The Gizmo Gazette
News from ExploreLearning.com
ExploreLearning.com offers the world's largest library of interactive online simulations for math and science in grades 3-12.
We call these simulations Gizmos.
This newsletter is full of great information on Gizmos and the latest goings on at ExploreLearning:
Dan Moriarty is a curriculum writer and editor for ExploreLearning, and is also our chief Gizmo video producer. He holds a Master's degree from the University of Virginia in secondary math education, and he taught high school math before joining ExploreLearning.
Functions are a topic that math teachers at many levels teach. Linear, quadratic, cubic, absolute value, trigonometric… these are all different types of functions that students encounter as they advance through their studies.
But what is a function? All too often, the definition sounds something like this: "A function is a relation between a set of elements called the domain and a set of elements called the range (or co-domain), that maps each element in the domain with exactly one element in the range."
This definition is technically true, of course, but to most kids, it doesn't make much sense.
So, math teachers search for a simpler way to present this concept, often characterizing them as "input-output machines."
An input value goes in, the function machine does something to it, and it comes out as a single output. This works well, but how do you SHOW kids this?
Three related Gizmos - Function Machine 1,
Function Machine 2,
and Function Machine 3
- provide a nice introduction to functions, using the "input-output machine"
theme. For starters, students can select a pre-set machine and send input numbers through it as a guessing game. What is that machine’s function?
What does it do to each input number?
Students can then program their own machines - but not display the function - and challenge their classmates to figure out their function.
They can get more advanced as well. The machines are stackable, so they can experiment sending input numbers though multiple machines.
This illustrates the concept of composite functions.
In addition, these input-output pairs can be displayed as points on a graph. This is a perfect way to begin making the connection between a data table and a graph, which is the first step toward graphing functions.
For more ideas on teaching with the Function Machine Gizmos, take a look at the Teacher Guide and the Student Exploration Guide, found in each Gizmo's Lesson Materials.
In addition, we have just published a new Teaching with Gizmos: Function Machines movie on our Videos page.
All of these short videos help demonstrate how to easily use Gizmos in your classroom.
This month, we are beginning a newsletter feature profiling educators who are enhancing their teaching with Gizmos and sharing their great ideas with other ExploreLearning.com subscribers.
Richard Feay is our first Gizmo Educator of the Month. His love of Gizmos is infectious. Richard is a former teacher who just retired as a Tech Integration Coach for LAUSD (Los Angeles Unified).
He has used Gizmos with students for years in the classroom, and he has spread the word to other educators during professional development and training sessions.
Richard put things in perspective this way,
"I have always wanted to shout from the rooftops about my favorite Gizmos - and the new site features enable me to do just that - plus I get to see what others are doing."
Richard is a top contributor using the Community Features at ExploreLearning.com. He has submitted 6 Shared Class Gizmo Lists and 6 Gizmo Recommendations, which would benefit math and science teachers from grade 3 all the way through high school!
So, what are the top Gizmo picks of our Educator of the Month?
The Systems of Linear Equations - Activity A Gizmo is great for helping students visualize this difficult algebra concept.
They can actually manipulate the variables and constants within the two equations and immediately see the effects of changes - and finally say "Now I understand!"
The Element Builder Gizmo allows students to build atoms by adding protons, neutrons, and electrons.
As they do this, the element symbol, atomic number, mass number, charge, and electron dot diagram can be displayed.
Shared Class Gizmo Lists and Gizmo Recommendations are available to ExploreLearning subscribers and free trialers, based on "What I Teach" settings.
They are customized just for your teaching! Watch the Community Features Overview to learn more about these and other exciting additions.
You can learn more about ExploreLearning and Teaching with Gizmos in our Video Library as well.
More science Gizmos have been enhanced with expanded curriculum materials.
Each of these Gizmos now includes a Student Exploration Guide, Answer Key, Teacher Guide, and Vocabulary Sheet. Check out some of the enhanced Gizmos below.
The latest batch includes two Gizmos that explain how color is produced.
The Additive Colors Gizmo demonstrates how any color can be produced by varying the intensities of three primary colors of light: red, green, and blue (RGB).
Additive colors are produced directly by a light source such as a TV or a computer screen.
The Subtractive Colors Gizmo demonstrates how colors are produced by mixing pigments such as paint.
As more pigments are added, more light is absorbed and the resulting color becomes darker.
Our development team will be working hard to bring you more enhanced curriculum in 2010!
ExploreLearning sales staff members are unpacking their suitcases after a busy fall conference season. We introduced hundreds of educators to Gizmos at many of the best Mathematics,
Science, and Educational Technology conferences in the country, with presentations at our booth and on the conference programs.
FETC: Orlando, FL, January 12-15
National Title I Conference: Washington, D.C., January 21-24
TCEA: Austin, TX February 8-12
Stay tuned to find out when Gizmos will be showcased at a conference near you!
As always, if you have a question or comment about Gizmos, don't hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We would love to hear from you. Also, take a look at ExploreLearning News on the front page of the website for breaking news any time.
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Getting the Most from Gizmos
Read our Teaching With Gizmos series of helpful hints:
Gizmos are great for Math:
"Gizmos are what every math teacher has been looking for. They help bridge concepts from concrete to abstract and offer new opportunities for students to visualize and experiment with mathematics."
Baltimore Cnty Public Schools, MD
Gizmos are great for Science:
"Gizmos are far more powerful than any textbook - they offer real understanding of science concepts for learners on all levels."
Quincy Notre Dame High School, IL
Winner: Awards of Excellence
2009, 2008 Tech and Learning Magazine
Winner: Best K-12 Instructional Solution
2009 SIIA CODiE Awards
Winner: Distinguished Achievement Award
2008, 2007, 2005 AEP
Winner: Best Science Instruction Solution
2007, 2006 SIIA CODiE Awards
Finalist: Golden Lamp Award
2009, 2008, 2006 AEP
Finalist: Best Instructional Solution, Math
2009, 2008, 2006 SIIA CODiE Awards
Finalist: Best Instructional Solution, Science
2009, 2008 SIIA CODiE Awards
Finalist: Best Instructional Solution, Online
2006 SIIA CODiE Awards
Diamond Award in Mathematics
District Administration Magazine
E-Learning Innovation Award
Best Education Website
Three time Digital Dozen Honoree
Eisenhower National Clearinghouse