I was introduced to GIZMO's at an NCTM conference a year ago and have used it frequently during the past year. Our SmartBoard technology really adds to the effectiveness and ability to get students engaged. There's so many different demonstrations of concepts, from algebra through trig, available. I've used them to introduce ideas and have students formulate the theorems behind the madness. Then I have them create drawings to meet certain criteria. For example, exploring amplitude on sine curves and other transformations was begun by showing different equations from which students drew conclusions then I asked them to create a graph that met my criteria for amplitude and period. I also like the graph captures and have used these clips in PowerPoints, on tests, and for other displays.
I wrote a grant two years ago to intengrate them into my algebra and precalculus classes. I love them!! The students explored more and made more predictions and hypothesis as a result of our work in the lab than ever before. I highly recommend.
The lessons are not always the easiest to use as is, but I like a lot of the questions that they ask. Additionally, I coupled the work on explore learning (home of gizmo) with a collecting their thoughts online through a wiki and at the end a blog. The students liked being able to share online and started exploring on their own at home and in study hall. I really like the type of thinking that the gizmos allowed my students to experience.
I used the gizmos in the class on the smartboard and independently in the lab. Make sure when they are in the lab independently that you have a good note taking routine for them to use, like guided notes or the lessons provided by explorelearning until you understand how to design them yourself. It is a radically different experience for most of your students.
I have since moved on to geogebra. It is free, relatively easy to program and make your own applications, lots of pre-made applets, and does a great job of connecting geometry and algebra.
Roland, you mentioned the word "radically" different experience. We are waiting for a year to purchase Gizmos - this is a new grant, and we need to get the teachers used to some online manipulatives first, then we will revisit gizmos.
Thanks for your comments - very helpful ideas!
I think it's a great opportunity to get teachers thinking about how they will integrate this into their classroom. I highly recommend the national library of virtual manipulatives for a great set of applets for teachers to start with. They don't come with lessons (which is a problem for some teachers because they need to see an example before they know how to use it in their classroom). Illuminations from NCTM, Interactivate from shodor, Zona Land from NSTA are all good examples of applets that can be used in middle and high school courses. Finally, the sample or test account at explorelearning is a great way to get access to some of the gizmos for free for a month.
The students will generally race through the explorations if they don't have a clear set of expectations/questions that help them focus on the task of learning the concept. From my experience those questions need to be a mix of close ended questions (find the answer to this problem using the online manipulatives) and open ended (how did using the manipulatives give you a better or different understanding of the distributive property). It's easier to ask the close ended questions but they don't promote the kind of thinking that makes those independent experiences really effective for the students. They focus on the answers and not the conceptual understanding. I tried it with my students a couple of times and was frustrated so I went back to a modeling situation in the classroom whole group, asked lots of open-ended questions and gave no feedback (verbal or non-verbal) and made them work with each other to figure out what they were thinking, then guided them through the discussion.
I would encourage the teachers to set a goal of one lesson in a demonstration model and one lesson in an independent lesson model for each unit or chapter. Teachers may be a little reticent to bring it into the classroom without some expectation, support, and OK that it's exploratory. Other teachers will forge ahead and can be used as leverage points to help share their experiences. I, also, encourage the teachers to share their experiences after each chapter (monthly or so) to get feedback about how to make the experiences maximally effective for all involved.
As I reread this post it's a little longer than I expected it to be, but it's a topic that I think is incredibly important in math teaching. I see it as potentially having great impact on student learning. My final point is that teachers can't focus on the gizmo, they must focus on the concept and giving the students a 'real' reason for using the gizmos or they won't be effective. If the students aren't truly expected to bring anything out of the experience then they won't. I urge you and your teachers not to 'reteach' the lesson afterward because the students will pick up on that very very quickly.
Roland, Great thoughts! I teach high school biology and chemistry and my school has purchased explorelearning subscriptions for all science and math teachers and students for the past two years. I'm not a math expert but I can say that for science this site is exceptional!!! It works wonderfully with interactive white boards. Students really enjoy the simulations (independently and as a whole class). The simulations allow my students to "see" things that would be very hard for me to show them otherwise. For example...they can actually move electrons to form covalent bonds and then "press play" to "see" how the electrons are shared between the atoms. I can't say enough about this site for science! It is expensive but in my opinion well worth it! Anyone interested should try the 30 day free trial!
We use them in math and science at our middle and high schools. I have surveyed teachers at the end of each year to see if they are "worth" the investment (yearly renewal). I get overwhelming responses, especially from high school science, that they use them on a regular basis and for me to please renew the subscription. I am considering adding the upper elem. GIZMOS for use in 6th grade.