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February 26, 2009

Case Study: An Interview with Jacob Hesselschwardt

thumbnail of Orthographic GizmoJacob Hesselschwardt teaches mathematics in Northwest, LA.

He uses Gizmos regularly, and they have been particularly inspirational in preparing his students for the regional MathCounts competition, in which they placed first in the parish!

We are very grateful that Jacob could spare some time to talk to us about Gizmos!

Let's learn more about how Jacob uses Gizmos in his teaching by asking him a few questions:

How did you first hear about ExploreLearning?

I came to hear of ExploreLearning through an investigation of web virtual manipulatives that I conducted in preparation for a grant proposal.

What were your first impressions of the site and Gizmos when you got access to ExploreLearning.com? What keeps you using Gizmos?

My first impressions of ExploreLearning were that the site is well organized and thus very easy to navigate. I thought that the Gizmos were very appealing and applicable to my students’ studies, and I appreciated the fact that the assessments were clearly written and self graded. I continue to use Gizmos because my students respond well to the virtual manipulative environment and student test scores have shown an increase since we began using Gizmos.

How do you use Gizmos in class? (For example, do students work individually on computers? In pairs? Do you use Gizmos as a demo for the whole class? Do you assign Gizmos as homework?)

Gizmos are used to reinforce and to enrich topics that are taught first in the regular classroom. I discuss the student exploration guides with my students in a whole class setting, students then answer the assessment questions to demonstrate their understanding, and finally, students may perform webquests as follow up.

If you've used other technology and/or teaching methods to cover some of the same math concepts, how do you find that Gizmos help you cover the topic more quickly/easily/more effectively?

Students are able to get a deeper, more personal knowledge of the content through explorations with the Gizmos than what they can through simply using textbooks and workbooks.

How do your students respond to Gizmos?

My students have responded very favorably to Gizmos and look forward to their weekly ExploreLearning time in the school computer lab!

Describe the technology setup in which you use Gizmos. (e.g., Networked classroom? How many computers? Laptops and/or Carts? Projector? Interactive whiteboard?)

My school has a computer lab of 35 computers, and a Promethean ActivBoard,which my students use on a weekly basis for ExploreLearning.

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

Both my students and I really enjoyed the Beam to Moon (Ratios and Proportions) Gizmo where we compared the weight of items on the earth to items on other planets and the moon.

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

What makes the Gizmos most appealing is the extensive usage of color, graphics, and interactivity available in each Gizmo. The exploration guides are also well written, as are the assessments. I personally appreciate that all assessments are graded by the program – thus the teacher becomes more of a facilitator and the student becomes more of an explorer.

Have you any evidence that you’d like to share on the impact of Gizmos on student learning in your classes?

My students have all witnessed personal growth in their content knowledge of mathematics through the regular use of ExploreLearning Gizmos. I also used ExploreLearning in preparing my students for the regional MathCounts competition, in which they placed first in the parish – the first such title in 20 something years!

Posted by ExploreLearning at 11:00 AM in Case Studies | Permalink

February 20, 2009

Keep up the excellent work you are doing for our children

Marjorie Anne Wallace, a science teacher in Newport News, VA, is having great success using Gizmos with her 7th grade life science students. We are delighted that Marjorie contacted us to share her thoughts:

I'm using ExploreLearning Gizmos here in Newport News, VA, with my 7th grade life science students. They love almost every minute of it.....when we get to our unit on genetics (Mouse Genetics, Chicken Genetics, Human Karyotyping) you make my life and teaching soooo enjoyable. I teach the Punnett Square using the four square strategy. When they get to your lay out…guess what…they have to think a little and decide what 1/5 of 100% is? Now they see there is always more than one way of solving a problem in science.

Today's [ExploreLearning] newsletter displayed Human skull measurements [Human Evolution - Skull Analysis]….What an excellent shoe-in for my fossil unit.....Oh, by the way, two years ago I received National Board Certification and used the Mouse Genetics Gizmo as a small group lesson in my portfolio entry. With upper level inquiry questioning I guided them through the activity on a SMART Board, and my students picked up the concepts.... Keep up the excellent work you are doing for our children.

Marjorie Anne Wallace, Huntington Middle School, Newport News Public Schools

Many thanks Marjorie for your kind words and we are thrilled that Gizmos are having such a great impact on your 7th grade life science students!

Posted by ExploreLearning at 03:01 PM in Testimonials | Permalink

February 19, 2009

ExploreLearning Gizmos: The Best Math Program That I Have Ever Seen!

Jacob Hesselschwardt, a math teacher in Northwest, LA, has some truly amazing and wonderful news to share in regards to how ExploreLearning Gizmos have begun to reshape the entire fabric of how his students view and understand mathematics.

Here is Jacob's story:

My school is one of the oldest in my parish. It is made up of a large cross section of families; however, our students are largely of a lower socio-economic influence. We experience student struggles that some of the other wealthier schools in our community do not, or at least do not to such an extent experience. Some of these struggles include student accountability, attendance, and motivation to learn. These troubles resulted in our school being labeled in the recent past as an "At Risk," "Minimal Growth School."

Through the hard work and persistent dedication of our faculty, though, we slowly started to turn things around. Still, because the performance bar is raised each year by the state department, we continue to be only a one star out of a possible five star school. This year though - through the aid of ExploreLearning - we have risen above our competition, literally. You see I am the MathCounts coach at my school. In fact I am the first MathCounts coach in my school since two decades ago when MathCounts was first organized nationally - after all, why would a school like mine have a need for a math team if we cannot even manage to perform up to the bar on state standardized tests. Well this is where the good news comes in. You see, while we were preparing for a math competition, my students used your program extensively in their preparations. We used several of your Gizmos to gain a more formal, in-depth knowledge of a multitude of concepts that we may not have understood had we simply remained in the classroom and used textbooks and pencils. Because of the very nature of your program, my students were able to receive differentiated instruction with a wide assortment of virtual manipulatives to help enrich their then current knowledge base. And that contest that I mentioned... we took first place!

I would like to praise your program longer, but I must go. You see, tomorrow we are competing again, but this time in the regional competition. And all I have to say is that all of the other teams had better watch out, especially if they don't have ExploreLearning on their side. Thanks for providing the best math program that I have ever seen!

Thank you Jacob for sharing your amazing story, and it is really uplifting to hear how Gizmos are making such a difference to your students learning and achievement!

Posted by ExploreLearning at 01:50 PM in Testimonials | Permalink

February 05, 2009

Math and Careers

Interesting blog post on EdWeek.org about how math is used in various jobs.

"Taking math seriously, and learning to enjoy it, will probably make your life easier in high school. It will almost certainly help you get into college and increase your odds of succeeding once you get there.

But what kinds of career options are out there for students with talent in math and a love for that subject..."

We certainly think that using Gizmos will help students enjoy math. Read the full posting here.

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

February 03, 2009

Expert's Corner: Darwin Day

Kurt Rosenkrantz is science curriculum writer and Gizmo designer for ExploreLearning. Kurt holds a Master of Science in Geology from the University of Cincinnati, and a bachelor's degree in Earth Science from Harvard. He taught high school and middle school science for eight years before joining ExploreLearning.

February 12, 2009 is Darwin Day, the 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth. This year also marks 150 years since the publication of Darwin's seminal treatise, On the Origin of Species, in 1859.

It is extraordinary that this rather shy, cautious, and often-sick man was responsible for the most important scientific revolution in history. Darwin studied to become a doctor and a clergyman, but never completed either of these programs; he preferred to study botany and zoology instead. Darwin's rather aimless life changed dramatically in 1831, when he was hired as ship's naturalist aboard the HMS Beagle.

During the five-year, around-the-world voyage of the Beagle, Darwin observed related species that showed adaptations to different environments. He found fossils of animals that appeared related to modern forms, and observed island animals that were physically similar to mainland forms, but which pursued completely different lifestyles. Darwin gradually became convinced that evolution was the only logical explanation for these patterns.

After returning to England, Darwin puzzled about the mechanisms that could cause organisms to change over time. Darwin found his answer in a book by the economist Thomas Malthus. Malthus predicted that as human populations grew, the competition for resources would become more intense. Darwin realized that as organisms competed for resources, individuals that were born with favorable variations would be more likely to survive, reproduce, and pass on their traits to their offspring. Thus was born the principle of natural selection.

Although he had the framework of his theory in place by 1840, Darwin did not publish his ideas until 1859. In the intervening years, he slowly accumulated evidence from a wide variety of sources, from barnacles to domesticated pigeons. Darwin may have put off publishing indefinitely, but in 1858 he received a nasty shock.

An itinerant beetle collector named Alfred Russell Wallace had written to Darwin, describing his own theory of natural selection.(Although less famous than Darwin, Wallace is generally credited as the co-discoverer of natural selection.) Darwin realized that, after 20 years of work, he was about to be scooped! To his credit, Darwin did not burn Wallace's letter or bury it in the back yard. Instead he arranged that some of his papers, along with Wallace's letter, would be presented to the Royal Society. A year later Darwin published On the Origin of Species, and the rest is history! Today the vast majority of scientists recognize evolution by natural selection as the primary explanation for the diversity of life on Earth.

At ExploreLearning, we have a strong suite of Gizmos focused on evolution. The Rainfall and Bird Beaks Gizmo illustrates how rainfall affects the finch populations that Darwin observed on the Galapagos Islands. Natural Selection allows you to play the role of a bird, hunting for moths camouflaged on the bark of a tree. Evolution: Mutation and Selection and Evolution: Natural and Artificial Selection show a population of beetles that adapt to the color of the leaves they are resting on. Microevolution explores gene frequencies in a population of parrots, and Human Evolution - Skull Analysis allows you to measure and compare the skulls of our own ancient ancestors.

So celebrate Darwin Day, and enjoy the Gizmos!

Posted by ExploreLearning at 02:59 PM in Current Affairs, Science (Real World), Using Gizmos | Permalink