October 22, 2010
Next batch of new curriculum is up
We have just published the latest round of enhanced curriculum for our science Gizmos. This batch focuses on optics:
Each new set of curriculum materials includes a Student Exploration sheet, Answer Key, Teacher Guide, and Vocabulary sheet. Each is available as a pdf or Word document that you are free to customize for your own use. Enjoy!
October 08, 2010
Gizmo users see results!
Gizmos help get students excited about learning and thinking critically about math and science concepts, but do they really yield results? Teachers and administrators from all over are telling us: "yes!" Teacher Caryn Murray in Kansas can personally attest to the success of using Gizmos. Caryn shares with us:
"Our 7th grade students made a 98.6% on the Kansas State Science Assessment! Explorelearning.com is one of our favorite resources. It really helps teach concepts that are otherwise difficult to explain!!!"
Frontenac Unified School District 249, KS
This is great news Caryn! We hope that Gizmos will continue to impact your students and increase their scores.
Educators are all a-Twitter over Gizmos
We asked our followers on Twitter to tell us what they love about Gizmos, and the response has been remarkable! Here are just a few of the great things we've heard:
Amy Gilbert: "I love @ExploreLearning Gizmos because they are actual inquiry-based activities that require students to think!"
MaryJac Reed: "I love @ExploreLearning Gizmos because they capture my students' imagination and get them thinking outside the box! True inquiry science!"
Lynn Jeffs: "I love @ExploreLearning Gizmos because gizmos are fun, engaging for students and the teacher can assess understanding easily."
Jared Stavinoha: "I love @ExploreLearning Gizmos because it gives my students tools to interact with, so they develop and reason through problems."
Lorenzo Arredondo: "I love @ExploreLearning Gizmos because it lets me track student data as they answer questions from interactive lessons that are fun!"
Joseph Blizzard: "I love @ExploreLearning Gizmos because it lets my students do "real labwork" that I just can't get done in the time and space that I have."
Brian Gordon: "I love @ExploreLearning because it allows my students to have visually stimulating and hands-on technology for math and science concepts."
Elisa Heinricher: "I love @ExploreLearning Gizmos because the kids get so excited about learning and stay focused for such a long time!"
...and that's just a few of them!
We're re-tweeting these from our own Twitter profile, so you can see more just by checking us out there. Follow us from your Twitter account, and you'll also get great breaking news from the worlds of math and science: many of these are stories and ideas you can use in your classroom.
October 05, 2010
Kristy McElhinny: Gizmo Educator of the Month
Kristy McElhinny is a high school biology teacher in Afton, New York. She uses Gizmos with ninth through twelfth graders in Regents Biology class and Advanced Biology electives.
A few years ago, a colleague introduced Kristy to the Photosynthesis Lab Gizmo. She was so impressed, she worked with her district to bring Gizmos to her entire school. Since then, she has given presentations to other teachers on Gizmos and has become a very active contributor within the website's online community.
Kristy says that Gizmos have revolutionized the way she teaches. Her school does not have the equipment to run complex or lengthy biology experiments, and Gizmos open up those realms to her classes. She points to not just Photosynthesis Lab, but also such diverse Gizmos as Greenhouse Effect and Circulatory System. But it's not just the new teaching opportunities she appreciates:
“My favorite part of using Gizmos is how engaging it is to the students. Instead of just telling them, 'if you add snakes to an ecosystem, the hawks will increase and the rabbits will decrease,' they can use trial and error to discover these concepts themselves. Students learn by doing and with Gizmos, there is so much more that they can do.”
Take a look at the wealth of Gizmo Recommendations and Lesson Materials Kristy has contributed to ExploreLearning.com. She has adapted our Lesson Materials to her students' ability levels, and she has shared many of her favorite Gizmos with the ExploreLearning Community.
Expert's Corner: Conceptual Foundations in Math
Thom O'Brien has been with ExploreLearning for eight years in a variety of roles, including working with teachers to integrate Gizmos into more effective teaching in Math and Science. Thom has a Master's degree in Instructional Mathematics and he taught 7th grade math before joining EL.
Have your students worked through math problems, performing the mechanics of each step, but not having the foggiest idea why that procedure works? Some students have become masters at solving problems just by mimicking steps, rather than by really understanding what they're doing, and why. This disconnect can be the result of a lack of a deep conceptual understanding of the topic. Providing students opportunities to visualize the concepts, discuss their thinking, and work in small groups can help students build these conceptual foundations.
Today's mathematics teachers can infuse lessons with practice that supports conceptual learning. A great way to do this is with visual models of mathematical concepts and problems. Obviously, Gizmos are a great support for visual learning. Try just about any math Gizmo — for example Comparing and Ordering Fractions. This Gizmo helps students develop a visual representation of least common denominator and gives them a basis for understanding how to add and subtract fractions with unlike denominators.
In addition, teachers can move math classrooms towards conceptual problem solving with the language used in the room. Mathematical communication is saturated with "doer" verbs; write, draw, build, graph, multiply, for example. Simply adding in some "thinker" verbs such as think about, decide, explain, reflect on, and consider, help teachers take students down the road toward more complex mathematical thinking. As an example, try the Quilting Bee Gizmo. As a warm up activity, ask students to reflect on symmetry by having them find it in the world around them or in magazine pictures. Then with the Gizmo, ask them to extend their thinking by considering additional lines of symmetry in the quilts they have been working with.
Read the research behind Gizmos for more information on how simulations can be powerful tools for improving student learning.
Go go GIZMOS!!!