October 18, 2012
Florida Teacher Links High Science Scores to Gizmos
Teacher Michelle Yarish just moved from a high school to a middle school magnet school in Hillsborough County Public Schools in Florida. She says her 7th graders are excited to use Gizmos like Growing Plants this year, but she also wanted to share her experiences with Gizmos with her high school students last year.
She writes that "I do feel confident in saying that my use of Gizmos (specifically Water Pollution, Greenhouse Effect, Distance-Time and Velocity-Time Graphs, Measuring Motion, Free Fall Tower, Fan Cart Physics and Doppler Shift Advanced) was integral to Steinbrenner having the highest Physical Science second semester exam scores in Hillsborough County. I especially think the students benefit by working at their own pace. I often observed students helping their peers which we know shows the highest level of learning. As a teacher I appreciate being able to adjust the handouts and the data obtained from the quizzes."
We look forward to hearing a similar science success story with her 7th Graders this year!
October 04, 2012
Beverly Roy: ExploreLearning Educator of the Month
Beverly Roy has been teaching in the Miami-Dade County Public School System for nine years, and is currently a special education teacher at Gulfstream Elementary. She is a graduate of Florida International University and is currently pursuing a M.A. in Teaching with a specialization in Educational Technology. Ms. Roy is a member of the Golden Key Honor Society and the president elect of Alpha Delta Kappa Lambda, an altruistic sorority for educators. Ms. Roy has been using Gizmos for five years.
With her special education students, Ms. Roy generally introduces Gizmos on a SMART board. Once students have gained knowledge and experience with the concepts, they can manipulate Gizmos on classroom computers or in centers. Ms. Roy appreciates how Gizmos allow students to manipulate variables and provide immediate feedback. She reports that “manipulating variables encourages cause-and-effect critical thinking, and students are able to mentally organize, categorize, and verbalize their findings.” The animations provide clear visualization of abstract concepts and are especially helpful for students with processing deficits who struggle with text.
Ms. Roy utilizes all of the Lesson Materials that are provided with Gizmos. The Vocabulary Sheets are a very helpful resource because students can cut and paste the terms right into their science journals! The Teacher Guides help her structure her lessons and provide meaningful pre-Gizmo activities that encourage concept formation and critical thinking skills.
Some of Beverly’s favorite Gizmos are the Pond Ecosystem and Forest Ecosystem Gizmos, both of which provided excellent background material for a field trip to the Everglades. “When students are able to see the consequences of depleted plant and animal life, they are able to make connections to the importance of the different ecosystems and the interconnectivity of the Everglades. This in turn leads to a better understanding of food chains and food webs across environments.”
Ms. Roy appreciates how the Gizmos and Lesson Materials work together to foster student engagement and enthusiasm for science. “Gizmos enable my students to be active participants in the scientific inquiry process.”
Expert Corner: A Treasure Map to the Ah-Hah Moment
Laura Chervenak has been with ExploreLearning since 2010 as VP of Professional Development. She has taught high school science, and is the founder and former director of GOAL Digital Academy. Laura is National Board Certified in Science/Adolescence and Young Adulthood, with a B.A. in Zoology and an M.S. in Anthropology.
After two years of helping teachers and students experience Ah-Hah moments with Gizmos, I had my own Ah-Hah moment. I was watching over two math teachers’ shoulders as they browsed the Gizmo library, and I was puzzled as they quickly dismissed student favorites like Cannonball Clowns and Fraction Artist after only a cursory glance.
I approached these teachers and encouraged them to open the Student Exploration Guide for the two Gizmos they had rejected and see how the lesson builds for the students. As they read through the materials, they both began to nod their heads and one turned to me and said, “Oh! I get it now! You are right, this is really great.”
The Gizmos themselves provide rich visual and interactive fun for kids (and adults) as they learn math and science concepts. Sometimes the accompanying Lesson Materials can be overlooked.
Think of it this way - if you were to arrive on an island where there were valuable gems hidden among the landscape, it might take you a while to find them if you began your search in the wrong place. And your chances of hitting the big jackpot would be smaller if you didn't understand the bigger picture. Think how much easier and more rewarding it would be if you had a treasure map to guide you as you explored. Similarly, the Gizmo Lesson Materials provide teachers and students with a treasure map to gems of understanding waiting to be revealed within each Gizmo.
The Teacher Guides help the instructor to plan a lesson or series of lessons using Gizmos in combination with other activities to meet desired learning objectives. Here, teachers can find rich discussion questions, real-world connections, follow-up activities, and scientific or mathematical background relating to the Gizmo.
The Student Exploration Sheets scaffold the students' experience through a Gizmo from exploring and making simple observations to developing deeper understanding. With multiple activities in each Exploration Guide, they also make differentiation of classroom activities much simpler. And because they are available as editable documents, teachers can customize them to meet the specific learning objectives that are needed.
So as you browse for Gizmos, don’t neglect the treasure maps that go with them – the Lesson Materials. Your students will come away with Ah-hah moments of their own, and be richer for the experience.
October 03, 2012
Ten Gizmos added to iPad Sampler
Ten more Gizmos have been added to the Gizmo Sampler for iPad, available for students and teachers with current subscriptions to ExploreLearning.com.
The Gizmo Sampler allows access to selected Gizmos right from your iPad. Just download the updated app to your iPad from the iTunes Store and login with your existing user name and password.
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