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 24, 2014
Gizmo of the Week: Titration
Titration is a common lab method used to determine the concentration of one material that is dissolved or mixed within another.
During the process of titration, a chemist slowly adds an acid (or base) solution of known concentration to a base (or acid) solution of unknown concentration, called the analyte. An indicator changes color when the analyte is neutralized, and the concentration of the analyte can then be determined.
With the Titration Gizmo, students learn to calculate pH and explain the shape of titration curves. Students use titration to determine the concentration of an acid or base and explore titration of weak acids and bases, too.
After practicing with the Gizmo, your students will become whizzes at titration in no time!
February 17, 2014
Gizmo of the Week: Critter Count (Modeling Multiplication)
Designed for younger learners, the Critter Count Gizmo provides students a fun and engaging introduction to multiplication as repeated addition. For example, 2 × 3 means “two threes,” or 3 + 3. This example in the Gizmo would be modeled with 2 leaves and 3 critters on each leaf.
Once students are comfortable with using repeated groups to model multiplication, they can click the Array button to rearrange the critters in a rectangular array. Using the example above, 2 × 3 would be modeled with 3 critters in 2 rows, arranged neatly as a rectangle.
Students can choose the type of critter, the number of leaves, and the number of critters on each leaf. It’s simple and fun, and drives home the concept of “multiplication as repeated addition.”
In addition, the Gizmo begins to form a connection that will serve students well as they progress in math – namely, the connection between multiplication and area of a rectangle.
February 14, 2014
Expert Corner: Whole Group Instruction- Part V
Laura Chervenak has been with ExploreLearning since 2010 as the VP of Professional Development. She has taught high school science, and is the founder and former director of GOAL Digital Academy. Laura is National Board Certified in Science/Adolescence and Young Adulthood, with a B.A. in Zoology and an M.S. in Anthropology.
Students can easily become disengaged during a lesson in a whole class setting. Students who are not called on to answer a question can passively wait for the answer to be given to them, rather than thinking it through for themselves. Teachers usually seek ways for all students to participate so that they are actively thinking and learning during a whole class lesson.
One of the simplest ways to help get all students actively thinking about a whole group activity is to provide think time for questions and ask them to write their answers down before calling on one student to answer aloud. Many questions and challenges in the Gizmo lesson materials have multiple correct answers. This format is a great opportunity to ask pairs to devise a solution and then have them come up one at a time to share their solutions on the Gizmo.
If the Gizmo calls for students to design an experiment, have pairs or small groups work together to create plans at their desks. Each group then presents and defends their plan to the class for the privilege of performing that experiment on the Gizmo.
You can also have students use physical manipulatives similar to the Gizmo at their desks. This will allow them to follow along and explore even when they aren’t using the Gizmo directly. In the User Lesson Materials for Toy Factory, the contributed lesson from Elsie Rivard includes a page of toys from the Gizmo created by using the snapshot tool. Students can cut out and use the toys to participate in a whole class lesson. Recently, I purchased pencil toppers in the shapes of animals to use similarly.
There are even more ways to ensure that all students are participating rather than zoning out during a whole group instruction lesson.
• When one student answers a question, ask the rest of the room to give a thumbs up if they agree, thumbs down if they disagree or a thumbs sideways if they don’t know.
• Use individual whiteboards to have all students respond to questions.
• Use mobile devices so that students can answer the Gizmo assessment questions individually, or use iPads so that students can manipulate the Gizmos with our new iPad app!
Want more ideas? Check out the outstanding book, Total Participation Techniques: Making Every Student an Active Learner by Pérsida Himmele and William Himmele.
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 11, 2014
Gizmo of the Week: Free Fall Tower
Galileo Galilei was born 450 years ago: on February 15, 1564. Often called the father of modern science, Galileo was the first to use the telescope to observe the skies.
He discovered the Moon’s cratered surface, the moons of Jupiter, and the phases of Venus, proving that Venus orbits the Sun. Galileo described the motion of falling and accelerating bodies, formulated the law of inertia, and correctly predicted that, in a vacuum, all bodies will fall at the same rate.
One of the most famous legends about Galileo describes how he dropped cannonballs of different masses from the Tower of Pisa. You can explore this experiment with the Free Fall Tower Gizmo.
In the Gizmo, you and your students can drop a variety of objects from a tower, with or without air. You can even deploy parachutes to further emphasize the effects of air resistance! This Gizmo provides an excellent introduction to free fall and acceleration.
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!”
February 03, 2014
Gizmo of the Week: Modeling the Factorization of Quadratic Expressions
Factoring polynomials can be tricky to understand. The Modeling the Factorization of x2 + bx + c Gizmo uses algebra tiles to help with this process. First, students model the given polynomial using the tiles. Then, students arrange the tiles to form a rectangle. At that point, the area of the rectangle is the given polynomial, and the sides of the rectangle are its factors.
This is one of many Gizmos we have that drive home a “big idea” in math: that multiplying things together can be represented in a physical way, as area of a rectangle (and dividing, or factoring, gives you the side lengths of that rectangle).
The interactivity in this Gizmo makes it a great fit for an interactive whiteboard.
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 23, 2014
Gizmo of the Week: Disease Spread
“Ah-choo!” Almost at the peak of flu season, it seems like everywhere you turn there is a cough here or a sniffle there. But why is that? What causes so many people to get sick during the winter season?
Using the Disease Spread Gizmo, students can explore the various ways diseases are transmitted, including person-to-person, airborne, and foodborne. The probability of each form of transmission and number of people in the group can also be adjusted.
As an extension to this lesson, encourage students to read about Daniel Streicker, the 2013 winner of the Science & SciLifeLab Prize for Young Scientists. His novel research used viral infections in bats to help answer questions about how infectious diseases jump between species. Read More
January 17, 2014
Expert Corner: Whole Group Instruction- Part IV
Laura Chervenak has been with ExploreLearning since 2010 as the VP of Professional Development. She has taught high school science, and is the founder and former director of GOAL Digital Academy. Laura is National Board Certified in Science/Adolescence and Young Adulthood, with a B.A. in Zoology and an M.S. in Anthropology.
When you are using Gizmos in a whole-class setting, it is very easy to slip into “lecture mode” using the Gizmo as a visual aid. While it is true that their visual nature really helps students to understand concepts, Gizmos are even more effective if students have the opportunity to explore and experiment with the simulation directly.
So how can you make your whole group instruction student-centric so that they are getting the most from the experience? Here are three guidelines:
1. Allow the students to control the Gizmos. If you have an interactive whiteboard, select a student to manipulate the Gizmo controls. You can use many methods for selecting the students (i.e., popsicle sticks, the “popcorn” method of allowing the current student to select the next, or even an app that will select students randomly like iLEAP Pick a Student).
2. Have the students make decisions about the activity. Whenever possible, have the students decide what to do next. As you are following your Student Exploration Sheet, you will see many places where you can select variables or settings. Ask students to make those choices rather than just doing it yourself.
3. Don’t say something the students can say. Rather than the teacher doing the explaining and the students doing the listening, reverse the dynamic! If students are making and describing their observations, predictions and explanations, then they will be active participants in their learning. Sometimes this is difficult for teachers who are used to explaining concepts. For one lesson or one hour each day, practice speaking only in questions!
Do you have comments or questions about whole group instruction? Feel free to share your comments or question about whole class instruction below.
To see our previous articles on whole group instruction, go to http://blog.explorelearning.com/implementation-ideas/
New Video: Intro to the Gizmos iPad App
Get Gizmos on your iPad!
Watch this video for step-by-step instructions on how to get started using our award-winning math and science simulations on the iPad. See tips on how to login, search Gizmos, access Lesson Materials, and switch between apps to get the best experience as you explore Gizmos with the new app.
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!
January 02, 2014
Improve student learning with Gizmos on the iPad
A recent study published in the January issue of Computers and Education found that using simulations on an iPad can improve students understanding of challenging scientific concepts, like astronomical scale. Researchers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics remarked, "we saw significant learning gains among students who used the simulations, in situations where little to no gains were observed in the traditional classrooms." Further, the study suggests that guided instruction could produce even more dramatic and rapid gains in student comprehension.
To help improve your students’ understanding of astronomical scale, try the new Gizmos iPad app with the Solar System Gizmo. Students can explore the solar system and learn the characteristics of each planet. In addition, the Student Exploration Sheets guide learning as students compare the sizes of planets and their distances from the Sun, observe the speeds of planetary orbits, and measure how long each planet takes to go around the Sun.
December 23, 2013
The Gizmos iPad app is here!
Once you've downloaded the app you can use it in two ways:
- To get the full Gizmos experience, including assessments, correlations, class management features and Lesson Materials, you'll want to use it via our website. Simply navigate to the Gizmo of your choice on ExploreLearning.com and hit the 'Launch Gizmo on iPad' button.
- Or you can also use the app directly. Open the app, login using your Gizmos username and password and select your desired Gizmo from an alphabetical list.
Please note: the second method does not provide easy access to all the related features and content on the website such as assessments, Lesson Materials, class management features, etc.
Enjoy exploring our large library of simulations from the convenience of your iPad!
December 16, 2013
Gizmo of the Week: Road Trip (Problem Solving)
While holiday road trips have changed tremendously over the past 20 years with the addition of GPS, cell phones, and computer car systems, there’s still a lot of planning that goes into these family journeys. Where will we stop? When will we need gas? Whose car should we take?
The popular Road Trip (Problem Solving) Gizmo allows students to map their winter travels plans or create their own imaginary holiday journey using mathematics and critical thinking skills. First, students choose a vehicle to drive, and then fill up the tank with gas and go! Students solve real world problems like comparing gas mileages of different vehicles, discovering the shortest path between two cities, and planning a budget for their trip. When students are complete, they can share their holiday trips with their friends.
Happy holidays and safe travels!
December 11, 2013
Expert Corner: Whole Group Instruction- Part III
Laura Chervenak has been with ExploreLearning since 2010 as the VP of Professional Development. She has taught high school science, and is the founder and former director of GOAL Digital Academy. Laura is National Board Certified in Science/Adolescence and Young Adulthood, with a B.A. in Zoology and an M.S. in Anthropology.
In the past two EL newsletters, we presented ideas for how to plan whole group instruction. Here’s a video of a teacher using some of these techniques:
With the Mineral Identification Gizmo, students are engaged in learning as they test various mineral properties and analyze data using a key. The teacher models best practice by asking students to verbalize their thinking, justify answers, and explain their thought processes to other students in the class. These types of questioning techniques lead to a deeper understanding of the science content and practices.
In January, we’ll be back to talk about how to make your lessons student-centric.
Have a great winter break!
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 09, 2013
Gizmo of the Week: Seasons: Earth, Moon, and Sun
While the upcoming December solstice is the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, it is not necessarily the earliest sunset. For most locations in the middle latitudes, the earliest sunset occurs a few weeks earlier than the solstice. This occurs because the exact time of solar noon varies slightly throughout the year. At this time of year, solar noon is a bit earlier than on the solstice, resulting in an earlier sunset. (Similarly, the latest sunrise will occur in early January.)
You can observe sunrise and sunset at any date and location with the Seasons: Earth, Moon, and Sun Gizmo. Use the 2D VIEW tab to observe the Sun’s path, or observe sunrise and sunset indirectly with the DAY GRAPH or SHADOWS tabs. You can use the “Step” button and the slowest speed to find the exact times of sunrise, sunset, and solar noon.
December 06, 2013
Warm up to new Lesson Materials
Winter weather got you stuck indoors? Have some fun and explore some of our exciting new Gizmo Lesson Materials.
With the Geometric Probability Gizmo, students can randomly throw darts at a target and see what percent are "hits" to study the relationship between the area of the target and the percent of darts that strike it.
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.
Gizmo of the Week: Roots of a Quadratic
Any time you need to solve an equation that involves both x and the square of x, it is usually necessary to move everything to one side and find the roots (or solutions) of a quadratic equation in the form ax2 + bx + c = 0. While many quadratic equations can be solved by factoring, often the best way to find the answer is to use the quadratic formula.
The Roots of a Quadratic Gizmo is a great introduction to solving quadratics because it demonstrates that the solutions of a quadratic equation are equal to the x-intercepts of the parabola of the corresponding quadratic function. Students can use the Gizmo to find the axis of symmetry, calculate the discriminant to find the number of real roots, and practice using the quadratic formula to find both real and complex roots for quadratic equations. Be sure to go through the derivation of the quadratic formula with your class, which is found in the Teacher Guide for this Gizmo.
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!”
Gizmo of the Week: Levers
Turkey day is almost here! In the US, it’s time to visit family, give thanks, and eat way too much food. If you enter “turkey” into the ExploreLearning search window, you will find one Gizmo: Levers. What do levers have to do with turkeys? In the Gizmo, a carnival strongman can lift up a turkey, a pig, or a sheep using a lever. You can move the strongman and fulcrum to create a first, second, or third-class lever. Using the Gizmo, students can quickly see that the strongman gains advantage by moving himself farther from the fulcrum and placing the animal closer to the fulcrum.
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!
Expert Corner: Whole Group Instruction- Part II
We all know that deliberate and careful lesson preparation can separate an okay lesson from one that is vibrant and effective. But teachers don’t have hours to review materials and make decisions about instructional strategies. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day!
To help busy teachers get the most out of their lessons, ExploreLearning Gizmos provide a suite of materials to help streamline the preparation process. To provide an example of how I would plan a lesson, I selected the Gizmo, Measuring Motion, and created a video as I prepared my lessons. In this 10-minute video, you can watch as I “think out loud” during the planning.
My entire preparation took about 20 minutes and I finished with a 3-day series of lessons, combining the Gizmo, textbook exercises, and assessment activities. My thought process is outlined below, but you should watch the video and review the finished whole-class instruction script for more details.
When using whole-class instruction with Gizmos, you want to make sure that you use standard classroom best practices for whole-class instruction. Be sure to “chunk” your material in short segments. This will give your students lots of opportunities to be active participants. They can do so either by volunteering, or by using participation techniques like Think-Pair-Share, QuickWrites, and individual response systems (electronic or whiteboard). Design your questions ahead of time within a whole-class instruction script. You will want to include questions across all six levels of Bloom’s taxonomy, scaffolding as you progress through the lesson. Be sure to identify formative instruction strategies that you will use to see how students are doing as they work to master the standard(s).
The important steps to follow as you plan your Gizmo lesson:
1. Identify the standards you are teaching and select an appropriate Gizmo.
2. Preview the Gizmo while referencing the Student Exploration Sheet Answer Key.
3. Decide how you will use the Gizmo to address the standard(s). Does the Gizmo make a good introduction to engage the student and allow them to construct meaning for themselves? Or would you rather use the Gizmo to explain the concept and provide students with practice?
4. Utilize the Student Exploration Sheet, Teacher Guide, and Vocabulary Sheet to plan the whole-class instruction script. Remember, each of these is easily customizable to meet the individual needs of all your students.
Please share your comments or questions about lesson planning for whole-class instruction.
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!
November 01, 2013
Gizmos Help Close the Achievement Gap
The VISTA professional development model, which includes using Gizmos to support inquiry, was found to have a statistically significant positive impact on the achievement of economically disadvantaged students.
VISTA (Virginia Initiative for Science Teaching and Achievement) is a statewide partnership among 70+ Virginia school districts, six Virginia universities, and the Virginia Department of Education. Its goal is to help shift K-12 science instruction toward hands-on science, student-centered inquiry, the nature of science, and problem-based learning.
Based on their findings, researchers stated that “It appears that the VISTA treatment has the effect of reducing the gap in 5th grade science SOL test scaled scores between economically disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged groups.” Further, teachers’ science content knowledge and confidence in teaching science increases by doing hands-on science, inquiry-based teaching, and problem-based learning.
Read more about the research behind Gizmos.
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 21, 2013
Expert Corner: Changes to Roller Coaster Physics
Kurt Rosenkrantz is a science curriculum writer and Gizmo designer for ExploreLearning. Kurt holds a Master of Science in Geology from the University of Cincinnati, and a bachelor's degree in Earth Science from Harvard. He taught high school and middle school science for eight years before joining ExploreLearning in 2005.
A while ago, a teacher named Joshua Buchman suggested a way to improve our popular Roller Coaster Physics Gizmo. In the Gizmo, a toy car rolls down a track, over several hills, and into an egg. The egg will either crack or not.In the original Gizmo, the egg would crack if the momentum of the car was over a certain threshold value. Mr. Buchman pointed out that it was more likely that the kinetic energy of the car, rather than its momentum, would be the critical factor. He argued that the car would need to travel a certain distance into the egg, overcoming the resisting force of the eggshell, for the egg to crack. In other words, the car would have to do a certain amount of work to crack the egg, and the work it could do depended on its kinetic energy.
This argument made sense to us, but we wanted to check that it was true in practice before changing the Gizmo, which was designed with the help of real-world experiments that took place in the EL offices a decade ago. To investigate, I bought toy cars, a track, and several dozen eggs. I set up the track at a steep angle and went to work.
Right away I realized that I needed to establish a consistent definition of “egg breaking.” It turns out that a very tiny impact can cause a small fracture in the egg, and that the fracture grows bigger and bigger as the force of the impact increases. Eventually I decided that the most consistent criteria I could use was “eggshell breaks completely into two halves.” So, any fracture that did not go all the way around the egg was considered a negative result.
After several very messy sets of experiments using cars of different masses, I plugged the data into a spreadsheet. Sure enough, the minimum kinetic energy required to break the egg was much more consistent than the minimum momentum required to break the egg. With experimental results supporting the scientific argument, we decided to make the change. In the updated Gizmo, the car now needs to have a minimum kinetic energy of 0.25 J to break the egg. We have adjusted all of our lesson materials and assessment questions to reflect this new result.
We hope you enjoy the new-and-improved Roller Coaster Physics Gizmo, and thanks again to Mr. Buchman for bringing this to our attention!
October 17, 2013
Expert Corner: Whole Group Instruction- Part I
Research has shown that effective use of simulations in whole class instruction significantly improves student understanding in science (Smetana, 2008). In a series of articles this school year, I will be highlighting whole group instruction with Gizmos, including best-practice strategies for maximizing student engagement and achievement.
We will begin with an exploration of lesson planning with Gizmos, including how to pull the best whole class instructional sequence from the Gizmo lesson materials to meet your needs. We will return in January, after the winter break, to focus on making your Gizmo lessons more student-centric, even when you have a single computer in your classroom. In February, we will discuss strategies for engaging all students in the classroom in your whole class lessons. In March, we will look at questioning techniques that foster inquiry, and we will look at the role of seatwork and homework in April. Finally, in May, we will wrap up the series with a discussion of what comes next — instruction beyond the whole group.
I’m looking forward to exploring all of the ways that a teacher can use Gizmos in a classroom with just one or two computers and a projector. I’d love to hear your ideas and strategies as well! If you have strategies related to whole group instruction with Gizmos to share, please comment below.
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 07, 2013
Algebra Lesson Materials Updated
The ExploreLearning curriculum team has been hard at work serving all your algebra-related needs! We’re happy to report that we’ve updated the Lesson Materials for these Gizmos:
We’re always trying to support real, conceptual understanding of these topics. For example, using a fun and playful setting, the Cat and Mouse Gizmo helps students connect real-world meaning to slope, y-intercept, and the intersection of lines.
October 04, 2013
New! Number Sense Lesson Material UpdatesCalling all elementary and middle school math teachers! Some of your favorite Gizmos just got an update. Check out our new Lesson Materials for each of these Gizmos:
The Beam to Moon Gizmo uses the concept of weight differences between the earth and the moon to teach proporations. You can even use this Gizmo as part of an interisciplinary lesson to integrate related math and science concepts.
September 30, 2013
Growing Geometry Gizmo Lesson Materials
Geometry is the branch of mathematics concerned with points, lines, angles, shapes, and solids. Without a true understanding of the properties and relationships of these figures, students are likely to struggle as they progress toward higher math courses. Gizmos are such a great fit when building students' understanding of geometry because they provide an interactive, inquiry-based experience that reinforces the conceptual understanding students need.
The ExploreLearning team is constantly working to keep your Gizmo resources updated, and we are pleased to share these math Gizmos have all new Lesson Materials.
As always, our goal is real student understanding, beyond just formulas or memorization. For example, in the new Student Exploration Sheets with the Rotations, Reflections, and Translations Gizmo, we work to help students see that each type of transformation is really just a specific rule – a function, essentially – which can be applied to any figure, point by point, to create the transformed figure. In the Mathematical Background, found in the Teacher Guide, we expand on this “transformations as functions” idea, to help support teachers in how they might want to present this topic.
Reminder: Our updated Lesson Materials have 4 documents (Student Exploration Sheet, Answer Key, Teacher Guide, and Vocabulary Sheet), each available as a .doc or .pdf. (You'll need to be logged in to see all four documents.)
New Gizmos PD: Expanding the Gizmos Experience
ExploreLearning excited to announce a new PD workshop for Gizmos. Expanding the Gizmo Experience helps teachers develop a deeper understanding of how to integrate Gizmos into their curriculum. The course is designed for math and science teachers in grades 3-12 that have completed the Initial Training and would like additional training to on how to use Gizmos to support instructional best practices.To learn more about this workshop, read the full description or schedule a training today.
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 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 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 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 07, 2013
Students Learn about Potential Energy with Gizmos
We always appreciate it when we see talented teachers using innovative and effective teaching practices.
Watch how this Boston teacher models using the Potential Energy on Shelves Gizmo to teach students how mass and height affect potential energy.
At the beginning of the lesson, the teacher engages students with an activating strategy supported by a short reading passage from the Gizmo's Lesson Materials. Then students break out into collaborative groups to complete the inquiry-based lesson. Guided by the Gizmo's Student Exploration Sheet, students are engaged, learning through real-world scenarios. The teacher shares,
"Something as abstract as potential energy all of the sudden becomes very real when the students are able to play around with virtual objects and see how the PE of the objects changes for the object."
See how Gizmos can engage your students, take a free trial today!
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 26, 2013
SETDA Case Studies: Gizmos Improve Teaching and Learning
SETDA, a non-profit group representing state and national education technology leaders, recently published a series of case studies to demonstrate how ARRA EETT grant funds have impacted teaching and learning. The following case studies highlight powerful examples of successful programs that improved teaching and learning.
A SETDA case study of over 3000 Arkansas classrooms found that with effective professional development, Gizmos had a positive impact on student understanding and engagement, according to teacher reports. Read more
A SETDA case study of Rapides Parish School District in Louisiana found that a technology enriched learning environment that included Gizmos had a positive impact on teacher proficiency and student graduation rates. Read more
A SETDA case study of Thomasville City Schools in Georgia found that with a technology enriched learning environment that included Gizmos, students were more engaged in learning and more quickly visualized complex mathematics concepts. Read more
July 15, 2013
Jonte Lee: ExploreLearning Educator of the Month
Jonte Lee is in his first year of teaching high school in District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) and is off to a running start. He is engaging students in innovative ways by using Gizmos as the platform for virtual science fairs. He first tried them out this fall, and the feedback was overwhelming. Science fair visitors from around the community and local universities were amazed with the Gizmo experiments. He is replicating the experience this week for his summer school students. Mr. Lee explains, "with the use of Gizmos, experiments and analyses that would normally take days or weeks to complete are possible in a fraction of the time".
When planning for the science fair, Mr. Lee asked his students to choose from a list of appropriate Gizmos. He explained that, "this is key in helping students take ownership of their own learning. With the use of Gizmos, learning became student-driven. They were asking more questions, asking each other questions, and I became the facilitator of their learning experience". Students even began using scientific vocabulary with more frequency during class.
One of Mr. Lee's favorite Gizmos is the Disease Spread Gizmo. This Gizmo allows students to observe the spread of disease through a group of people. The methods of transmission can be chosen and include person-to-person, airborne, and foodborne. He shared, "the kids were able to read a graph as the simulation was happening, so students were able to understand the graph, and this is something that I really struggled to teach before using Gizmos."
Mr. Lee was first introduced to virtual simulations when he taught Biology for the University of Phoenix. With courses lasting only 9 weeks, he had to find practical ways to demonstrate science concepts in a short time. When he moved to teaching at DCPS, he attended a Gizmo professional development workshop. He instantly knew this was the best simulation tool for his new high school science students as well.
Mr. Lee looks forward to the start of school in the fall and finding new opportunities for his students to explore science concepts more deeply with Gizmos.
July 11, 2013
A Teacher's Review of ExploreLearning Gizmos
Glenda Stewart-Smith is a teacher at Creekside Elementary in Surrey School District, BC, Canada. She also writes a blog about inquiry-based learning environments for 21st Century learners. She recently posted a review of ExploreLearning Gizmos. In her review, she shares,
"(Gizmos) are interactive and engaging and do a great job of providing students with an opportunity to carry out scientific inquiry and test their understanding of concepts"
Visit Glenda Stewart-Smith's Blog to read the full review.