Educator Spotlight: Penny Holland

Penny Holland
Penny Holland

Penny Holland is a National Board Certified Teacher with over 20 years K-6 teaching experience. She is currently completing her Masters in Learning and Technology at Western Governor’s University. She now teaches 6th grade science at Old High Middle School in Bentonville, Arkansas.

Gizmos originally were introduced into the Bentonville School District three years ago through a middle school grant program. After her initial-training workshop, Mrs. Holland said she “fell in love” with Gizmos. She feels the Gizmos are so powerful because they support so much of what is required with the new Common Core standards, such as inquiry-based learning and the development of higher-level thinking skills.

Mrs. Holland’s students come from a variety of backgrounds and opportunities. She feels that by providing access to technology in the classroom, all of her students have the opportunity to be included in the types of learning environments that are exciting and engaging to them. She likes to see how young learners light up with Gizmos. “With Gizmos, students become mesmerized… Students even beg to come in during recess to finish their Gizmos.”

Mrs. Holland has many favorite Gizmos that she likes to use in her lessons—Growing Plants , Reaction Time, Mystery Powder Analysis, Density, and Force and Fan Carts are just a few of them. But the Circulatory Gizmo Circulatory Systemis at the top of her list because students have a lot of “ah-hah moments” when they use this Gizmo. At the start of the lesson, she has students complete the warm-up together, and then she models using the Gizmo on an interactive whiteboard. Then, depending on her students’ level of understanding, they are assigned Activity A or Activity B of the Student Exploration Sheet. Activity B can be assigned to students who are interested in going the extra mile or show a higher level of interest in the subject.

She continues, “Gizmos are great for differentiation and the Student Exploration Sheets makes it easy. Gizmos help students move along at a steady pace while ensuring thoughtful processing. Students have to figure out why things are happening. They manipulate variables, measure results, and make conclusions based on the evidence they see with the graph and data tabs. Comparisons are easily made when students use screen shots for evidence of their claim. Students can even make their own data charts, which help them compare the organ’s functions.”

Mrs. Holland emphasized that with either of the activities, “higher-level thinking is the norm with Gizmos.” Students can even complete the extension activity at home if they have access to a computer. “Parents enjoy seeing their students ‘do’ labs at home instead of just hearing about what they did in class,” she added.

Mrs. Holland hopes that she and the other teachers in Bentonville “can use Gizmos for years to come because it’s such an excellent resource.” Also, for any teachers looking to become a NBCT, “Gizmos are a perfect way to show NBCT evaluators that you are focused on student learning!”