not, why?

They have answered only the questions from the Ideal Gas Laws Gizmo because we didn't have time for the Density lab, and haven't finished the Element builder yet. The ones they did do were challenging yet they were able to do them. The students were quite proud of themselves for being able to answer them, and explain to me why the answers were what they were.

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 haven't taught these things in 15 years. When I was I was only able to simulate density with water and clay balls - it took forever and didn't work a lot. The Ideal Gas Laws were simulated with role plays of people under pressure. That worked only for kids who were thinking pretty abstractly. The periodic table was taught by just looking at the parts and moving on. Nothing about relationships between the atoms/parts of atoms and the table.

How did the students respond to the Gizmo?

They love them. They are challenged by them. The enjoy the manipulation and relationships they can see easily.

How effective was the Gizmo for struggling students? For gifted-and-talented students? For "typical" students?

I have mostly gifted students with a few typical students. The gifted ones are challenged and love it. The typical students find the basic concepts are made clear thru the Gizmos.

Describe the technology setup in which you used Gizmos. (E.g., Networked classroom? How many computers? Laptops? Cart? Projector? Interactive whiteboard?)

We have a computer lab with enough computers for each student to have their own. I may have access to a white board with them soon.

Tell us a bit about the school where you teach:

Classen School of Advanced Studies is a specialty school for 6th grade thru 12 th grades. We have students working in the IB (International Baccalaureate) program and in the VPA (Visual and Performing Arts) program. All students must apply to attend with test scores, portfolios, auditions, etc. They choose a 'major' when they enter and generally follow thru with that major to graduation.

Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions , Janet. It's especially gratifying for us to hear how much the Gizmos are making your job as a teacher easier.

Posted by ExploreLearning at 02:14 PM in Case Studies | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 25, 2005

Scotty's Transparent Aluminum

For those Star Trek fans out there you'll remember that Scotty traded the secret of transparent aluminum in an effort to save whales on Earth. It looks as though that material is now being made here on our planet.


A transparent material tough enough to withstand armour piercing rounds is being tested by the US Air Force.

Aluminium oxynitride, known commercially as ALON, could replace the existing bullet-proof glass on military vehicles, which is heavier and less tough.

"The substance itself is light years ahead of glass," says Lieutenant Joseph La Monica, head of the transparent armour research project at the Air Force research laboratory in Ohio.

ALON is a ceramic compound made from aluminium, oxygen and nitrogen, and has similar optical and structural properties to sapphire ...

So much science fiction becomes fact. I'm still waiting for a transporter :)

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

October 24, 2005

Textbook Correlations Abound!

Over the past month, several of us here at ExploreLearning have been involved in a project to get many, many textbooks correlated with Gizmos. As a teacher, you can easily choose a textbook from our listing, and have a direct link to Gizmos that we feel best complement each section, unit, or chapter.

Currently there are over 90 textbooks from Brooks/Cole, Glencoe/McGraw-Hill, Holt, Houghton Mifflin, McDougall Littell, and Prentice Hall that have been correlated to our Gizmos.

To look for your textbook just browse through our correlations by textbooks (we also have correlations by state and grade/topic). More information about browsing through the Gizmo collection can be found at the bottom of that page.

Going through 90 textbooks was not an easy task and I'd like to thank everyone that was involved in this project. We will continue to add new textbooks in the future, and update our correlations as new Gizmos become available. If you use a textbook that is not listed among the correlations, please drop us a line at support@explorelearning.com and we will add the book to our task list.

Posted by Raman at 09:42 AM in Site Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 19, 2005

Bone-eating snot-flower

From an article on BBC News, "A new species of marine worm that lives off whale bones on the sea floor has been described by scientists. The creature was found on a minke carcass in relatively shallow water close to Tjarno Marine Laboratory on the Swedish coast."

The new species has been named Osedax mucofloris, which literally translates to bone-eating snot-flower.

Names like that are fun. Gizmos never seem to end up with cool names like that.

BBC News Story

Posted by Raman at 01:19 PM in Science (Real World) | Permalink

October 14, 2005

Study Finds Mismatch Between Student Ambition and Skills

From a study released Friday by the U.S. Education Department:

More than two-thirds of students who were high school seniors in 2004 expected to complete a bachelor’s degree, and 35 percent planned to get a graduate or professional degree. But nearly two-thirds of the students who expected to get a four-year degree had not mastered intermediate level mathematics concepts as 12th graders, and nearly a third could not consistently solve simple problems based on low-level mathematical concepts (Inside Higher Ed News).

Posted by ExploreLearning at 08:51 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

October 13, 2005

Panel Sounds Alarm On Science Education

From the Washington Post:

A rising competitive threat from abroad could undermine the nation's standard of living and its position in the world -- and the United States must take dramatic steps to ensure its economic future, a panel of prominent scientists and business leaders declared yesterday. … The panel also called for a renewed emphasis on science and mathematics in the nation's public schools.

Posted by ExploreLearning at 02:56 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 10, 2005

Site Maintenance Scheduled

In order to perform routine maintenance on our servers, the ExploreLearning site will be unavailable for approximately 1 minute on our about midnight tonight, i.e., 12:00 am EDT on Tuesday, October 11, 2005.

We apologize for any inconvenience this causes you.

Posted by ExploreLearning at 03:25 PM in Site Announcements | Permalink