March 08, 2013
Desiree Hurtado: ExploreLearning Educator of the Month
Ms. Desiree Hurtado teaches Biology, Biology Honors and Physical Science (9th and 10th grade) in a high school in Miami-Dade. She has been teaching for two years.
Ms. Hurtado uses Gizmos to both reinforce lab experiments and to increase understanding with alternative activities in class. With the Plants and Snails Gizmo, she first had students do a hands-on experiment in class. Students prepared four beakers with water and bromothymol blue indicator. Students added Elodea plants to the first, Elodea and snails to the second, snails to the third, and nothing to the fourth. Students collected data from the experiment, and then discussed the relationship between photosynthesis and respiration.
Ms. Hurtado then led them through the Plants and Snails Gizmo, and students were able to immediately understand how to manipulate the variables in the simulation. The Gizmo helped students see how carbon is essential to the function of organisms, and why organic compounds are required by organisms to live. Then students completed the quick, 5-question assessment online for practice with individual reading and comprehension. The Gizmo helped students see that oxygen produced by plants is essential for animals, and how carbon dioxide produced by animals is essential for plants.
Ms. Hurtado finds it both fun and easy to get creative with Gizmos. With the Dichotomous Keys Gizmo, she first used the Gizmo in class as a technology-based lab. She provided the students with the student worksheet, and introduced dichotomous keys. After Ms. Hurtado modeled the first organism, she had students come up one-by-one to identify the next organism, as the other students annotated the genus and species of each.
Then she asked her students to create their own dichotomous keys using the images from the Gizmo. Students took "screen shots" of the organisms with the Gizmo camera tool and created their own dichotomous keys on colored paper. Students presented them in class, and then Ms. Hurtado displayed them on the walls. Students from other classes became interested in the dichotomous keys made by their friends, and they played around with identifying the organisms from other classes.
Ms. Hurtado feels that Gizmos are excellent for engaging students, especially since students today are so comfortable learning with technology. She finds that students retain more information after seeing the images and manipulating the variables on the screen. Gizmos allow students “to see things and open up their eyes to ‘that which is invisible.’”
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