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November 26, 2013

Teachers are "thrilled to start using Gizmos" in their classes

An elementary teacher at Golden Vally School in Québec recently attended our Initial Gizmos Training. Here's what she had to say,

"The training was well balanced, and gave many opportunities to search through and test out many Gizmos.  It was very informative and left no questions unanswered. I am thrilled to start using Gizmos in my classroom."

With Gizmos' flexible professional development and support, you can start integrating Gizmos into your lessons today! Learn more

Posted by Heather Jones at 08:19 AM in Testimonials, Training and Professional Development | Permalink

November 25, 2013

Educator Spotlight: Kenya Allen

Kenya Allen has been teaching high school for 16 years. She received her B.S. from Virginia Union University, her M.S. from Virginia State University, and her M.Ed. from Virginia Commonwealth University. Currently she is an instructor with the Performance Learning Center (PLC) at Armstrong High School. The PLC is a successful alternative education model for urban school systems that uses self-paced curriculum to help students catch up and prepare for post-secondary education options.

Reflex BoardMrs. Allen shares that when she was first introduced to Gizmos she thought, "Wow, this will really enhance my instruction. The students I teach want to be challenged and they like to visualize the subject matter.” For example, when she used to teach protein synthesis, she found, “the old way of cutting and pasting the nucleotides to a piece of paper was too abstract for some students. Now, with the RNA and Protein Synthesis Gizmo, students can simulate the process more closely to what happens in their own bodies.”

In addition, Gizmos are ideal for reviewing for benchmark assessments and preparing students for EOC exams. “Students worked diligently on Gizmos in class and at home. Last year was the first year for the new technology-enhanced questions on the Biology EOC. The simulations were great to get the students ready for these new questions. Overall, my sixth period class did very well on the Biology EOC. Most students passed on their first attempt!”


Posted by Heather Jones at 01:24 PM in Case Studies, Science, Testimonials, Using Gizmos | Permalink

Gizmo of the Week: Levers

646DETTurkey day is almost here! In the US, it’s time to visit family, give thanks, and eat way too much food. If you enter “turkey” into the ExploreLearning search window, you will find one Gizmo: Levers. What do levers have to do with turkeys? In the Gizmo, a carnival strongman can lift up a turkey, a pig, or a sheep using a lever. You can move the strongman and fulcrum to create a first, second, or third-class lever. Using the Gizmo, students can quickly see that the strongman gains advantage by moving himself farther from the fulcrum and placing the animal closer to the fulcrum.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Posted by Heather Jones at 08:52 AM in Quick Tips, Using Gizmos | Permalink

November 18, 2013

Gizmo of the Week: Cat and Mouse (Modeling with Linear Systems)

108DETSlowly and silently, a cat stalks a mouse. Just before the cat pounces, the mouse sees the cat and dashes towards its hole, the cat hot on its heels. Will the mouse reach its hole before being caught?

Students can model this exciting scenario with the Cat and Mouse (Modeling with Linear Systems) Gizmo, which has been recently updated with new Lesson Materials. Each animal’s speed and starting point is modeled by a linear equation, and a graph demonstrates whether the two lines cross before the mouse escapes. Students can solve the simple system of linear equations graphically or using algebra, and then run the simulation to see what happens.

Good luck little mouse!

Posted by Heather Jones at 08:56 AM | Permalink

November 13, 2013

Educator of the Month: Larissa Jackson

Larissa JacksonLarissa Jackson has been teaching for 17 years. Mrs. Jackson currently teaches Biology at a Title I high school in Shelby County Schools, TN.

Many of Mrs. Jackson's science computer lab sessions involve Gizmos. When she’s not using the computer lab, she has students engage with Gizmos on an interactive whiteboard during whole-class instruction. After her first year of using Gizmos in her lessons, she saw remarkable results. Her Biology students’ proficiency scores more than doubled! She attributes this success to the unique learning design Gizmos provide. Not only are students excited about using Gizmos in her class, they are deeply engaged in the content because of Gizmos. She explains:

“Because my students are such visual and kinesthetic learners, I was able to reinforce my lessons in a way that I hadn't previously. I also like the way Gizmos require students to make predictions and inferences based on evidence. Because of limited time and resources, I couldn't perform all the labs that I wanted students to experience. Gizmos gave students the hands-on and visual experience they needed to really understand the concept — specifically, the genetics lessons.”

Mouse Genetics Mrs. Jackson thinks the Mouse Genetics Gizmo is fabulous for teaching students about genetics. In the Mouse Genetics Gizmo, students can breed "pure" mice with known genotypes that exhibit specific fur and eye colors, and learn how traits are passed on via dominant and recessive genes. The Gizmo allows students to use Punnett squares to predict and track results of successive trials. Mrs. Jackson often has students work in cooperative groups to complete the Student Exploration sheets. Student Exploration sheets generally include multiple activities, with increasing levels of difficulty. This helps teachers differentiate their instruction more easily, so students of all ability levels can succeed.

Even when Mrs. Jackson engages students with hands-on labs, Gizmos are still part of the lessons — enriching students’ understanding of the concept before and after the lab. Gizmos are a great resource to remediate and reinforce the content and skills required of students. Mrs. Jackson really appreciates the Gizmo Assessment Questions too. They are a quick and easy way to assess students’ understanding of a concept.

Mrs. Jackson is currently enjoying another great year of using Gizmos with her students!

Posted by Heather Jones at 07:59 AM in Science, Testimonials, Using Gizmos | Permalink

Expert Corner: Whole Group Instruction- Part II

Laura Chervenak PicLaura Chervenak has been with ExploreLearning since 2010 as the 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.


We all know that deliberate and careful lesson preparation can separate an okay lesson from one that is vibrant and effective. But teachers don’t have hours to review materials and make decisions about instructional strategies. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day!

VideoTo help busy teachers get the most out of their lessons, ExploreLearning Gizmos provide a suite of materials to help streamline the preparation process. To provide an example of how I would plan a lesson, I selected the Gizmo, Measuring Motion, and created a video as I prepared my lessons. In this 10-minute video, you can watch as I “think out loud” during the planning.

My entire preparation took about 20 minutes and I finished with a 3-day series of lessons, combining the Gizmo, textbook exercises, and assessment activities. My thought process is outlined below, but you should watch the video and review the finished whole-class instruction script for more details.

When using whole-class instruction with Gizmos, you want to make sure that you use standard classroom best practices for whole-class instruction. Be sure to “chunk” your material in short segments. This will give your students lots of opportunities to be active participants. They can do so either by volunteering, or by using participation techniques like Think-Pair-Share, QuickWrites, and individual response systems (electronic or whiteboard). Design your questions ahead of time within a whole-class instruction script. You will want to include questions across all six levels of Bloom’s taxonomy, scaffolding as you progress through the lesson. Be sure to identify formative instruction strategies that you will use to see how students are doing as they work to master the standard(s).

The important steps to follow as you plan your Gizmo lesson:

1. Identify the standards you are teaching and select an appropriate Gizmo.

2. Preview the Gizmo while referencing the Student Exploration Sheet Answer Key.

3. Decide how you will use the Gizmo to address the standard(s). Does the Gizmo make a good introduction to engage the student and allow them to construct meaning for themselves? Or would you rather use the Gizmo to explain the concept and provide students with practice?

4. Utilize the Student Exploration Sheet, Teacher Guide, and Vocabulary Sheet to plan the whole-class instruction script. Remember, each of these is easily customizable to meet the individual needs of all your students.

Please share your comments or questions about lesson planning for whole-class instruction. 

Posted by Heather Jones at 07:55 AM in Implementation Ideas, Quick Tips, Training and Professional Development, Using Gizmos | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 07, 2013

Educator Spotlight: Scott Redding

Scott ReddingScott Redding is a science teacher at Citronelle High School in Mobile, Alabama. He graduated with his Bachelor’s from Auburn in Science Education, and is currently finishing his Master’s Degree in Education at Arkansas State University. Scott played baseball in college, and is now the baseball coach at the high school.

Scott Redding has taught a variety of courses during his six-year teaching career at Citronelle High School, including Zoology, Botany, Biology, Physical Science, and Marine Biology. As a graduate of Citronelle, he understands the students and where they are coming from. He tries to incorporate Gizmos wherever they are applicable because “the kids love them. It gets their attention. They like the interactivity and really get into the material.”

Scott also appreciates how flexible Gizmos are. Students use Gizmos during whole-group instruction with interactive whiteboards, in small groups, in the computer lab, for home assignments, or even to keep up when they are sick. To reduce the use of printed copies, Scott’s students complete the Student Exploration sheets on their own computers and turn them in via email.

Cell Energy Cycle - IMGScott’s favorite Gizmos are the Photosynthesis Lab and Cell Energy Cycle Gizmos. His students often struggle to understand the reactions in which plants use the Sun’s energy to convert carbon dioxide and water to glucose and oxygen, and how animals (and plants) use oxygen to break down glucose and generate energy. With these Gizmos, students can compare the photosynthesis and respiration equations, balance each equation numerically, and see how various factors affect the rates of these processes.

Using these simulations helped Scott’s students gain a much stronger understanding of the interdependence of plants and animals, allowing them to “breeze through” their unit test. Great job Scott, and best of luck this school year!

Posted by Heather Jones at 12:21 PM in Case Studies, Science, Testimonials, Using Gizmos | Permalink

November 01, 2013

Gizmos Help Close the Achievement Gap

VistaThe VISTA professional development model, which includes using Gizmos to support inquiry, was found to have a statistically significant positive impact on the achievement of economically disadvantaged students.

VISTA (Virginia Initiative for Science Teaching and Achievement) is a statewide partnership among 70+ Virginia school districts, six Virginia universities, and the Virginia Department of Education. Its goal is to help shift K-12 science instruction toward hands-on science, student-centered inquiry, the nature of science, and problem-based learning.

Based on their findings, researchers stated that “It appears that the VISTA treatment has the effect of reducing the gap in 5th grade science SOL test scaled scores between economically disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged groups.” Further, teachers’ science content knowledge and confidence in teaching science increases by doing hands-on science, inquiry-based teaching, and problem-based learning.

Read more about the research behind Gizmos.

Posted by Heather Jones at 03:58 PM in Case Studies, Science, Using Gizmos | Permalink