Teachers can use ExploreLearning Gizmos as a demo projected in front of the class, but Gizmos are best used when placed right in the hands of the students. After setting up a teacher account, educators go to their teacher homepage, where they can create classes, access student login info, assign Gizmos, and view assessment results for each student. Teachers can select Gizmos aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for math. Gizmos are also organized according to popular textbooks and curricula such as FOSS Science. The developer has also made efforts to link the Gizmos to International curriculum.

Start with the necessary vocabulary, if the concept is brand-new, and check out the provided lesson plan for ideas. If you're stuck, consult with the community to swap ideas. Then have students dive into the Gizmo itself and use the process laid out for them. When they've finished and done the assessment, have students reflect on the process and what they've learned. If it's possible, take some of the elements off-screen -- for example, building a physical cell model or using objects to make equations equivalent.

Continue readingExploreLearning Gizmos is a site containing an array of math and science simulations arranged by curriculum, topic, or textbook. These little applications explore hundreds of concepts that students learn in elementary, middle, and high school math 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. Access to the full Gizmo library comes with a paid subscription, but there are some free Gizmos to teach with as well.

Each Gizmo comes with support materials including lesson plans, vocabulary sheets, teacher's guides, and editable Student Exploration sheets. The Exploration sheet includes some questions that activate prior knowledge and others that allow students to record their learning during an activity. Each activity ends with an online multiple-choice assessment, the results of which are available immediately to teachers and students. The ExploreLearning community allows teachers to share worksheets and lessons that they've created using the Gizmos, and ExploreLearning also offers a wide array of professional development lessons on using the tools and the concepts they explore.

ExploreLearning Gizmos encompasses a research-based approach that allows students to experiment and build their own understanding of the concepts involved. Many Gizmos are conducive to classroom demos 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. A student can learn a lot by adjusting the size of a "boat" and then adding mass until it sinks, observing how such factors affect whether a boat floats. Many Gizmos are also designed to allow students to "play around" to discover for themselves what is happening. This element lends to a sense of accomplishment when students figure out the pattern for themselves, but there's also lots of help and guidance provided to prevent frustration.

Gizmos embody the three-dimensional learning called for by the NGSS. Kids are engaged in science and engineering practices such as collecting and analyzing data while they also learn content. Woven throughout the Gizmos are crosscutting concepts such as cause and effect and systems and scale. Simulations bundled with a few assessment questions help kids practice for the tech-enhanced items now appearing on many standardized science tests. While many of the Gizmos are simulations, some provide an online alternative to physical manipulatives (such as integer tiles, number lines, base 10 blocks, and more), providing great alternatives when physical objects aren't readily available. These high-quality simulations -- with their solid foundation in pedagogy and supporting materials -- are truly worth a free account to see if a paid upgrade is right for your classroom.