ExploreLearning Overview: Simulations for Math and Science
We have all experienced that time in the classroom when the students would have benefitted from additional exposure to a challenging concept. However, with external constraints and a certain amount of curriculum to cover, this is not always possible. In addition, every student is different and while some students would benefit from one level of instruction, a different level would be ideal for the zone of development for the other students. ExploreLearning is a simulation platform that contains over 400 simulations known as ‘Gizmos’ to help students with their math and science learning.
Target Audience: K-12
Software Type: Simulation
Subjects: Math and Science
Features: Alignment with Standards, Differentiated Instruction
ExploreLearning has been around since 1999. In educational technology terms, this indicates a very stable company. Development has been consistent and the product really features a full platform as not only do they have the simulation but also present are research studies using ExploreLearning and professional development for teachers. They feature another product known as Reflex (not covered in this tutorial).
Once you sign-up for an ExploreLearning account, you will be taken to your homepage. There are a few things to note about this homepage. First, you are able to add six separate classes with up to 35 students each. Second, any Gizmos you have recently viewed will also show up on your homepage. Finally, based on preferences you select, recommended Gizmos will appear for you.
To add a Gizmo to a class, you will either select the recommended Gizmos or use the FindGizmos button in the top navigation header. The Gizmo I have selected for this tutorial is on Building DNA.
On this page, you have the option to add the Gizmo to a class. Doing this assigns the Gizmo to all students in that class. However, the Gizmo can also be launched without assigning it to a class. In the lesson materials, you will see a student exploration sheet, a teacher guide, and vocabulary for the lesson. The standard download is as a PDF, but it is also possible to customize the handouts and guides. There is also an option to contribute to the community by adding your own suggestions and handouts that accompany your use of the guide.
If you choose to search by exploration, there are three major ways.
- Academic Standard – State Standards, Common Core, Next Generation Science Standards
- Grade & Topic – Grade Bands and Topics –
- Textbook – Multiple National Publishers including Pearson and McGraw-Hill.
The student exploration guide is extremely helpful when students begin interacting with a Gizmo. These guides are scaffolded in a way such as a lot of assistance is given in the first lesson and then this assistance tapers off when students get used to the content and practices they are applying in the Gizmo.
After students complete a Gizmo, they can take a final assessment. As the instructor, you are able to see reports of the assessment. There are always five questions in every assessment. Students get to see in-depth feedback from the assessment regardless of their score.
Enrolling Students in a Class
There are two options for enrolling a student in the class. One, you can manually enroll all students. Two, students can self-enroll with a class code. If you are enrolling a lot of students in several classes, the student self-enroll code can save a lot of time in administrative functions. If you have a student who needs a different grade level with the same content, you can actually assign different Gizmos depending on the abilities of the student.
There have been multiple research studies investigating the efficacy and value of using Gizmos in the classroom. This includes white papers, journal articles, and book chapters. As is evidenced by the below-captured quote, Gizmos have a lot of utility in multiple settings and for all students.
Check out the video guide to learn more about how a Gizmo works and looks for the student! If you teach math or science, these simulations engage students in practices in an engaging and authentic way that illustrates challenging concepts.