Updated May 2014

ExploreLearning Gizmos: Science Grades 9-12

Online simulations captivate and extend learning; worksheets may tire

Subjects & skills
  • Critical Thinking

  • Math
  • Science
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
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The strength of these Gizmos lies in their ability to connect kids to the otherwise impossible through digital means. The Student Exploration Sheets (worksheets) are well-designed, and they force students to explore in a guided, step-by-step way. Still, completing them could feel tiresome -- kids might get frustrated as the directions are found only on the worksheets. Because of this, these activities are best done individually or in pairs; kids will need a computer and a printed worksheet. The Gizmos aren't designed for kids to simply "click around" -- they'll actually need to follow the directions. The five-question online assessments serve as a good culminating check for understanding. You can also display the Gizmos for the whole class, which can be useful in previewing directions or sharing results. The teacher guides, available for each Gizmo, provide specific teaching and content suggestions.

Because the teacher dashboard allows only class-level interaction, differentiating Gizmos for individual students isn't possible through the site. Still, with extra in-class directions, you can use the site as an extension for kids who have mastered other in-class topics. Gizmos can also be used to review and reinforce, but probably only when coupled with direct teacher support. ELLs and other students who struggle with reading comprehension may need extra support.

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Teacher Reviews

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Featured review by
Donna M. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Vista Visions Academy
Vista, CA
High Quality, High School Science Labs - No Equipment Necessary!

I like ExploreLearning Gizmos as a learning tool. Compared to other simulations, they are easy to figure out from the guidance provided in the student worksheet. The simulations are colorful and provide many opportunities for students to manipulate variables and be in control of their learning. Their guided inquiry approach keeps students engaged and encourages independence and problem solving. The website has correlated the Gizmos to the major textbook publishers, so teachers can easily find an applicable Gizmo for their unit of study. They are great supplements to the hands-on activities and labs that are done in class. Internet bandwith can be an issue. If the whole class is using Gizmos in a 1-1 situation, without adequate bandwidth, the simulations slow down or freeze. I generally have students work in pairs to avoid this, plus it encourages collaboration. The collaboration is helpful because there is not much support for low readers or second language learners. The student sheets always have an extension for advanced students, but it is up to the teacher to support low readers or English Language Learners. Although the Gizmos are free to try for 30 days, the free trial does not give teachers access to the answer key, or to teacher-developed supplemental materials that are on the site, so that involves some additional work. When the 30-day subscription expires, teachers can sign up for another one, simply by using a different email address.The paid subscription is based on a per/pupil cost and is rather expensive. However, for the quality of materials and the variety of subject matter that is addressed, ExploreLearning Gizmos are worth it!

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