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November 28, 2005

Charlottesville's Music Scene

This past Sunday's Washington Post did a piece on a "Crash Course in Today's Music" which featured Charlottesville as one of 3 southern college towns that are "creative enclaves where music bubbles, swirls and mutates into more infectious strains."

I mention this, of course, because Charlottesville is the home base for ExploreLearning, and, more importantly, one of own here at EL, Sarah White, is herself a vibrant part of that Charlotesville music scene. Sarah and her band The Pearls are frequent performers at the music venues mentioned in the feature article. And you can download some of her songs here. (See, we're not just a bunch of math and science nerds. Well, at least not all of us.)

Posted by ExploreLearning at 02:11 PM in Fun/Humor | Permalink | Comments (1)

November 23, 2005

Cow Tipping: Torque in the Real World

Cow_tip_smallIn the next month about 30 new Gizmos will be showing up on the ExploreLearning web site. One of these deals with torque and moment of inertia. Many students often think that such things have no real application, but a friend of mine recently sent me a link that takes a rather entertaining view of the subject - cow tipping!

Link: Cow-tipping myth hasn't got a leg to stand on

Posted by Raman at 09:38 AM in Science (Real World) | Permalink

November 21, 2005

Case Study: An Interview with Rachel Love, Science Teacher, Virginia

thumbnail of teacher Rachel LoveRachel Love is a science teacher at Western Albemarle High School who, as a teacher in a very first year, shows that Gizmos are as helpful to the newbie teacher as they are for a teacher with years of experience.

Actually, in Rachel's case, the term new is somewhat of an understatement: Rachel was in her first few weeks of student teaching at Western Liberal HS when her coordinating instructor had an emergency and Rachel was needed to to assume the full role of teacher.

Additionally, Rachel is a recipient of a 2005 Knowles Foundation Science Teaching Fellowship.

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

How did you first hear about ExploreLearning?

Through my graduate program at UVA [The University of Virginia].

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

The Gizmos allow my students to be more actively engaged with what I’m teaching, something that is especially important with my lower level classes.

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

thumbnail image of the Element Builder GizmoThe Element Builder. It's fantastic!

What was it about this Gizmo that made the lesson successful?

The Element Builder gizmo allows the students to see for themselves what happens with the addition/subtraction of protons, neutrons, and electrons.

I wanted the students to DO something rather than listening to me talk for a 90 minute block. I presented the material on atoms and the differences between them, then distributed laptop computers to each of the students and asked them to build several atoms, beginning with hydrogen.[At first] the material was overwhelming [for the students], but when they actually started playing with the Gizmo, the lights started to come on and, by the end, I think they understood the essential information about ions, isotopes, and atoms.

We had also been discussing isotopes (carbon-12 versus carbon-14, etc); this gave us a chance to see what made something an isotope, what happens to the actual element when it decays and how to make it more stable. After this, they became very interested in radioactive decay and other things dealing with nuclear chemistry, so I plan use the Half-life Laboratory Gizmo to demonstrate this next time.

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?)

I demonstrated how to use the Gizmo, then had the students work individually to complete a worksheet that I had made. We finished by using the Gizmo in class and went over the questions, referring back to the Gizmo on the projector as needed.

[Download Rachel's worksheet in PDF or Word format]

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.

This is my first teaching experience (I'm a student teacher), so I've never taught this before. However, I have highly recommended this particular Gizmo to all of the other student teachers in chemistry from UVA. Several have used it and have also said how beneficial it was.

How did the students respond to the Gizmo?

They really liked it — in fact, the next time we had class, they specifically asked if we were going to do another one.

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

I'm able to check out a laptop cart with enough laptops for each student to have his own. The school has a wireless server, so the students are able to log on and use them individually; I demonstrate the Gizmos with a projector. We are supposed to be receiving interactive whiteboard within the next couple of weeks or so, and I anticipate using it to demonstrate in the future.

Thanks for taking time out of what must be a very hectic first year of teaching to answer our questions.

Posted by ExploreLearning at 11:34 AM in Case Studies | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 16, 2005

The "Hobo Teacher" Blog

While reading Education Week's blog,, Blogboard, I came across a link to a teacher blog going by the name of "The Hobo Teacher." As the folks at EdWeek say, "he's funny." Though I should add as well he's a bit irreverent, but I tend to like that kind of thing.

Here's an example from a recent Hobo Teacher post.

If you need a "how-to" book for teaching, then here you go:

  1. Grab sleep wherever you can.
  2. Grow rhino skin.
  3. Laugh more than you scream.
  4. Be ready to fail.
  5. Be ready to fail again.
  6. Be ready to fail an infinite number of times.
  7. Steal from other teachers (ideas only, but food when possible).

Head on over to the Hobo Teacher for more tongue-in-cheek wisdom.

Posted by ExploreLearning at 01:40 PM in Fun/Humor | Permalink | Comments (1)

November 07, 2005

New Version of Circuits Gizmo: Surging With New Features!

We're extremely happy to announce that a new version of the popular Circuits Gizmo will be released in November. In addition to eliminating a bug with the previous version's handling of certain 'short' circuits, we took the opportunity to add some exciting (some might even say 'electrifying') new features:

  1. circuits can have multiple batteries
  2. an ohmmeter to measure resistance -- also, you can now directly control the precision (# of decimal places displayed) of all the meters
  3. fuses

One key benefit of being able to use multiple batteries on the grid is that this enables you to have more than one functioning circuit onscreen at the same time. For example, you can build simple series and parallel circuits beside each other. This lets you and your students quickly compare measurements of voltage, current, and resistance between the two circuits, and also use the 'current visualization' feature to compare the current's direction and intensity in both circuits.

Of course, as the screenshot shows, we encourage you to use your creativity to build and explore more complex circuit designs!
Let us know what you think!

screen shot
[Screen shot of the new Circuits Gizmo at 50% scale]

Posted by Paul Cholmsky at 02:49 PM in Site Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0)

Herbie Goes High Tech

HerbgardenPhillips Design has developed a prototype of a kitchen Herbarium that can automatically change its growing conditions based on what herb you have placed inside it. Read more about the interesting design concept here (scroll about halfway down the page), which uses RFID tags placed inside seed/soil packets.

The Herbarium might be a useful real-world example to discuss in your science classroom if you are using our Seed Germination Gizmo.

Posted by Paul Cholmsky at 02:34 PM in Science (Real World) | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 04, 2005

Look for EL at Upcoming Conferences

Look for ExploreLearning reps in a booth ready to demo Gizmos at one of the following conferences. Also look for full presentations by teachers who've been using Gizmos in their classrooms. If you're attending one of these conferences, stop by and say hello.

Conference City Date Presenter Booth
NY STA Ellenville November 6-8    
Making Connections Charlottesville November 7    
GaETC Atlanta November 8-10 Nancy Clark (in the Apple booth)
NCTM Western Regional Denver November 10-12 Jeff Steckroth Thom O’Brien
Ken Turner
NCTM Midwestern Regional Chicago November 10-12 Julie Eglite
Connie Ring
Rick Roegiers
VAST Roanoke November 17-19    
NSTA Southern
Nashville December 1-3 PRISM Rick Roegiers
Eve Solomon
Tennessee Ed
Nashville November 30
December 2
Liz Crews
Apple Booth
North Carolina
Ed Tech
Greensboro November 28
December 1
Thom O’Brien
Apple Booth
VA Ed Tech Roanoke December 5-7 Thom O’Brien Eve Solomon
Thom O’Brien

Posted by ExploreLearning at 04:40 PM in Road Trips , Training and Professional Development | Permalink | Comments (0)

Change in Site Functionality

We've made two recent changes to the functionality of the site that we want to bring to your attention.

  1. Order of class tabs after edit/rename
    If a teacher edits his/her class tabs, the class tabs will no longer rearrange themselves from left to right based on alphanumeric order; instead, the tabs will stay in the same order, i.e., Tab 1 is first, Tab 2 is second, and so forth.
  2. Added Search Capability
    Previously, our search engine only searched Gizmo Library. Now the search engine will also search all of our help document and all postings in the Buzz blog.

    You'll now see your search results displayed in tabs such that Gizmos, Help Documents, and Blog Postings all get their own tab with the number of results (if any) displayed on each tab.

We hope you find both of these changes helpful.

Posted by ExploreLearning at 03:59 PM in Site Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 02, 2005

Testimonial: "My students absolutely LOVE Gizmos."

Jill Galloway, an 8th Grade Math Teacher in Coppell Texas, writes to tell us how she and her students feel about the Gizmos:

I have fallen in love with your site … my students absolutely LOVE Gizmos. While staying on task in the computer lab is often an issue, I did not have one problem keeping the students engaged in the activity. The Gizmos have been a useful tool in stimulating higher-level thinking, so it is wonderful that the students love it as much as I do.

Thanks for letting us know, Jill. That's so cool. You know it's one thing for a teacher to get excited about a new learning tool, but it's a whole other level when the students are just as excited. And it's trying to make that happen that is a big part of what ExploreLearning is all about.

Posted by ExploreLearning at 04:18 PM in Testimonials | Permalink | Comments (2)

November 01, 2005

Safari 3D bug is gone!

For those that use Mac OSX with Safari as your web browser, a long-standing bug has been fixed by Apple. This bug would cause 3D content to shift upward 20 pixels or so. This update is for OSX 10.4. More information can be found at the links below.

That is good news, since we have many 3D Gizmos that will be getting released in the next two months. Stay tuned!

About the Mac OS X 10.4.3 Update (Delta)
About the Mac OS X 10.4.3 Update (Combo)

Posted by Raman at 08:34 AM in Site Status/Known Issues | Permalink