April 16, 2014
Educator of the Month: Elise Gordon
Elise Gordon is the Math Resource Teacher at a Title I school in Palm Beach County School District in Florida. She has her Master’s degree in Elementary Education from Palm Beach Atlantic University and has been teaching for the past ten years. Prior to teaching, she was a physical therapist for 20 years, and has her BS from the University of Connecticut in Physical Therapy.
Elise Gordon runs her school’s math lab where students in grades 2-5 visit once a week for an extra hour of math focusing on building, drawing and writing about mathematics. Many of her lessons incorporate Gizmos. Elise feels that the rich visual support and varied levels of activities provide students with “just the right challenge.”
Lantana Elementary uses Gizmos as part of a Title I initiative to help support the needs of economically disadvantaged students. Elise shares, “Many of our students have parents or guardians who work two jobs, and they have limited involvement with the school. Also, students often don’t have access to computers outside of school.” Her role helps provide these students with the extra support they need to help close the achievement gap.
In the computer lab, Elise incorporates Gizmos in her lessons in various ways. To model a process or concept, she will often use Gizmos in whole class instruction. For example, she uses the Quilting Bee Symmetry Gizmo to demonstrate finding lines of symmetry and whether a shape has rotational or line symmetry. “Gizmos use technology as a bridge between pictorial and abstract mathematics allowing the children to manipulate the math.”
She also uses Gizmos during partner work and for enrichment of students who need a further challenge in a specific topic or extra practice. She shares, “I have created lessons around the Finding Patterns Gizmo where the students build, draw, and write to continue the pattern started in the Gizmo. Gizmos allows the students to ‘experiment’ with cause and effect in mathematics and gives them non-punitive feedback. The Gizmos quizzes are of high quality, too.”
A big thanks to Elise for all she does to support student success with Gizmos!
If you would like to share your experience with Gizmos to be profiled in upcoming blog posts and/or newsletters, fill out our teacher spotlight questionnaire.
April 11, 2014
Educator Spotlight: Jennifer DeMik
Jennifer DeMik teaches 7th and 8th grade math at Liberty Middle School in Tampa, FL. She is the math subject leader and is the school’s SAC Chair. She received her BA from Eckerd College and her MA in Sociology from the University of South Florida.
With over seven years of teaching experience in Hillsborough County Schools, Jen has been through numerous annual evaluations. This year’s annual review was scheduled during her “most difficult” class, but she wasn’t worried because her lesson plan had a secret weapon… Gizmos! Her whole group Gizmo lesson scored “Exemplary” in all domains of evaluation, which included demonstrating knowledge of content and pedagogy, designing coherent instruction, organizing physical space, showing professionalism and using assessment in instruction.
Jen used the Percent of Change Gizmo during her lesson, which allows students to apply markups and discounts using interactive percent rulers. “The full lesson spanned over a 3-day period. The Gizmo reinforced concepts such as percent of change, sales tax, tip, discount and markup as one great big global concept.” As a result, students were able to improve number sense for percents with this dynamic, visual tool.
The lesson description below was taken from her peer-evaluation: “She effectively planned and utilized the Gizmo to further student learning as well as demonstrated a wide range of effective pedagogical approaches during the lesson. Students were strategically paired and then adjusted as needed for the lesson. Students were provided opportunities to peer and self-assess when comparing responses, checking with the calculator and viewing the Gizmo.”
If you are considering using Gizmos with your students, Jen has one thing to say, “If people don't believe this stuff works, they clearly haven't used it enough or even tried it!”
Try Gizmos today to see how you can take your students’ learning to the next level!
February 27, 2014
Educator Spotlight: Marilyn MacDonald
A 27-year teaching veteran, Marilyn MacDonald is currently a third grade teacher at Donald Elementary School. Mrs. MacDonald had a career in Marketing and started a family before settling into her career in teaching.
Marilyn MacDonald has seen many changes during the time she has been a teacher, but nothing as dramatic as the changes that have come with technology. She explains, “With technology, there has been such a shift in the way teachers teach. Education is much more collaborative now between teachers and students. Of all the new technologies, Gizmos are one of my favorites for math and science. They provide a way to incorporate technology in my lessons and allow for students to apply knowledge in new ways. Gizmos are one of the most effective tools I use to support and enhance instruction.”
At the beginning of the year, she helps students set up their accounts. She has each student fill out an index card that she keeps on a ring. Each time students need to log in, she passes out the cards and collects them at the end of the class. By the end of the year, most students have memorized their logins.
The first Gizmos she used this year were Cannon Ball Clowns and Rounding Whole Numbers because they are a great fit with the curriculum and are really great examples to introduce students to Gizmos. She continues, “Cannon Ball Clowns is fun because they are able to launch a clown out of a cannon. They estimate where their clown is going to land. It’s great because they can make predictions and then adjust their errors—it’s just a fun way to learn.”
At the beginning of the lesson, she has students complete the Prior Knowledge Questions on the Student Exploration Sheet. She says, “This is a great way to get students thinking about the topic and activate prior knowledge.” She then models using the Gizmo on the interactive whiteboard, and then students use the Gizmo on their own. While it’s an inquiry-based lesson, “it’s important that students can follow directions,” she shares, and she really likes how the Student Exploration Sheet activities reinforce these skills.
She also likes how Gizmos can be used in various ways, including whole-group, individual exploration, and even collaborative pairs. She explains, “I often pair students up, and they take turns completing the assignment and manipulating the Gizmo. From the Lesson Materials to the teacher demos, it’s very well thought out.” The demo videos available are available on all elementary Gizmos on the bottom right corner. “They are helpful to teachers and the kids LOVE a walk-through! The way the lessons are structured is just fabulous.”
The most convincing feedback for Mrs. MacDonald is from the students. When she tells students they are using Gizmos today and they exclaim, “Alright!”, she knows she is making the right choice to encourage learning with her students. She continues, “The students love using Gizmos. They can manipulate variables, make predictions, and check their predictions—it is engaging and fun as they learn. They are all smiles when they get to use them.”
Mrs. MacDonald encourages all of her fellow teachers to use Gizmos. “If teachers just take the opportunity to try them, they would love them.”
February 14, 2014
Educator of the Month: Thais Garcia
Thais Garcia has been a teacher for over 25 years and was the 2009 Region I Teacher of the Year. She currently serves as the Science Department Chair at a Title I middle school in Hialeah, Florida.
Mrs. Garcia is an enthusiastic and positive teacher who helps to motivate students and get them excited about learning. She has a wide range of students, from gifted to special education, but she finds a way to reach them all with Gizmos.
She explains: “Just recently, I used the Solubility and Temperature Gizmo to teach inquiry. I guided students through the whole scientific process; including forming a question, devising a hypothesis, designing an experiment to test that hypothesis, identifying variables, conducting the virtual lab and collecting data, analyzing that data, and deciding if the data/evidence supported the hypothesis. Finally we completed a Claim, Evidence, and Reasoning template. I was able to complete this activity with both my eighth grade gifted students, and also with my co-teach class which is composed of Special Education students, English Language Learners and low level readers.
"To reach all students, we must present the same material, but in different ways. Whether I do them with the whole class or the students do them individually, Gizmos work! Sometimes we complete the Gizmo as a whole class activity with each student taking a turn joining up to the interactive whiteboard. This method gives me an opportunity to detect misconceptions and address them immediately. Other times, I have student groups rotate through stations, which feature several activities based on the same topic.”
She concludes, “Gizmos are an excellent way to engage students and infuse technology into my lessons. I see all my students participating when we do Gizmos. And, since we have been consistently using Gizmos, our district interim scores have risen!”
February 06, 2014
Educator Spotlight: 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 Gizmost 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 is 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!”
January 29, 2014
Educator Spotlight: John S. Wilson III
Mr. John Wilson III retired from the U.S. Army Air Defense as a Lieutenant Colonel. He is now a 6th grade science teacher and the Science Department Head at Dulles Middle School in Sugarland, TX.
Mr. Wilson, also known as “Colonel”, begins his year by reinforcing a simple statement, “You CAN learn—You WILL learn.” Gizmos help make this possible in his classroom. With Gizmos, he is able to support learning in a way that is engaging and student-centered. For each Gizmo activity, students are assigned specific sections of the Student Exploration Sheets. He differentiates assignments based on student interest and specific learning needs. In addition, “Students can view higher-level or lower-level Gizmos to review a previously learned concept or extend their learning of a specific science concepts” by browsing the Gizmos library right on ExploreLearning.com. Gizmos are great for remediation and inquiry learning, and students really seem to enjoy the hands-on interactivity they provide.
One specific Gizmo Mr. Wilson finds most helpful when studying force, motion, and energy is the Distance-Time Graphs Gizmos. He explains, “Graphing motion can often be confusing. With the Distance-Time Graph Gizmo, students can observe examples of motion and how changes in motion are reflected within a graph.” Students create a graph of a runner's position versus time and watch the runner complete a 40-yard dash based on the graph they made. Students can even add a second runner (with a second graph) and connect real-world meaning to the intersection of two graphs.
As the Science Department Head, Mr. Wilson encourages other teachers to use Gizmos to support student learning based on his own students’ successes. He is excited about integrating Gizmos in each of the learning units this year. HOOAH!
January 24, 2014
Educator Spotlight: Tracy Ferguson
Tracy Ferguson graduated from Sam Houston State University in 2001. She is a science and writing teacher at Horne Elementary, a Title I school in Houston, TX. She is starting her 12th year in education and serves a diverse population of students including Special Education and ELL students.
Tracy was first introduced to Gizmos three years ago when a colleague showed her the advantages of using them in the classroom. Since then, she has “been hooked.” She feels that each year she has progressively gotten better at integrating Gizmos. Gizmos are now an integral part of her classroom instructional model. Tracy teaches using stations, and Gizmos are the interactive lesson that students use at the technology station. Students use Gizmos on a daily basis at the technology station or on their laptops.
Tracy’s favorite Gizmos are the astronomy Gizmos, “because it is difficult to teach astronomy in a hands-on way. The Gizmos provide great simulations of outer-space.” The Solar System Gizmo is particularly helpful because it helps students explore our solar system and learn the characteristics of each planet. Students can compare the sizes of planets and their distances from the Sun. They also can observe the speed of planetary orbits and measure how long each planet takes to go around the Sun. It’s a very comprehensive Gizmo that brings together many aspects of the topics and easily accommodates differentiation.
Even Tracy’s students are excited about using Gizmos. She explains, “My students enjoy competing using the Growing Plants Gizmo to grow the tallest plant. I have also heard my students refer to the Gizmos on tests, checkpoints, and in class discussions.”
January 15, 2014
Educator Spotlight: Wendy Swanson
Mrs. Wendy Swanson is a learning team facilitator and science & technology resource teacher at Diamond View Elementary School in Greenacres, FL.
Mrs. Swanson was first introduced to Gizmos at a district sponsored Science Symposium three years ago. When she watched a demonstration of the Growing Plants Gizmo, she was hooked! She immediately began to incorporate Gizmos in her professional development workshops and introduce them to other teachers.
While the “early adopters” took Gizmos and ran, there were still some teachers that weren’t using them to their full potential. That’s when Mrs. Swanson invited ExploreLearning's Desirée Sujoy to the Professional Learning Community meetings she leads at her school. Mrs. Swanson shared, “I had no idea how much support ExploreLearning provided. It was really cool! As the teachers were looking at data and coming up with strategies to improve instruction, Desirée matched Gizmos to each grade’s common assessments.”
Teachers also have access to ExploreLearning’s comprehensive textbook and state standards correlations right on the explorelearning.com website. This helped teachers incorporate Gizmos in a relevant and meaningful way. Teachers were motivated and “it was exciting seeing teachers use Gizmos in their class the very next day!”
In addition to being a learning team facilitator, Mrs. Swanson runs the science lab at her school. Students in grades 3-5 visit her lab for an hour of collaborative hands-on fun with science and technology. Gizmos are an integral part of the instruction and have been invaluable in helping differentiate learning for the schools’ diverse student population. After adopting a project-based learning model that includes Gizmos, the school saw a 12% increase in Science FCAT scores in the first year.
Gizmos iPad App is a Hit!
Here’s what some educators had to say,
“Woo-hoo! I have been waiting for this app to be available. Gizmos are such a valuable learning tool. Thanks!” – Ontario Elementary Teacher
“What?? Really? That is amazing! I am downloading it now. THANK YOU!” – NY Science Teacher
“Rejoice, those of you who have been asking for Gizmos on the iPad. They are finally here.” – Blog, Windsor-Essex Catholic DSB, Ontario
January 08, 2014
Educator Spotlight: Angela Escobar
Angela Escobar is a math teacher at Deerfield Beach Middle School in Broward County, Florida. She is a Gifted Endorsed, National Board Certified Teacher, and has her Masters in Mathematics Education. She serves a diverse set of students from International Baccalaureate to struggling learners at her Title I school.
Angela Escobar is a “think out of the box” teacher. Starting her 13th year teaching, she began the school year by telling students, “This isn’t going to be one of those classes where I lecture and you take notes. No, you are going to be moving. This is a hands-on class.” Within the first week of class, students were outside, observing the world around them, and journaling about math!
One of the reasons Mrs. Escobar appreciates Gizmos so much is that they help her to integrate math and science concepts. Working with Suzy Pinnell, the science teacher on her team, Mrs. Escobar uses Gizmos to reinforce shared concepts. For Example, during an integrated curriculum lesson, Mrs. Pinnell’s class used the H-R Diagram Gizmo to arrange and classify a group of stars based on their color, temperature, luminosity, radius, and mass. Later, students worked with Mrs. Escobar to learn how to graph the information with the Graphing Skills Gizmo. Using this Gizmo, students were able to create a variety of graphs based on the data. Graphs included bar graphs, line graphs, and scatter plots. The Graphing Skills Gizmo also allowed students to title the graph, label the axes, choose a scale, and check for accuracy.
Mrs. Escobar has seen the effects of Gizmos on learning at many levels. The interactivity and “hands on” nature of Gizmos helped her students to remember concepts months after they were taught. Students also appreciated the freedom Gizmos gave them to experiment without fear of getting the wrong answer. Also, because many of the concepts covered by Gizmos also appear on state tests, Mrs. Escobar has observed a major positive impact on student FCAT and EOC results.
Mrs. Escobar looks forward to another year of engaging students with Gizmos, and we hope she has a great year!
December 11, 2013
Educator of the Month: Tanya Phillips
Tanya Phillips is a Biology Teacher at a high school in Coral Gables, Florida. She teaches pre IB, honors, and inclusion classes. She has been with the district for eight years and held several roles including science department chair, instructional coach, and middle school science teacher.
Ms. Phillips has been using Gizmos for as long as she’s been teaching. It all started with an ExploreLearning professional development workshop she attended years ago. It was there that she met Miami-Dade’s Gizmo Project Manager Mario Junco. After hearing what Mario had to say about the program, she decided to start using Gizmos in her classroom right away. She explains, “Watching Mario model the sample lessons, I just knew that I could have done the same.” About two years later, she was recognized for being one of the top Gizmo users in the district!
According to Ms. Phillips, one of the more challenging science concepts for students to understand is periodic trends. “Even though they see the atomic number increase on the periodic table, they still struggle with the concept of the atomic number determining what type of atom we are talking about. The Element Builder Gizmo is a great way to provide a visual and hands-on approach to such an abstract concept. Kids get to see the atom of the particular element come together and then change to another atom when subatomic particles are added or removed. They usually understand the concept really well after using the Gizmo.”
Students learn with Gizmos in numerous ways in Ms. Phillips’ classroom. She usually uses them to engage students when introducing a new concept. During whole class instruction, she asks students to come to the interactive whiteboard to manipulate the Gizmo, while other students assist in providing responses. Ms. Phillips also likes how Gizmos so naturally support varying student learning needs. She explains, “I use Gizmos to differentiate instruction by having the students interact with different activities within the Student Exploration sheets based on their levels or needs. Sometimes I use the exploration as enrichment or remediation for the students that need it.” At the end of the lessons, Ms. Phillips uses the built-in assessment to gauge student understanding and participation in the activities.
December 02, 2013
Gizmos Support Science Understanding in English Language Learners
Science class can be frustrating for English Language Learners (ELL). When teachers build on concepts in the science curriculum, they use complex vocabulary and often rely on students' background knowledge. Providing rich visual support and modeling during instruction has been shown to be a highly effective strategy in supporting students' understanding of science concepts. The use of Gizmos can help students connect concepts and vocabulary to real-world experiences, providing a bridge to learning between languages.
A Texas Science Coordinator agrees. She explains:
"Using Gizmos for ELLs is one of the best ways to show a nonlinguistic representation of any science content/topics. Students enjoy the manipulation of variables and have the ability to communicate using pictures to the teachers with the simulations. Students see science content in a vivid and relevant way to help them increase their scientific literacy."
Gizmos' easily customizable lesson materials and vocabulary sheets provide students the opportunity to build on prior knowledge and communicate scientific content using multiple modes of representation (e.g. discussions, pictures, models, writing, graphs).
After attending a recent Initial Training Workshop, this is what one Memphis high school teacher had to say:
"The student body at the school I teach at consists majorly of ESL [English as a Second Language] students, and I definitely believe that Gizmos will assist my ESL students to better understand the concepts taught in science class, in which language can be a barrier for student comprehension."
Explore Gizmos today to see how they can help you transform learning for your ELL students.
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
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.
Mrs. 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!”
November 13, 2013
Educator of the Month: Larissa Jackson
Larissa 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.”
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!
November 07, 2013
Educator Spotlight: Scott Redding
Scott 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.
Scott’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!
October 31, 2013
Tracey McLaughlin: ExploreLearning Educator of the Month
Tracey McLaughlin has been teaching for 26 years. She teaches grades 7-11 including Science, English, and Drama. She teaches at St. Michael High School in the Western Quebec School Board. St. Michael’s High School is located in the rural village of Low, Quebec, which has a population of approximately 850 people.
With only 85 students at her school, one of Mrs. McLaughlin’s biggest challenges is keeping students engaged. Because of the rich visual support and hands-on learning Gizmos provide, they have been invaluable in supporting student learning. She was first introduced to Gizmos five years ago. Since then, she has been able to integrate Gizmos in all of her science classes. She really likes to use Gizmos with her interactive whiteboard during whole-class instruction because it improves student understanding. “Students’ grades have improved because they can ‘see’ the concept and better understand the material. I love using Gizmos!”
For example, after using Gizmos, Mrs. McLaughlin’s 7th grade students had a much better understanding of density. She first used the Density Experiment: Slice and Dice Gizmo to create a conceptual understanding. In this experiment, students drop a chunk of material in a beaker of water and observe whether it sinks or floats. They can cut the chunk into smaller pieces of any size, and observe what happens as they are dropped in the beaker. The mass and volume of each chunk can be measured to gain a clear understanding of density and buoyancy.
Then students extended their knowledge with the Density Gizmo. This Gizmo allows students to measure the mass and volume of a variety of objects, and then place them into a beaker of liquid to see if they float or sink. Students learn to predict whether objects will float or sink in water based on their mass and volume. They can even compare how objects float or sink in a variety of liquids, including gasoline, oil, seawater, and corn syrup.
Thank you for your dedication Mrs. McLaughlin!
October 29, 2013
Gizmos bridge the gap between science and technology
“In the 21st century, technology is becoming more of a priority in the lives of our youth. Gizmos are a great tool to implement technology with our students. Gizmos have impacted the success of my students by allowing them to see the concepts come together in a visual manner. After the students are able to ‘see’ the concepts, it makes answering the higher-order questions on the Exploration Guide easier to do. I love the design of the Exploration Guide. It chunks and scaffolds the information for the students, making it easier for all levels of students to enjoy and comprehend scientific concepts. Gizmos are allowing teachers to bridge the gap between technology and science for our students!
--High School Science Department Chair, Miami-Dade Public Schools, Florida
October 24, 2013
“Gizmos are great for science…”
“Gizmos are great for science because they provide models for student use that could never be simulated in the classroom science lab.”
-- High School Science Teacher, Mobile County School District, Alabama
October 17, 2013
Niels Walkau: ExploreLearning Educator of the Month
Niels Walkau is a teacher at Coberg West High School in Ontario. He has been using Gizmos for 4 years and has been teaching for 18 years. He teaches 10th and 11th grade academic-level Biology and Chemistry.
Mr. Walkau facilitates students’ academic growth by focusing on learning goals. One of the most important resources he uses to achieve this is Gizmos. He tells students, “There are a variety of resources to help you meet each goal, but one thing’s for sure, if you use the assigned Gizmos, you will learn.” Since adding Gizmos to the curriculum, his students have responded well. “The kids just run with it. They love the freedom and independence Gizmos provide. It allows them to speed experiments up, change variables, and helps them learn at their own pace. Also, it’s interactive and digital, so it maintains students’ enthusiasm and engagement.”
Gizmos have not only been helpful to Mr. Walkau’s teaching practice, but they have also added new content to his curriculum. He explains, “I didn’t teach the concept of star spectra before Gizmos, but after seeing it in the Star Spectra Gizmo, something just clicked. I realized that students need to know where matter comes from before they can start talking about its properties and behaviors. I realized Spectroscopy would be the cornerstone for the unit. Spectroscopy is one of the most important tools for element identification, and it made perfect sense to use the Star Spectra Gizmo as an intro to the topic. After using the Gizmo, the kids did a hands-on lab and burned elements. They used real spectroscopes to observe elemental spectra, just like the ones shown in the Gizmo. With Gizmos, kids that had no background knowledge could test and play, and then do it for real. When it was all tied together, students began to understand where the elements come from—students’ eyes were opened! It even led to a class discussion about the Big Bang theory.”
Gizmos also rekindled Mr. Walkau’s love of astronomy. After creating the unit with the Star Spectra Gizmo, he joined an astronomy group and has even begun collecting a few telescopes of his own. Happy star gazing, Mr. Walkau!
October 16, 2013
Mobile teacher appreciates the flexibility of Gizmos to support instruction
“Gizmos add a new depth to learning for the students. It lets the students interact with the material being presented by the teacher. It allows the flexibility for the teacher to interact with Gizmos in a whole class setting via interactive tools or allows the students to interact with the program individually, paired, or cooperatively in small group settings. The versatility of the program is also ideal for today’s educational trend in guided inquiry.”
-- High School Science Teacher, Mobile County School District, Alabama
October 15, 2013
Gizmos are great on the SMART Board
“I adore Gizmo, they are a great way to involve the class in neat science experiments that they may otherwise not get the chance to do. I use Gizmo all the time to teach science, my students love coming to the SMART Board and participating in the experiments, when we are doing the gizmo as a group. They love seeing what will happen in the experiment and manipulating objects on the screen. Furthermore, it is a great way to practice the scientific method because of the way the student labs are written up. I will definitely continue to use this excellent learning tool and am looking forward to any new Gizmos that may be on their way!”
-- Science Teacher, Quebec, Canada
October 09, 2013
How Miami-Dade students learn about tides
"I use Gizmos throughout my lessons to introduce and reinforce concepts. One of my personal favorites is the Tides Gizmo that explains the neap/spring tides. Gizmos help students develop an understanding of concepts that are not easily observed in our classroom."
-- Science Teacher, Miami-Dade Public Schools, FL
October 04, 2013
Gizmos help students on Biology finals
"Last year my biology students told me that Gizmos helped them a great deal on the end-of-course exams. This year I continue to implement Gizmos as classwork and homework for the same reason."
-- Biology Teacher, Palm Beach Schools, FL
September 30, 2013
Biology students love Gizmos
"My experiences using Gizmos have surpassed any other learning methods I use. Gizmos provide environments and conditions that are impossible to provide for our students in the actual world. Gizmos are a great resource. We love them."
-- Biology Teacher, Shelby County Schools, Tennessee
September 24, 2013
"The possibilities are limitless" with Gizmos
Dr. McDowell is the Secondary Science Coordinator for Frisco ISD in Texas. After trying out various simulation products, his district chose ExploreLearning Gizmos because it's easy to support and has great content, especially in Biology and Chemistry.
He explains, “It was easy to decide to fully adopt the Gizmos for all our core content areas. We have always preferred Gizmos because they allow students to ‘do’ science. They allow students to change variables and see what happens. Many of the other products are mostly animations or interactive tasks that all have a common end. With Gizmos, it seems the possibilities are limitless. Each student gets the experience they want/need in the learning process.”
In addition, “administration of the accounts is much easier. With other products, I had to collect all the student and teacher names to supply for upload. With Gizmos, students can enroll themselves, so I don’t have to maintain any type of mass roster for the district.”
Thank you Frisco ISD for choosing Gizmos to support student learning!
September 18, 2013
Gizmos meet a variety of learning styles
”Gizmos have a positive impact on our students. Many of our students are below-level readers and Gizmos does a great job of combining the visual and kinesthetic piece together with content-rich reading and analysis tasks."
-- Secondary Science Teacher, Palm Beach Schools, FL
September 16, 2013
Gizmos bring science to life
“When I was introduced to Gizmos I thought, ‘WOW, this will REALLY enhance my instruction.’ Now, when I teach protein synthesis using the RNA and Protein Synthesis Gizmo, students can simulate the process more closely to what happens in their body. The old way of cutting and pasting the nucleotides to a piece of paper was too abstract for some. Students can now see the concept in 'real world models'."
-- Teacher, Richmond Public Schools, VA
September 13, 2013
Flower Mound, TX Students Explore Pollination with Gizmos
Flower Mound High School students in Lewisville ISD are using the Pollination: Flower to Fruit Gizmo to dissect flowers in Pre-AP Biology. Using this Gizmo, students can label a flower anatomy diagram, understand the function of each structure, compare the processes of self-pollination and cross-pollination, and explore how fertilization takes place in a flowering plant. Their teacher comments,
"I love Gizmos! The students can work independently and then apply what they learned in lab or use it in place of lab due to time constrictions. Thanks for such a great product."
Help your students’ learning blossom with Gizmos!
September 09, 2013
Gizmos are great for learning abstract concepts
“I love Gizmos to teach topics that are either too miniscule to see with the naked eye or too dangerous or to do in real life. For example, in my anatomy class we use the Cell Division Gizmo. We can't observe living cell division in the equipment that we have at school. I have observed that students have a greater ability to grasp an abstract concept if it can be visualized.”
--Anatomy Teacher, Lewisville, TX
September 05, 2013
Amazing student success with Gizmos
“It is amazing how far we’ve come in math! Gizmos are a wonderful support for all students K-6!"
-- Education Consultant, Lester B. Pearson School Board, Quebec
September 02, 2013
Gizmos engages students and gets them excited about science
“Gizmos have been great to use in the classroom. It is something that kids get excited about and want to use. Students would come to school in the mornings and tell me about what they did at home using Gizmos. It is engaging and really teaches and reinforces the topic in a way the students can understand.
The Solar System Gizmo helped my students out a lot. These are concepts that cannot be seen very well concretely. With Gizmos they were able to see and manipulate what things look like. Students were able to connect topics on quizzes, warm ups, reviews, and tests back to what they saw on the Gizmos. It also helped some of my ESL's with vocabulary by allowing them to see and use the language as they worked through the Gizmos.”
-- Elementary teacher, Cypress-Fairbanks ISD, TX
August 29, 2013
Teacher praise for Gizmos training model
“I was so pleased how the trainings went yesterday. Both of your trainers were tremendous. Teachers came away with great ideas on what Gizmos can do for instruction using whole class as well as small group. The teachers truly appreciated [the presenter’s] knowledge, expertise and delivery. She was truly engaging and informative. I look forward to having additional trainings.
-- STEM Teacher, Volusia County Schools, FL
“Yesterday's Gizmos workshop was truly outstanding. Rarely do I return to school the next day and try to implement immediately, but today I did. As often as I saw Gizmos over the years, it wasn't until yesterday that I left with enough confidence to try and set it up in my classes. Gizmos allow us to introduce something new and interactive to our students. Thank you for providing such a great in-service.”
-- Mathematics Teacher, Palm Beach Schools, FL
August 26, 2013
Gizmos Enable Exploration
"I feel that Gizmos help my science students learn in a fun way that they enjoy. Gizmos reinforce their learning and allow them to explore certain science experiments in ways that we cannot in the general classroom. I believe that it is a great tool for science teachers."
-- 5th Grade Teacher, Lewisville School District, TX
August 19, 2013
Encourage discussions in science with Gizmos
“Gizmos for science have allowed my students to not only conduct investigations that would be challenging to conduct in the classroom, but they allow my students to extend their ideas in many ways that other activities or labs do not really offer. It generates science discussions, and provides opportunities for new ideas.”
-- Elementary School Teacher, Lewisville ISD, TX
August 16, 2013
Trenton Teachers Use Gizmos during Summer Program
A Trenton, NJ Middle School piloted Gizmos this summer in math and science classes during their extended school year. After the pilot, teachers were asked to evaluate Gizmos for continued use in the classroom. The data overwhelmingly supported going forward with Gizmos! When asked if they would recommend Gizmos to other teachers in their district, 100% said, "YES". Here are some other great things the teachers had to say,
“Students loved being able to work hands on.”
“Gizmos allowed me to teach certain subjects in a hands-on way, which helped me to differentiate instruction.”
“Gizmos is a great learning tool for students.”
“When students used the Gizmos they had a better understanding the topic.”
"Students were more engaged and eager to learn, resulting in a better academic performance."
“Thank you for helping me to learn different ways of teaching and assessing my students.”
We're pleased Trenton teachers and students had such a great summer experience with Gizmos.
August 08, 2013
Student engagement improves with Gizmos
“Gizmos have become an integral part of my teaching repertoire allowing me to further differentiate my instruction with the intended goal being increased student achievement in science. Many of my students, especially those who we might consider 'at-risk' have benefited from this educational technology by showing higher levels of student engagement and better learning of science concepts, which otherwise would probably not happen had I used 'traditional' instructional strategies.”
-- High School Teacher, Peel DSB, Ontario
August 01, 2013
Professor Uses Gizmos to Teach Best Practices
Wendy Schroeder, a College of Education professor at California State University at Northridge uses Gizmos to demonstrate how to build conceptual understanding in math and science. She feels it’s an excellent way to model technology integration for tomorrow’s teachers.
“I feel exposure to Gizmos has had a definite impact on my pre-service teachers, and many of them have gone on to use Gizmos in their own classrooms.”
In addition, Wendy sees the value of Gizmos to prepare students for Common Core testing. After participating in a SBAC pilot test, Wendy shared,
“I think that the technology aspect of Gizmos is even more relevant to math K-12 instruction than ever. As pre-service teachers become more aware of the various components of the new Common Core standards they often draw comparison to what they saw in Gizmos”
Explore how Gizmos can prepare your students for technology-enabled assessments, take a free trial today!
July 31, 2013
Students have fun and learn with Gizmos
“My students love Gizmos because they are fun! When they are working on Gizmos they are doing two of their favorite activities, working on the computer and collaborating with other students. I love Gizmos because, while my students are having fun, they are also learning.
-- High School Science Teacher, Richmond Public Schools, VA
June 20, 2013
Gizmos Support the Common Core
A deputy superintendent in Pulaski County Special School District in Arkansas wrote to tell us that Gizmos support the Common Core:
"Gizmos are a quick and easy way for teachers to incorporate interactive technology into their math and science lessons to support the Common Core, I love Gizmos!"
If you would like to try Gizmos in your classroom, take a free trial.
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!
February 21, 2012
Gizmos: Best preparation for the Common Core State Standards
The District Mathematics Chair from El Dorado Public Schools in Arkansas wrote to us about his perspective on preparing for the Common Core State Standards in Mathematics.
He noted, "For the past several years we have used ExploreLearning’s Gizmos in our math and science classes. Based on a preliminary release of the assessment piece for Common Core State Standards, we feel this platform may be the best preparation for our students to be successful on the forthcoming online assessments."
He continues: "Not only do the Gizmos work well with our SMART Board presentation system, the biggest impact for students comes when teachers have them conduct explorations at individual computer work stations. A key addition to their product is the quarterly usage report. Using data generated by teacher and student usage, we have been able to spend our funds more wisely as well as identify training needs for our teachers. Overall, we have been extremely satisfied with the quality and value of this product."
We are thrilled to get this kind of support, as we have been working very diligently to ensure Gizmos not only correlate to the Common Core, but actively help educators prepare for its implementation. The emphasis on conceptual understanding combined with their interactive, online nature, make Gizmos a superb preparation for the rigorous Common Core standards and for the associated PARCC and SBAC assessments.
December 01, 2011
Gizmos contributed to a jump in standardized scores
The Atlanta Journal and Constitution recently published an article about the importance of science education in preparing children to enter the 21st-century workforce.
The article emphasizes how students are at risk of dropping out of school if they lack confidence in their ability to handle academic challenges. It then goes on to talk about how Gizmos, with their emphasis on deep conceptual understanding, help students succeed:
Kelly Stewart, a former science teacher at Ridgeview Charter Middle School, saw her eighth-grade students' science CRCT scores jump 8 to 13 percent in two years after she received a grant from SSEF to put Gizmos in her classroom.
“Gizmos gave my students online labs and simulations that we couldn’t have done in middle school,” said Stewart, now school data analyst for Fulton County Schools. The program is visual, interactive and allows her students to grasp concepts and make connections they wouldn’t otherwise.
To learn more about the effectiveness of Gizmos in improving student achievement, read about the research behind Gizmos.
October 04, 2011
Great Gizmos training experiences
We get a lot of great feedback about our top-notch Professional Development staff. As an example, recently we got a note from an inclusion teacher in Massachusetts' Falmouth Public Schools who said this after attending a training with PD Regional Manager Betty Korte:
"Betty was just terrific and adeptly read the 'pulse' of our staff as tech-savvy and tailored an afternoon which was just perfect for my staff. She was totally knowledgeable about all aspects of the program, kept the training moving at a good pace for the audience, she was wonderfully pleasant and kept to the agenda in a timely manner."
Betty is just one of many superb trainers ready to help you improve teaching and learning in your classrooms. Our PD team brings a wide variety of training offerings to schools, from Initial Gizmo Training which helps teachers start off right with Gizmos, to targeted offerings helping teachers utilize best practices in math and science to customized support programs to sustain broad use of Gizmos over time.
September 19, 2011
Gizmos provide a rich experience for students
We recently heard from Paul Therrien, Vice Principal at I.V. Macklin Public School in Alberta, and we wanted to share what he had to say about Gizmos in his school:
“Our school has been using Gizmos and our teachers and students love them! Gizmos allow our students and teachers access to science and math demonstrations and labs within seconds. Students are able to easily manipulate variables and conduct experiments that they would not be able to do in class. They also allow students to do experiments outside of the regular classroom and get caught up if they are away from school.
“The Gizmos are easy to use and provide a rich experience for students learning science and math. Gizmos also provide teachers with the ability to differentiate for students with other needs.
“The Circuits Gizmo gives students the flexibly to create electrical circuits virtually and provides students with instant feedback on whether they were successful or not, without having to worry about equipment malfunction.”
Thanks, Paul, and keep up the good work!
July 20, 2011
Using Gizmos to teach teachers
Gizmos are popular with Education professors as a means to demonstrate inquiry-based learning. We often hear that they are also used to help pre-service teachers to improve their own understanding of math and science concepts. (You're never too old to learn from a Gizmo!)
One of these university-level instructors, Sue Glascoe, has recently subscribed to Gizmos and written a review of Gizmos in her Teaching Math with Technology blog. She concludes:
"I will have my pre-service students evaluating and choosing their favorite Gizmos for different areas of Elementary mathematics this Fall semester. I can’t wait to see their reactions to these amazing math and science simulations!"
We're looking forward to hearing more from Sue and anyone using Gizmos in the post-secondary environment.
June 30, 2011
A New York elementary school's plan for summer enrichment: Reflex!
Teachers, schools, and even entire districts are starting to adopt Reflex to help their students excel in mathematics.
At the recent ISTE conference, an educator from Richard P Conner Elementary School stopped by to show us their school's Reflex website for parents. The school sent login info home with report cards, giving students the chance to benefit from Reflex throughout the summer.
After a whole summer with Reflex, these kids are going to be lightning fast in math facts!
January 13, 2011
Gizmos promote active learning
One of the most rewarding parts about being an educator is the moment when your teaching helps unlock new concepts in students' minds. What can be even more rewarding is when students then challenge themselves to learn even more. As teacher Amy Barrieau has discovered, Gizmos encourage students to take their understanding to this next level:
"I've had much success with Gizmos thus far and some great feedback from students and parents alike...Gizmos encourage cognitive ﬂexibilty in the way [they] require students to question, explore, test and discover in multiple ways. The simulations are accurately based on real life tests and students challenge themselves to ﬁnd new combinations of variables to accomplish a goal."
New Brunswick School District 16, Canada
While other products are "sit and receive", passive tools, Gizmos promote active learning. Students can experience phenomena virtually and connect classroom learning with the real world.
January 05, 2011
Gizmos have the "pin drop" effect!
Let's admit it. Kids today know far more about technology than we ever did at their age. The infusion of technology into virtually every aspect of our lives is something they fully appreciate and understand. So, it only makes sense to induct technology into classrooms and transform the way kids learn. What may seem like a daunting learning task can easily be accomplished with Gizmos! Science teacher Cami Field knows just what a wonderful effect Gizmos has in her classroom:
"My students love doing Gizmos. Any activity that uses technology immediately grabs their attention. They are so involved in the activity that you could hear a pin drop!"
Earth Science Teacher
Portsmouth Public School District, VA
Check out the Research Behind Gizmos and discover some of the reasons why Gizmos are such powerful tools for improving student learning!
December 15, 2010
Add Gizmos to your holiday wish list!
When shopping for the hottest items this season, don't forget to accessorize your classroom too! Gizmos provide powerful interactive visualizations of concepts, helping students develop deep and lasting understanding. Chemistry teacher Towana Baldwin loves what they have done to enhance her science lessons:
"Finally! An effective resource that science teachers can use to make science come to life! Gizmos are awesome! They go beyond scientific visualization, and incorporate independent learning...This semester I introduced students to Gizmos in reviewing Balancing Chemical Equations. After working with Gizmos, many understood that balancing equations involves actual molecules and atoms. It amazed me that after all of my instruction my students still needed to SEE science to UNDERSTAND it. That’s why I love, love, love Gizmos! It’s a must have for teachers."
Tamona J. Baldwin
Portsmouth Public School District, VA
Bring the “Ah-Hah!” moment to your classroom with Gizmos. Your students will reap benefits the whole year through!