July 29, 2008
Gizmos at Michigan Virtual Summer Camps
ExploreLearning is again teaming up with Michigan Virtual School to provide math and science content with Gizmos for their intensive two-week online summer programs. These camps are designed for middle school students who excel in math and science to provide challenging interactive activities that will fuel their passion for discovery and deepen their understanding of math and science concepts. All of this will help prepare the students for the challenges of Michigan's new high school graduation requirements.
ExploreLearning became part of Michigan's Math and Science Virtual Camps in the summer of 2007 and the results were compelling for students mastering critical content. Robin Dickson, Director of Innovation and Research at Michigan Virtual University, says that "building on the extraordinary success of the first-ever Michigan virtual middle school summer camps, Michigan Virtual School is once again this summer offering online learning opportunities in math and science featuring ExploreLearning Gizmos. Our campers identify their favorite gizmos in their 'Around the Campfire' discussion board and characterize their learning as 'play' and 'fun.' When was the last time you heard middle school students referring to math and science as fun? Gizmos break important content into easy-to-grasp chunks that pique campers' curiosity and invite their participation."
To read the full press release from Michigan Virtual University, click here.
July 22, 2008
Case Study: An interview with Kris Campesi, Science Teacher, Stafford County, VA.
Kris Campesi is a veteran middle school science teacher at Stafford Middle School in Virginia. She teaches 8th grade Physical Science, for advanced as well as special needs students. She has a passion for showing special needs students that they can succeed in Science. She is also interested in helping her advanced kids take science to the highest heights! Check out the photo below of Kris on a 'Weightless Flights of Discovery' trip!
Here is more about how Kris uses Gizmos in her classroom.
How did you first hear about ExploreLearning?
When I was at a regional NSTA conference I saw the booth and stopped by. It did not take the person in the booth more than a few minutes and I was sold on how great the product was.
What were your first impressions of the site and Gizmo when you first signed up? What keeps you using ExploreLearning?
I was very impressed with how you had made the experiment/activity visually appealing but not complicated. Many of the computer modules that I had tried spent so much effort trying to make the 'lab look real' that it was very complicated to use and visually distracting. You kept the activities to the basics and made them data driven. There was good data collection and best of all, a 'do-over' ability.
I keep coming back to ExploreLearning because I noticed an interesting phenomenon--- that my students understand a concept better from the Gizmo than doing a lab. I often find that if I do the concept with the Gizmo first, then the hands on lab, they stay on task better and get to the 'conclusion' better than if they just do the lab.
What Gizmo did you have the most success (and/or fun and/or satisfaction) teaching with?
I am not sure there were any Gizmos that I have not liked. At the end of the year, I did a survey about the activities in class and this is what some of the kids said. They really liked all of the simple machine Gizmos, such as Levers, Pulleys, Ants on a Slant. They loved to make the levers go crazy and spin round and round. They had a good time with the Food Chain Gizmo also--- they finally really got the idea that everything is connected. They loved to play with it to see if they could 'kill' everything. I loved the Density Laboratory where my students had to determine the mass and volume, and then the density. The kids liked to 'play' with the Golf Range Gizmo. Mouse Genetics also really intrigued many of the students. I liked the use of independent and dependent variable with the Growing Plants Gizmo too.
How did you use the Gizmo in class?
I always do a demonstration of the Gizmo with the projector for the class. Each student then has his or her own laptop to work on. I provide detailed instructions for most Gizmos and students always have data to record from experimentation. In some cases, I have them take a picture of a data table and paste it into a Word document. Often the students at the lab table help each other to be successful with the Gizmo.
The Assessment Questions online have usually been done as 'replacement grades' which means that students can use the score from these questions to replace a homework grade they don't like.
If you've used other technology and/or teaching methods to cover this same science concept, did you find that the Gizmo helped you cover the topic more quickly/easily, less quickly/easily or about the same?
As I mentioned earlier, I feel that Gizmos help make the concepts more clear than just the hands-on labs. I believe one of the reasons is that students today are familiar with working at a computer screen. They have acquired the ability to concentrate using the visual sense and this translates over to the Gizmos.
How did the students respond to the Gizmo?
The students loved 'Gizmo Day' which we had almost every Thursday. They would be at their lockers in the morning and when they realized it was Gizmo Day they would start chanting 'GIZMO DAY.' Many students even told their parents not to make doctor's appointments during my class and some came in sick and then went home after my class.
Describe the technology setup in which you used Gizmos.
I use a projector and Smart Board (when I can get it) to demo the Gizmos before the students work on them. I also have done screen shots of Gizmo simulations and used it with my CPS (classroom performance system), which the kids call my zappers.
At the beginning of this past school year I signed my class up for the cart of 30 laptops EVERY Thursday. Most of the teachers were not even thinking about computers at this point so I got a head start! I believe there were only 3 days all year that I gave the laptops back and did not do Gizmos. I made it a priority for the year!
July 17, 2008
Gizmos A Big Part of STEM Education
ExploreLearning was featured in the July 2008 issue of T.H.E. Journal as a part of one district's efforts to improve STEM education. In an article entitled "High Schools: An Equation That Works," author Mary Ann Wolf discusses ways to make STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and math) more interesting to students by combining technology with engaging instructional practices. Technology administrators in several districts were asked about what has worked for them in reaching students more effectively in this area. In Forsyth County, Georgia, ExploreLearning was cited as a key to success in STEM education. Here is an excerpt from the article:
Bailey Mitchell, chief technology officer of Forsyth County Schools (GA), has worked with other officials in his district to implement technology tools and resources supported by ongoing professional development to produce compelling STEM instruction. Teachers in Forsyth have embraced the rich collection of digital content provided by ExploreLearning, a catalog of modular, interactive simulations in math and science that the company calls Gizmos.
'The results have been promising, with students developing a deep and lasting understanding of key concepts in math and science through inquiry and exploration,' Mitchell says.
He explains that using technology compels students to draw on higher-level thinking skills and makes the basic ability to recall information secondary. 'As students create their learning communities using Web 2.0 tools, being able to recall factual information becomes less important than being able to evaluate and synthesize information. These students are achieving on state tests, but are also learning critical 21st-century skills.'
To read the full article in T.H.E. journal, click here: http://www.thejournal.com/articles/22920_1
The Journal is dedicated to improving and advancing the learning process through the use of technology. Launched in 1972, T.H.E. Journal was the first magazine to cover education technology. With a circulation of 90,000 qualified readers, T.H.E. is the largest circulated education technology monthly publication.
July 11, 2008
Gizmos Help Student Scores on VA State Tests
We received this great feedback on recent state test scores from a veteran middle school science teacher:
"I wanted to pass on to you my Virginia Science SOL (Standards of Learning) results. I credit my fantastic results to Gizmos and to my classroom performance system. I had 73.5% of my special needs kids pass the test!!!!! Not to be outdone I had 44 pass advance and 5 perfect scores out of 117 students testing! You would think I would stop being amazed at how well your programs work but I still get amazed every week when we use Gizmos. I have the computers signed out every week and we do at least one Gizmo a week and they students do not tire of it. They come in and chant, "Gizmo day, Gizmo day!"
Kris Campesi, Middle School Science Teacher
Stafford County, VA
July 08, 2008
Attend an "Introduction to ExploreLearning Gizmos" webinar this summer
If you are new to ExploreLearning, or are taking a free trial, learn more about the power of Gizmos by attending a one-hour webinar. We are offering informative, introductory webinars throughout the summer for current and future customers. To register for one of these free sessions, click on the link below for a session that is convenient:
Monday, July 14, 2008, 3:00-4:00 pm Eastern time:
Monday, July 28, 2008, 3:00-4:00 pm Eastern time:
Monday, August 11, 2008, 3:00-4:00 pm Eastern time:
Monday, August 25, 2008, 3:00-4:00 pm Eastern time:
For more information on our webinars, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
July 03, 2008
ExploreLearning Office Closed on July 4th
In observance of Independence Day, the ExploreLearning offices will be closing at 3pm on Thursday July 3, 2008.
Our offices will reopen on at 8:30am on Monday July 7, 2008.