Common Sense Review
Updated May 2013

ExploreLearning Gizmos

Impressive set of interactive tools for exploring math and science concepts
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Common Sense Rating 4
  • Teachers can browse simulations by curriculum, topic, or even textbook publisher.
  • All activities are simulations that provide the opportunity for students to change variables and observe what happens.
  • Most math and science topics from 3rd grade through high school are covered.
  • The Teacher Page includes suggested Gizmos and ways to assign them to students.
Gizmos are simple to use, cover nearly every topic in math and science, and come with an array of supportive resources and assessments.
Requires computers for every student (or group) or an interactive whiteboard to demonstrate, and the subscription cost is high.
Bottom Line
This powerful set of math and science tools puts the learning in students' hands.
Paul Cancellieri
Common Sense Reviewer
Classroom teacher
Common Sense Rating 4
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 4

Interactive and graphical activities will draw kids in and keep them playing.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer? 4

Students make changes and observe the outcomes -- a powerful way for them to learn how various factors are related.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students? 3

A useful help section includes video demonstrations of the most important tasks on the site. Students get feedback in each activity as they complete the simulation.

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How Can Teachers Use It?

After setting up a teacher account, educators go to the Me page, where they can create classes and assign individual Gizmos to each class based on what the students are learning at that time. Teachers browse Gizmos by Math or Science Topic, State Curriculum or Common Core Standard, or Textbook Alignment.

Each Gizmo has its own page with support materials contained in a Lesson Info tab. There are printable Lesson Plans, Vocabulary Sheets, Teacher’s Guides, and Student Exploration Sheets. Each activity also ends with an online assessment, the results of which are available to the teacher on the Me page. Not every Gizmo has every type of resource. Video support is available in many areas of the website.  These brief, clear video clips explain how to perform an action or troubleshoot a problem.

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What's It Like?

It's difficult to describe the entire array of interactive simulation tools (called Gizmos) that ExploreLearning makes available on this site. Arranged by curriculum, topic, or textbook, these little applications explore hundreds of concepts that students learn in elementary, middle, and high school mathematics and science. From number sense to algebra and from biology to physics, there are enough tools here for students to try a different one each week for every school year.

Each Gizmo comes with extensive support through the site and printable resources to help with deployment. The Exploration Sheet includes some questions that activate prior knowledge and others that allow students to record their learning during an activity. An assessment is administered at the end of each Gizmo to measure student learning. All of these are of high-quality and rigorous enough to be useful in any classroom.

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Is It Good For Learning?

The Gizmos themselves allow individual students to experiment and build their own understanding of the concepts involved. Alternatively, many are conducive to classroom demonstrations for a larger group, but this method loses the magic that comes from kids tweaking the settings of a simulation to see what happens. For example, the Archimedes Principle Gizmo is perfect for teaching the idea of buoyancy and displacement to middle school students. Student can adjust the size of a “boat” and then add masses until it sinks, and learn how these factors affect whether a boat floats.

On the downside, some Gizmos are less engaging than others. On a fairly typical screen resolution, the text size on several Gizmos was barely legible despite efforts to increase its size. And not every Gizmo includes all the support materials. However, ExploreLearning explains that the site is expanding, with more materials being added on a continuous basis. Educators should note that these tools are not free. Teachers can get a free 30-day trial, and the company sells individual, school, and district licenses. ExploreLearning doesn't advertise their prices on the website.

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See how teachers are using ExploreLearning Gizmos

Lesson Plans