ExploreLearning: Active Experimentation


Science and math concepts are often some of the most challenging for students to grasp. It is not enough to listen to a teacher talk about concepts and then complete standard assignments. Rather, a learner must be able to learn from the teacher in addition to interacting with simulations and experiments. Physical science experiments and mathematical manipulatives are great ways to practice inquiry. However, they are not suitable for all concepts or learning environments. ExploreLearning Gizmos provides a holistic learning experience, featuring a large library of over 400 simulations.


Reasons Physical Manipulation is Insufficient

In a comprehensive review of virtual and physical science labs it was found that the ideal science laboratory curriculum contained both physical and virtual labs (De Jong, Linn, & Zacharia, 2013). This is because they each have different affordances and constraints and can complement each other. Virtual simulations afford the opportunity to practice multiple times with a phenomena and to explore concepts that can’t be a physical lab. When it comes to learning environments, virtual simulations and manipulations are often the only type of inquiry experience that online students have. They can also be used for home school or homebound students. ExploreLearning is a comprehensive science and math software that comes complete with differentiated simulations, teacher guides, student worksheets, assessments, and state and national standards. The virtual simulations in ExploreLearning are known as Gizmos and these terms will be used interchangeably.

Applying Theory to Practice

A limiting feature of virtual simulations is that they do not create the ill-structured, problem-solving environment that is so foundational to the practice of math and science. However, ExploreLearning scaffolds students so that by the end of the worksheet, they are expected to control confounding variables and operate the simulation in order to solve a research question. Broadly speaking, ExploreLearning falls under the scope of constructivism. More specifically, it falls under the scope of project-based learning, cognitive dissonance, or Kolb’s experiential learning cycle. These learning theories are complementary and could be seen in the same learning sequence depending on the perspective someone takes.

Utilizing ExploreLearning

ExploreLearning comes with a free trial to assign as many simulations as you want to your students. This allows you to try the product without fully creating a course and tracking student assessment data over courses. With this trial, you are able to download the student guide and have students take the quiz at the end of the simulation.  EdTechGuides provides nice example of the ExploreLearning tool in action. All of the instructional design is already done and the simulations are ready to use. This reduces the time a teacher needs to devote to creating a lesson plan from scratch.

ExploreLearning has several nice features, not limited to:

Differentiated Gizmos: Students in the same grade level are going to have vastly different abilities. ExploreLearning has created the same Gizmo at multiple developmental levels. This allows you to assign Gizmos based on the student’s level while ensuring that everyone is engaging with the same content.

Recommended Gizmos: Based on previous searches and selections, ExploreLearning is able to give you a recommendation as to what other simulations would be of relevance to you.

Searching by Standards: ExploreLearning has aligned Gizmos with multiple different standards from individual states to the Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core. This is particularly helpful if you have an articulated curriculum that mandates when concepts are taught.

Responsive Design: Gizmos work on a variety of devices and sizes including PC, iOS, Chromebooks, and Android devices.

Take a look at our Learning-Theories.com tutorial video for using ExploreLearning Gizmos below.