April 01, 2014
ExploreLearning, a Cut Above the Rest
During the past 28 years, the SIIA CODiE Awards have recognized software and information companies for achieving excellence. The CODiE Awards remain the only peer-recognized program, so each CODiE Award serves as an incredible testament to a product’s innovation, vision, and overall industry impact. ExploreLearning has been represented among CODiE finalist for 9 straight years.
Gizmos was carefully selected as a finalist for Best Mathematics Instructional Solution. This prestigious award recognizes the best mathematic instructional product that provides deep learning experiences for students, supports standards-alignment, and reflects current curriculum practice.
Reflex is among the Best Learning Game Finalists. Reflex was selected for its ability to provide a motivating learning environment and enable students to learn educational concepts.
Review the full list of 2014 CODiE Award Finalists. Winners will be announced in May!
June 26, 2012
Two math Gizmos highlighted in NCTM article
A recent article in the NCTM magazine Teaching Children Mathematics describes an activity, designed by two professors, that aims to help teachers select clear, effective technology for their classrooms. The article lists five criteria for selecting technology (National Research Council, 2001):
- Transparency: How easily can the idea be seen through the representation?
- Efficiency: Does the representation support efficient communication and use?
- Generality: Does the representation apply to broad classes of objects?
- Clarity: Is the representation unambiguous and easy to use?
- Precision: How close is the representation to the exact value?
The Rounding Numbers (Number Line) Gizmo is noted for its use of "hills" on the number line to help illustrate rounding. In this Gizmo, points can be dragged onto a dynamic number line. When in "hill" mode, the points will slide to the nearest valley (the nearest 10 or 100), helping students to visualize rounding. (By the way, interesting things happen when points are exactly halfway between two valleys – like, for example, 35 when rounding to the nearest 10, or 350 when rounding to the nearest 100. Why don’t these points slide to a valley right away? Thought-provoking discussions about the "round up" convention can ensue!)
Also, the teachers chose Number Line Frog Hop (Addition and Subtraction) Gizmo, in which Fred the Frog hops along a number line to try to catch flies. If Fred hops more than 10 units, he can jump as a "single jump," "tens then ones," or "ones then tens." The latter two modes highlight the "parts" of a number (place value, essentially). In addition, as a teacher points out in the article, you can show repeated addition in this Gizmo as a bridge to multiplication.
November 10, 2011
Expert Corner: Gizmos and the Common Core
Featuring David Shuster, Ph.D.,
ExploreLearning Founder and Publisher.
Teachers and instructional leaders all over the U.S. are busy evolving their practice to reflect the rigor and focus of the new Common Core State Standards. We at ExploreLearning are doing the same thing.
As with practically all modern math products, Gizmos are already correlated to these new standards. More important is to move beyond correlation to provide direct support for the key goals of the Common Core. With Gizmos, we had a wonderful starting point. Gizmos already provide myriad opportunities to develop deep conceptual understanding and strong support for the Common Core's Standards of Mathematical Practice.
But what does Common Core Standards mean by “mathematical understanding?” Here’s a key quote from the text of the standards:
"One hallmark of mathematical understanding is the ability to justify, in a way appropriate to the student's mathematical maturity, why a particular mathematical statement is true or where a mathematical rule comes from."
|Distance-Time Graphs Gizmo demonstrates the relationship between distance and time with a graph, and introduces slope and y intercept in context of this real world scenario. It supports Standards of Mathematical Practice 2, 4 and 5.|
Over the years, Gizmos have been widely recognized as an excellent means to help students understand challenging mathematical topics and the “hows” and “whys” behind them. With Gizmos, students don’t just read or listen and watch, they learn by manipulating key variables and working with multiple visual representations. Compared to more traditional approaches, Gizmos help students to attain new levels of understanding.
In addition to content standards that define what specific concepts and skills students should master, the Common Core also defines Standards of Mathematical Practice. These standards define expertise that mathematics educators at all levels should seek to develop in their students. In particular, they state that mathematically proficient students should be able to:
1. Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.
2. Reason abstractly and quantitatively.
3. Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.
4. Model with mathematics.
5. Use appropriate tools strategically.
6. Attend to precision.
7. Look for and make use of structure.
8. Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning
We have already heard from many of you that Gizmos help students to develop many of these competencies. But we want to do even better. So as part of our ongoing Gizmo Lesson Materials update, we are putting a special emphasis on the Common Core to ensure that both the content standards and the Standards of Mathematical Practice are supported as fully as possible.
If you have suggestions for how we can further improve, we would appreciate it if you would take a moment to send us your thoughts. Additionally, I hope you will consider sharing your favorite Common Core teaching ideas in the form of contributed lesson materials and recommendations for the Gizmos you feel really make a difference for you. With your input, we can make Gizmos an even better program for you and your students.
September 07, 2010
Expert's Corner: Back-to-school Inquiry Activities
Bridget Mulvey is a science education doctoral student at the University of Virginia. Bridget holds a master's degree in geological sciences from Indiana University at Bloomington, and she taught middle school, high school and college science before starting her doctoral program. Bridget has taught professional development workshops on scientific inquiry and the nature of science and has presented research on whole class inquiry and the nature of science to researchers and teachers at national conferences.
As school gets back into full swing, teachers seek ways to engage students in science and set the tone for the year. One great way to do this is through scientific inquiry instruction using Gizmos!
Whether you're a pro or just getting started, Gizmos support your efforts to develop a positive classroom environment that facilitates inquiry. The simple and fun Pattern Finder Gizmo is accessible to young students yet can still be a great whole-class warm-up activity for older students.
Students observe, predict and then test predictions to identify patterns in frogs' jumps from lily pad to lily pad. Framing students' investigation with a research question such as, "What patterns can you identify in the frogs' jumps?" is a great first step toward inquiry. Students use observations as evidence that they analyze to answer the initial question.
This minds-on activity requires almost no initial scientific content knowledge and therefore offers all students a chance to be meaningful contributors to the class. This helps students see that science is fun and that they can do it.
Because pattern identification helps us make sense of the natural world, this activity can spark great discussions about the nature of science. For example, you could ask students if it is always possible for scientists to perform experiments. This discussion can highlight that direct experiments are not the only way we learn about the natural world. To learn about things out of our immediate reach, such as Earth's history or the cosmos, we can't control variables to actually experiment. When experiments can be performed, however, they are an essential part of science.
For more content-specific Gizmos appropriate for the beginning of the year, try Density Experiment: Slice and Dice. This updated take on a density lab lets students explore a big misconception about density — that size matters. To make this activity inquiry, pose a question such as, "What relationship does size have to mass, volume and density?"
In this Gizmo, students "slice" off portions of aluminum, wood or other material and compare volume, mass and density for different-sized pieces. Students analyze this information to determine the relationships and thereby answer the research question.
These Gizmos support minds-on investigations that involve students in the processes of science. They also encourage students' input, helping students gain confidence in their scientific abilities. What a great way to begin the school year!
September 05, 2008
3 Ways to Fix Science Education, 1 Way to Vote
In the most recent issue of Popular Mechanics Mythbuster Adam Savage provided three ways to help fix science education in this country.
...teachers are so dedicated, but they have difficulty teaching for the standardized tests they're given with the budgets they're not given. It’s one reason the U.S. is falling behind other countries in science: By 2010, Asia will have 90 percent of the world's Ph.D. scientists and engineers. We're not teachers, but our show has taught us a lot about how to get people interested in science. Here are three humble suggestions that might help reinvigorate American science education.
He goes on to list these items, 1) Let students get their hands dirty, 2) Spend more money on science, and 3) Celebrate mistakes.
One great place for those three things is at local science museum. When I lived in the midwest I would occasionally help out at COSI Science Museum in Toledo. It was always great to see kids learning a wealth of science in a true hands-on fashion. Unfortunately, COSI had to close its doors to the public at the end of 2007.
They are currently trying to get a levy passed in Toledo (Lucas County) this November so that the museum can be reopened. A number of people have been working nonstop for the past year in this effort. If you live in the area I hope you will help out and Keep COSI going.
May 22, 2006
Class "Name Generator" Tool May Aid Math Students
Having a computer program randomly select student names for the teacher to call on appears to help students pay more attention and prepare more for class according to this University of Florida study.
It's easy to overlook the impact the "low-tech" stuff, like a simple randomizer program, can have on the classroom.
March 16, 2006
EL at MEC Conference in Arizona
I spent 4 days in Arizona this past weekend, attending the MEC Conference (Microcomputers in Education) in Tempe, AZ (just east of Phoenix). In addition to two sessions for interested teachers and administrators, I hung out with some of the fine folks at Apple. (As one of Apple's "Complementary Curriculum Products" vendors, we sometimes share booth space with them.)
Despite the crazy, un-Arizona-like weather, plenty of teachers and administrators made their way to the conference. It was fun to meet everyone, and have a chance to show off a few Gizmos. (In fact, I was pleasantly surprised how many elementary school teachers came by, and how many see the potential of Gizmos, even for their young students!)
Of course, you know what they say about all work and no play... I managed to work in two baseball games (a World Baseball Classic game, plus a Giants vs. Padres spring training game), and 9 holes of golf. Not bad for a work trip! I highly recommend Arizona in the spring!
February 14, 2006
Reading, writing and blogging
I noticed an article in the Richmond Times-Dispatch this weekend which discussed how blogs are being used in the classroom. The changes in technology continue to amaze me. I wonder what I would have though of being able to blog back when I was a young student?
From the article:
When Chelsea Pleasants wants to know what her daughter is doing in school, she heads to the Internet.
With a few clicks of a mouse, Pleasants can navigate the Web site for Goochland County's Byrd Elementary School and access the Web log kept by her daughter's third-grade teacher, Ellen Robinson.
"People love to know that they can go online and find out what's going on in the classroom," Hendron said. "It's something that can really change the dynamics of communication and give ready access to information parents and students need at home."
February 07, 2006
Prof Podcasts Lectures
This is a sign of the times, eh?
Psychology students and fans of Apple's popular iPod can now listen and learn at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Calvin Garbin is one of the first instructors at the university to harness iPod's versatility and use it as an educational tool.
Garbin uses a wireless microphone hooked to his shirt to record the 50-minute lecture, then downloads the recording onto his computer. He cuts the lecture into short audio chunks and puts it on his Web site for downloading.
Students confused about certain parts of the lecture can click on a link and listen again. And podcasting makes studying for tests easier for those students who are auditory learners (Yahoo News).
Definitely podcasting is more suited to a psychology lecture than, say, an equation heavy math lecture; however, from my own experience with math classes, I always found it easier to "get" a particular math concept when my own prof/teacher explained it than I did when reading from the book or notes. So I think I would have liked have the audio to go along with my own notes or the prof/teacher's own handouts.
Speaking of Podcasts, our own Thom O'brien has created the first ever ExploreLearning podcast. Give it a listen to hear several teachers talk about their positive experiences with Gizmos.
January 16, 2006
Flickr: Teacher Resource for Photos
While reading Will Richardson's Weblogg-ed blog I came across this interesting quote from an assistant superintendent about a recent teacher training session:
Yesterday we had all of our Kindergarten teachers at the Central Office writing assessments. One group was writing an assessment where the students would sort night and day pictures. They were attempting to download clipart to use for this task and were visibly frustrated that they weren't finding what they really needed. I showed them the Flickr site and how they could search using the tag words for pictures. They found exactly what they needed there and were very excited. (Just imagine a room full of Kindergarten teachers discovering a site like this...the possibilities for seasons, holidays, animals, places, etc.) Forget about the assessments, they were searching for bunnies for spring and lake/ ocean/ river pictures for a unit, etc. Compared to using clipart, it was like going from black and white T.V. to color for them.
Now I've been using the Flickr site for a while now as a place to upload and share photos as well as a place to find interesting photos for different projects I'm working on, but it never dawned on me how Flickr could be real time-saving resource for teachers.
The superintendent above was talking specifically about Kindergarten teachers, but there's no reason Flickr couldn't be helpful for the middle and high school math or science teacher on occasion as well.
For instance, suppose you're a physics teacher doing a unit and roller coaster physics (or perhaps a math teacher doing a unit on parabolas) and you want to bring in a photo of a rollercoaster for use on a quiz or handout. Well, all you'd need to do is go to the Flickr site and search on the keyword "rollercoaster" and your results will look like this.
Since the photos on Flickr are meant to be shared and reused, you can just save off anything you want on to your own computer and use the photos anyway you like.
Pretty cool, eh?
Keep it in mind the next time you need a photo for class.
December 13, 2005
"When Techies Don't Get It"
In his blog The Blue Skunk, Doug Johnson posts a "must read" piece for anyone who is involved in education technology: When Techies Don't Get It. The post is a reaction to piece written by a fellow school technologist entitled When Teachers Don't Get It.
This is sage advice for anyone interacting with teachers: "Please treat me as an adult learner when it comes to technology 'training.' I want an IEP, not a boot camp, where I am expected to endure classes on technology of small relevance to my style of teaching or my curriculum."
September 21, 2005
Too Much, The Magic Brush
This device they are calling "The Magic Brush" sure does make me wish I was a kid again.
The I/O Brush is the brainchild of Kimiko Ryokai, a researcher at the MIT Media Lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
The device allows children to pick up colours and textures from their environment and paint with them on a large digital screen.
"By putting the camera into a paint brush, you are no longer pointing and shooting and thinking about capturing the environment, but using the environment to create something very new."
The American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) holds a photo contest every year. The winners of the AAPT 2005 High School Photo Contest have been posted online.
My favorite is definitely the one by Rebekah Sokol which won First Place in the Contrived Category. Wow. Really nice photo. Congratulations to all that submitted photos.
I wonder if an ExploreLearning user could win next year?
September 19, 2005
IBM to Encourage Employees to Become Math and Science Teachers
This is an innovative approach to the math and science teacher shortage:
September 02, 2005
Study: Teachers Coming to Terms with Computers
This is certainly a good sign. According to ZDNet News:
The majority of U.S. teachers are comfortable using computers for daily tasks like e-mail, attendance and posting information about classes on school intranets, according to CDW Government, which provides advice on technology to schools and government agencies.
Seventy percent of middle- and high-school teachers use e-mail to communicate with parents, while just over half use intranets to take classroom attendance. About 54 percent integrate computers into their daily curriculum, the survey found.
August 30, 2005
The Nation's Report Card — The Future Looks Bright
During the summer, when many of you were taking a well deserved teacher vacation, you may have missed the release of the Nation's Report Card by the National Center for Education Studies (NCES).
The report card has been tracking student achievement in reading and math since 1971, focusing on three age groups (9, 13, and 17) and three major demographic groups (White, Black, and Hispanic). So how do the students of 2005 compare to the late boomers of 1971? With one exception, every single long term trend is positive. All the age groups are better at math, and both the 9-year-olds and the 13-year-olds are better readers than the students of 1971.
The one exception to the positive trend seemingly occurs with the 17-year-olds, but even that might be misleading, because Black and Hispanic 17-year-olds did see dramatic increases in reading skills since 1971, while the White 17-year-olds remained relatively constant. The overall statistic in this case does not reflect the gains made by 2 out of 3 demographic groups because the percentages of the students in each group have changed (see Simpson's Paradox).
Combine this new study with the evidence that 1) IQ scores are significantly higher than they were 30 years ago, 2) SAT math scores are at an all-time high, and 3) today's students are likely more skilled at things like multitasking and mastering new technologies that are increasingly important in the workplace but are probably underrepresented on today's standardized tests. Add all that together and you start to get a sense that the students of 2005 are doing quite well when compared to the students of 1971.
So if you're a teacher or a student, give yourself a pat on the back. You're doing well.
August 17, 2005
Math: A Love-Hate Relationship
A recent article on CNN discussed the results of a poll that showed 40% of adults hated math during school (particularly women). However, about 25% said they loved the subject.
One person who hated math said, "It was cold and calculating. There was no gray, it was black and white."
I know I fit in to the 25% category, since I loved math and science as a student (and still do). I hope the Gizmos that we create will bring some color to the black and white view of math that so many seem to have!
Earlier this month an article popped up in the Kansas City Star (registration may be required) which discussed using Gizmos to keep your mind in shape for the school year. "Just because you’re on summer vacation doesn’t mean your brain has to rot. Take advantage of the extended break to sharpen your math and science skills with the lessons at the ExploreLearning Web site."
July 13, 2005
Arizona High School Goes All-Wireless, All-Laptop
The 350 student Vail High School in Arizona will join an elite group of public schools in the USA as it becomes an all-electronic school in the fall. The students at the school will not have traditional textbooks. Instead, they will use electronic and online articles as part of more traditional teacher lesson plans.
Calvin Baker, superintendent of Vail Unified School District, said the move to electronic materials gets teachers away from the habit of simply marching through a textbook each year.
He noted that the AIMS test now makes the state standards the curriculum, not textbooks. Arizona students will soon need to pass Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards to graduate from high school (MyWayNews).
Other schools have broken ground with giving all students laptops, but this is the first school I'm aware of that is dropping textbooks entirely. This will be an interesting test case to watch.
June 01, 2005
U of Cal Offers Incentives to Increase Math and Science Teacher Graduates
From the San Francisco Chronicle:
California's public universities plan to more than double the number of science and math teachers they graduate to overcome a shortage of trained and credential instructors in those fields, it was announced Tuesday.
Both the University of California and the California State University systems, which together now graduate about 1,000 math and science teachers, will use a combination of incentives to reach their goal of 2,500 teachers in four years.
Among the carrots will be waiving the repayment of $19,000 in loans for some students.
May 27, 2005
U.S. Students Turning to India for Tutoring
Even tutoring is being outsourced these days. From an article in USA Today:
Career Launcher is one of just five Indian firms currently tutoring U.S. students. Some contract with American e-tutoring providers, and some work directly with schools and students. Mr. Phadke estimates that Indian tutors are now working with some 20,000 American students, but he hopes the market will increase as technology improves and demand from NCLB rises.
We are certainly living in a global marketplace. For me, personally, though, I don't think I'd want to be tutored over the phone whether the tutor was in New Delhi or just on the other side of town. But for kids today who seem permanently attached to their cell phones probably would be right at home in this environment.
May 03, 2005
National Teacher Day 2005
A special thanks from all of us at ExploreLearning to all the teachers out there that help students learn every day. You helped us learn a lot of math and science so we can make our Gizmos.
Happy National Teacher Day!
Warm wishes to Dr. Chartier and Mrs. White from Perry High School. You got me so interested in science that I ended up with my PhD in physics. (Spock the Vulcan also inspired me).
April 14, 2005
Great Math Resource: CT4ME
Here at the spacious ExploreLearning corporate campus (and by that I mean our modest second floor digs in downtown Charlottesville), we've become big fans of the Computing Technology for Math Excellence website.
Have you seen it before? If not, do check it out. It's It's one of the best sites out there for learning about issues surrounding computers and math education, very up to date and chock full of information.
April 07, 2005
M.I.T. Working on $100 Student Laptop
From Wired News:
The MIT Media Lab is working with partners including AMD, Google, and News Corp. to have such a computer ready for shipment by the end of 2006. The $100 laptop will not only be something to own and feel empowered by, it will also be portable and a tool for collaboration.
Wow! Can you imagine what impact this will have on teachers and students?
March 30, 2005
"Feel Good" Education Story of the Year (A Must Read)
If you want an incredibly uplifting story of teacher and student achievement, please read Wired's "La Vida Robot," the story of a team of undocumented Mexican immigrants at a West Phoenix high school who competed in a contest to build an underwater robot that could survey a model of a sunken submarine. (And won!)
I don't even want to pull a quote from the story, as you need to read the whole thing for yourself.
March 09, 2005
The Carnival Of Education Blog Roundup
Be sure to check out the EduWonk's Carnival of Education, "a variety of interesting and informative posts from around the EduSphere (and one or two from the Larger 'Sphere) that have been submitted by various authors and readers."
January 25, 2005
Intellectual Stimulation Slows Aging Process
When our brains aren't stimulated, i.e., when we are bored, it often feels like time slows down; however, recent studies with dogs suggest that lack of mental stimulation actually speeds up the aging process.
From the New York Times (registration required):
Old beagles, like old humans, act younger and smarter when they get the right diet and plenty of intellectual stimulation. A report published in the January issue of Neurobiology of Aging found that a diet rich in antioxidants combined with a stimulating environment slowed the canine aging process.
So now if one of your students complains that math is too difficult, you can tell them that doing math problems (and eating healthy) just might make them live longer.
January 14, 2005
U.S. College Matriculation: Sobering Stat
This isn't the kind of news one likes to start the new year off with. In an op-ed in the LA Times, Richard Lee Colvin, director of the Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media, writes,
Nearly six in 10 high school graduates in 2005 will start college in the fall, but half of them — and more than two-thirds of the African American and Latino students who enroll — will fail to earn either an associate's or bachelor's degree.
While this is sobering and troubling news, the situation is far from hopeless. Read what Colvin advocates as potential solutions.
July 13, 2004
ExploreLearning Awarded SBIR Phase II Grant
We are pleased to announce that, as of late yesterday, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded ExploreLearning a SBIR Phase II grant. The "formal" title of the project is called "Modular Online Simulations for Math and Science with Integrated Assessment of Complex, Standards-Aligned Learning Objectives."
For a translation of this mouthful, I turned to ExploreLearning’s very own Paul Cholmsky who will serve as the grant’s Principal Investigator:
With this SBIR grant, we hope to revolutionize assessment in math and science the same way ExploreLearning Gizmos™ are revolutionizing instruction. The grant will help us to develop the next generation of Gizmos which will be able to "think" -- they'll be able to determine what a student knows or doesn't know, automatically tailor subsequent instruction to best meet the needs of the student at a given point in time, and then generate progress reports for students, parents, teachers and administrators.
Better yet, says Paul:
With today's ever increasing emphasis on measurability and accountability, this new product will also automatically customize itself for the applicable state curriculum standards in order to provide each student with a clear roadmap for succeeding on NCLB-mandated tests."
CONGRATULATIONS and a pat on our own backs for this super feat! Of course, now the hard work (or is it the fun?) begins. In either case, we’ll be rolling up our sleeves and putting our noses to the grindstone! After we celebrate, that is, with some gelato from Charlottesville’s newest downtown eatery.
June 29, 2004
ExploreLearning Job Opening
We seek to hire an experienced Teacher Training and Professional Development professional to develop, manage and coordinate a program that ensures broad and enthusiastic usage of ExploreLearning Gizmos(tm) by teachers and their students in customer school districts. More information, including application requirements, can be found here at our Employment page.
This position is an important one to our organization as it will involve developing a program to ensure the retention of existing customers as well as growth in their schools/districts and expansion into other districts.
If you believe that ExploreLearning Gizmos™ rule, or someone you know shares that belief or otherwise fits the bill, please contact us pursuant to the instructions on the web page above or pass this information to the interested party.
April 30, 2004
Google Math Joke
In a report covering Google's upcoming IPO, Wired News notes:
Geek humor: If you take a close look at the form Google filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the exact value of its planned offering is $2,718,281,828 dollars, which some would immediately recognize as the mathematical constant e.
E, for those not blessed with a PhD and a job at Google, is Euler's number, which is used as the base for natural logarithms.
I love it.
April 21, 2004
Calculators and Achievement Gaps?
At ExploreLearning we are evangelists for introducing technology to the K12 classroom; however, we are mindful that there are always positive and negative aspects associated with technology and education.
Regarding the negative, a recent report from the Brookings Institution looks at the practice of allowing students to use calculators before they've mastered basic "pencil and paper" computational skills. The analysis concludes that,
If students are only able to compute accurately with calculators—or if their computational skills are so weak that only the simplest of calculations can be made—then students are doomed to solving only trivial mathematical problems (Loveless).
If true, that can't be a good thing, especially in light of another news item suggesting the importance of student mastery of math and science as being a key factor in our country's economic growth.
April 09, 2004
Report Finds: MATH COURSES MATTER
From an though provoking report in the Spring '04 issue of American Educator entitled "It's Time To Tell the Kids: If You Don't Do Well in High School, You Won't Do Well in College (or on the Job)":
The further you go in math in high school, the better your chances of earning a college degree.… Taking higher-level math is a predictor of college success too: 80 percent of calculus students earn a degree compared to 8 percent of students whose highest math class is Algebra 1.
Something to keep in mind when trying to convince students why taking challenging math courses is important during high school.
March 24, 2004
Outsourcing Report Blames Schools
From Wired News:
A new report by a U.S. high-tech trade group says companies aren't shipping jobs overseas because of cheap labor. No, they're doing it because American schools don't teach enough math and science.
Of course, it's not like the teachers aren't trying their best to impart math and science skills to students, but rather it's difficult to convince kids the importance of advanced math and science in their adult lives. We've all heard the ubiquitous "Why am learning [fill in the blank] when I'll never use it in real life?" chant.
Here's to hoping that Gizmos help make the math and science teacher's job easier, for the overriding idea behind our multimedia simulations is to make difficult math and science concepts easier to teach and easier for students to understand.
March 23, 2004
Using Title 1 Funds with ExploreLearning
Two of our EL Team just returned from the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASDC) annual conference in New Orleans where ExploreLearning was in the Apple booth promoting the Accelerate Achievement initiative.
During the conference several educators commented on the fact that the the deadline for submitting Title 1 grant funding proposals is May 1.
Keep that deadline in mind as you consider the following:
- Title 1 grant funding may be available in your district to cover ExploreLearning.com subscription and training expenses.
- Other districts are already using Title 1 grant funding this way, e.g., Baltimore County in MD.
- We (EL) are experienced working with schools on Title 1 programs and would be happy to discuss ways to support your subscriptions.
March 19, 2004
"A Helping Hand for Teachers"
This sounds like a fantastic idea:
"iLoveSchools.com is a free matchmaking service – for education! School teachers request materials and supplies while school supporters search for a school in need of their gifts of money, new or used goods or other educational supplies."
I just signed up to be on the donor list for a couple of schools.
January 30, 2004
School Performance to be available on the WebSome news about school performance measurements from the Washington Post (Jan 30, 2004 Metro section, In Brief): HEADLINE: Web Site Helps Track School Performance. ARTICLE BODY: Federal, state and private education leaders launched a Web site yesterday that promises unprecedented access to information about public school performance. Virginia is among the first six states represented. The site, www.SchoolResults.org, will serve as a clearinghouse for new state report cards on education, including data broken down by school districts and schools. Under the No Child Left Behind Act, states must report data on a range of fronts, including teacher qualifications and achievement among all major groups of students. The Web site is designed to present that information in a convenient and uniform way to allow parents and policymakers to make comparisons across districts and more easily track student progress.
January 20, 2004
Blogs as Teaching Resource
Teacher and blogger Paul Bradley has created an excellent resource for ways a teacher can use a blog in their class.
Bradley pretty much covers everything including how to get started with your own blog (AKA content management) software or service.
Blogs are incredibly powerful and have a lot of potential for classroom use. When I get a chance, I'm going to play around with setting up some demo blogs showing various ways a teacher blog could be integrated with the ExploreLearning site.
If any of you beat me to it but setting up your own blogs, please let me know. I'd love to feature ideas here to share with EL teacher community.
January 14, 2004
Play on Mars!
With the current success of the NASA Mars Rover Mission I've become fascinated by the data that Spirit is sending back to Earth. I wish I could control a robot on Mars!
NASA has answered my wish by providing Maestro software. The program allows you to control your own simulated rover on Mars using the actual data obtained by Spirit. After learning how to control the rover in a lab setting you can let it explore a virtual 3D Mars. Don't get your rover stuck in a crevasse.
Apple posted a story about the background of the program.
The software (runs on Windows 98 and higher, Mac OSX, and *nix) can be downloaded from NASA. I am still learning how to control my rover in the lab environment before I venture out to Mars.
January 12, 2004
"Why Janie Can't Engineer"
In the Washington Post, we ran across another article in the ongoing exploration into why math and science careers don't attract more women.
The article by Post writer Pat McNees includes some interesting teaching guidelines aimed at getting girls interested in science at school, including this advice to "get messy."
Help girls get past the "yuck" factor. Science is messy, so put aside your desire for clean girls and surfaces. Girls who are afraid of getting dirty aren't born that way -- they're made. In after-school science programs, girls all over the nation are being encouraged to get messy, explore, analyze, dissect, hypothesize and make mistakes. … As an adult, you can help girls resist the pressure to behave in "feminine" ways. Encourage them to get good and grubby: to dig in a riverbed, change a tire or explore an engine. Let them learn they have a right to be themselves.
Read the whole story when you get a chance.
December 03, 2003
"Math Is Hard"
A recent Washington Post article discusses why learning math can be so difficult for students. More and more research suggests how important gender differences can be:
JoAnn Deak, a psychologist and author of "Girls Will Be Girls: Raising Confident and Courageous Daughters," said most schools approach math in the early grades "as if there is one kind of brain" -- though neuroimaging suggests that most girls develop language skills faster and most boys develop spatial and visual abilities faster. This helps explain why boys traditionally have been seen as "better at math," and why some girls have steered away from it.
Different teaching approaches early in a child's life can make up for these gender differences, Deak said, but most teachers don't try.
Have any of you who are math teachers had any success with trying different approaches to teaching math based on gender?
It'd be interesting, too, to do a study with Gizmos to see if they benefit one gender more than another in learning new math skills.
December 02, 2003
The San Francisco Chronicle has a thought provoking piece suggesting that technology is "dumbing down" the classroom particularly in the primary grades. And there's an interesting and heated discussion of the article over at Slashdot.
This graf from the Chronicle article is apropos:
… Ironically, one of New Tech's biggest weak spots is in math skills, perhaps the primary prerequisite for advanced high- tech jobs.
At ExploreLearning, of course, we are trying our best to help eliminate those "weak spots" in the technology based math curriculum teachers have available.
November 18, 2003
Teaching With Laptops
The New Curriculum website is currently devoted to the theme of "Teaching With Laptops." They are also running a poll asking the question, "Should schools be putting laptops (one per student) into classrooms?"
November 11, 2003
What Can Education Learn from the Video Game Industry?
There's a thought provoking discussion over at IAETE's Soapbox on the topic "What Can Education Learn from the Video Game Industry?"
Marc Prensky, author of Digital Game-Based Learning, opines,
In my opinion, the only thing that really works here is a combination of pure creativity and high passion. Both must come from two directions--creativity and passion about the subject matter, and creativity and passion about the medium.
I think "true" subject matter experts (i.e., expert practitioners) who want to create a game about their subject need to think along the following lines: "How could what I do so well be thought of as a game that only I, or someone with my experience and know-how, could win? And how could I structure this game so that by playing it a lot one could eventually become as good as me?" Once that has been worked out conceptually, it needs to be meshed with the many gameplay techniques available--what works, what is doable, hard, easy, and what new things have to be invented.
This notion of trying to grab a page from the game world, that is, of trying to develop Gizmos that "are multiplayer, creative, collaborative, challenging, and competitive" is very much on our minds here at ExploreLearning. As part of our "design in public" ethos, you may see some of our thinking along these lines in early prototype form at some point in the future.
November 05, 2003
Teachers With Blogs
From the Blog of a Math Teacher:
Hey, I did learn something in my math teaching class after all. And that is that a poorly-thought out manipulative is worse than no manipulative at all.
Ain't that the truth?
It's really fantastic to see more and more teachers starting their own weblogs and publishing their thoughts to the blogosphere.
Here's one such teacher's blog I'm growing particularly fond of: Ms. Frizzle.
Check it out.
November 03, 2003
One Mouse Click
On Friday afternoon (Oct. 31, 2003) I was invited to click a mouse. Most of the time I would never think much about such a tiny thing as one mouse click, but with just one click, I shut down the ExploreScience web site.
And with that one mouse click, as the creator of the original ExploreScience website, I closed a major chapter of my life while opening another.
The History of ExploreScience
I sat down during Christmas break and learned enough Lingo (the programming language associated with Macromedia Director) to create my very first Gizmo. ExploreScience was born on December 27, 1995. It sat on my desk at the NSCL on a Mac IIsi with a 20 meg hard drive, 4 meg of RAM, and a URL of cycrip.nscl.msu.edu (does anyone remember my site back then?). My one Gizmo may have been the very first Shockwave-based simulation on the entire web! It only took three days for my first site visitor to show up in the log file.
The site rapidly grew during the years. It won awards. Thousands of people would visit the site every day. After millions of visitors and eight years, I clicked the mouse. I may have been the very last visitor to ExploreScience. It was a bit sad. Trying to go to the site now redirects you to the brand new ExploreLearning site which offers one Gizmo each day, or subscription services which have a wealth of features and hundreds of Gizmos.
Why did I click the mouse?
Many years ago the web was a different place. Scientists were using it to transfer information quickly. Since then maintaining a web site has become far more complex than just running one program (does anyone remember starting a full web site with one mouse click in MacHTTP?). Hosting costs continue to increase. Free time is limited. There are many small reasons why I clicked, but the biggest reason is because I care about quality in education.
It takes more than just one person to create a site that is developed with educational standards in mind, quality assurance of Gizmos gets done, and instructions for middle school, high school, and college students are complete and matched to standards. Peer review of the full functionality of Gizmos is key to effective use in the classroom. Research on that effectiveness is important. One person can not do all of this for hundreds and hundreds of Gizmos. One person can't do that many things in their spare time.
ExploreLearning has put together an amazing team since I first joined four years and three months ago.
In 1995 I was a graduate student learning all about the ins and outs of radioactive nuclear beams at the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory (NSCL). I had started taking a few courses offered in the Education Department and my interest in educational technology was rapidly growing. I began to explore some of the multimedia tools available at the time, and had been web-browsing since 1993.
When the Shockwave Plug-in was released late in 1995, multimedia and the web merged, and I saw a tremendous potential for use in education.
With this team we can create great Gizmos, and provide a beautiful web site. We all care about education, and want to create a great product. If we could put it out on the web for free we would, but we can't. ExploreLearning is a full time job and we work long hours to create some amazing stuff. I clicked on the mouse and ExploreScience is no longer on the web, but ExploreLearning is now charging ahead at a rapid pace that has just begun.
Some amazing things are planned in the future. My very first Gizmo was very simple compared to what our team is currently creating, and I am just glad to be a part of the new ExploreLearning site.
Every time I create a Gizmo it is hard to say what will happen in the future. I still feel that excitement when I take part in the creation of a great Gizmo. I love seeing students and teachers learn something from the Gizmo. ExploreScience will still be in my mind years from now, but I have a feeling far more people will think of ExploreLearning when they think of education on the web. I can't wait to see ExploreLearning eight years from now. I'm just one part of a team that feels the same way!
Did you ever think one mouse click was that important?
October 31, 2003
The Student-School Disconnect
In a recent column at Tech Central Station, Joanne Jacobs suggests there is definite "digital disconnect" between many students and their teachers:
[For many students] using the Internet is like using a TV or a microwave or a telephone. It's normal.
But when they're in school, it's a problem. They can't get to net-linked computers locked in the lab. Their searches are blocked by intrusive anti-porn filters. Some teachers don't give Internet-based assignments; others don't know how to design an engaging, useful assignment using the Internet.
To support her argument she draws on information emerging from recent youth forums sponsored by the U.S. Education Department.
Do you, as a teacher or student, draw similar conclusions from your own computer/web experience at school?
October 28, 2003
Sorry for the lack of postings here on the EL weblog. I'm actually hard at work on redoing our entire EL "news" structure and hope to launch that in the next day or so. Meanwhile, I don't want to spend too much effort posting news until that work is complete. Stay tuned …
In other news, those of you in K-12 schools using Windows/Intel machines will be interested in this: Acer Offers Free Wireless for K-12 Education
From the press release:
Acer America Corporation, one of the leading worldwide suppliers of PC solutions, today announced "Wi-Fi 101," an initiative of the San Jose-based company that will provide free wireless access points and installation to select K-12 schools nationwide.
October 21, 2003
On Teachers and Type
Yesterday Dave Shuster (EL's founder) and I went to Baltimore County to do hands on user training with our new site and Gizmos in general. As a former teacher myself, I tell you it's always invigorating to reconnect with those of you in the profession and hear your enthusiasm and success stories. (And I'd be lying if I said I don't really miss being in the classroom from time to time. There is a certain magic to the relationship between teacher and student that you just don't find elsewhere.)
Unlike traditional typefaces, which reuse the same forms for multiple letters -- such as b and d, or p and q -- the Read Regular typeface makes each letter significantly unique so that dyslexics can more easily distinguish one character from another. Additionally, Read Regular features simplified forms and extended openings in letters like c and e.
That's great news. And if you have any interest at all in typography and its history, I highly recommend Robert Bringhurst's The Elements of Typographic Style. After reading it, you'll never look at a printed page (or words on a screen) the same way again.