How I Use It
As distance learning became the norm in the Spring of 2020, I started a free trial at explorelearning.com and found several Gizmos related to the chemistry content I was teaching. A lot of hard work clearly went into designing these applications. In particular, I assigned my students to complete the Stoichiometry, Collision Theory, and Limiting Reactants Gizmos over the period of one week after they read about these concepts in the textbook. As an educator, I liked how the Gizmos were very visual, user friendly, and gave students the ability to see what changed when given variables were manipulated. Furthermore, they provided immediate feedback to students. When students were ready to be assessed on their understanding of the Gizmo, they received a score based on their ability to answer several questions (typically about five). One observation I made right away was that while my strong to average students were often getting one or two problems wrong on the assessment, my lower performing students were getting perfect scores. This led me to find out that the assessment questions are the same for all students and led me to suspect my students were sharing the assessment questions and answers with each other. I contacted the company and shared with them that it would be great if they added a feature that showed the teacher how long a given student practiced a certain Gizmo before taking the assessment. As it is unlikely a student unfamiliar with the content could score well on one of the Gizmo assessments without practicing the Gizmo, a simple feature that reports the amount of time they practiced a given Gizmo before taking the assessment would give teachers an indication as to whether the student scored well because they practiced the Gizmo and developed an understanding of the content or if they cheated (and received information about an assessment from a classmate).
This is an amazing tool to help motivated students understand the specifics of certain concepts. The visuals and immediate feedback students receive from playing these games are amazing! However, until teachers have the ability to monitor how long a given student spent practicing a given Gizmo, I’m not sure how well this technology will benefit the unmotivated student as it is easy for students to share the questions and answers to the assessment questions.