EdTech 541: Week 12 Part 1: Simulations

Science Math Learning Activities: Simulations

1. Site: Explore Learning

Uses: I activated my free trial membership to this site. I chose to learn about Earth Science plate tectonics.

Plate Tectonics

Move the Earth’s crust at various locations to observe the effects of the motion of the tectonic plates, including volcanic eruptions. Information about each of the major types of plate boundaries is shown, along with their locations on Earth.   The Plate Tectonics Gizmo™ illustrates four types of plate boundaries: transform, collisional, sub-duction, and divergent.

Relation to Theme:

Most of the world’s active volcanoes are located along or near the boundaries between shifting plates and are called “plate-boundary” volcanoes.  By reviewing the Plate Tectonics Gizmo students can watch an animation of plate movements at each boundary, and see where these boundaries are located on a world map.


Gizmo’s from Explore Learning is a content management system that requires membership (a fee); however you can sign up for a free thirty day trial.  The resources available are called, “Gizmos” and they are designed to supplement existing classroom curriculum.  All Gizmos are developed by Doctors of Math and Science. The web based simulations go through a review process and support materials are created via a curriculum team. The Gizmos / web based fully interactive simulations are aligned to California content standards, California textbooks and now to the Common Core. They are designed to help teachers teach core concepts using these fully interactive tools to help students’ gain deep conceptual understanding. Teachers do not create Gizmos, but they can upload their own lesson plans.  The lesson plans uploaded will be used as a possible new Gizmo that are made by the developers.

Gizmos cover a variety of topics from elementary, middle and high school math and science. The appearance is great; the layout is simple and well organized.  The graphics are appealing, interesting, and have up to date site links. There is no advertising and the audio is appropriate.  The site has organized topics into grade levels, state standards, and curriculum.  The site will break down the tools by curriculum and textbook correlations.  So, you can choose your specific textbook adopted curriculum that will match up with lessons and units you are working on.  This feature is nice as it saves time searching for appropriate Gizmos.

From the Gizmos I have reviewed, they appear to be user friendly and age appropriate.  The Gizmos are interactive, allow for inquiry based learning; students can do a variety of inquiries by changing the variables on the Gizmos. There is immediate feedback when performing inquiries, taking quizzes or use the manipulative.

The Gizmos are Shockwave based so software may need to be updated to run.  There is no language choice available.  In addition, users must be online to use the Gizmos.

2. Site:  FOSS Web California Edition

Fourth Grade: Solid Earth Module

In the Solid Earth Module for fourth grade, California Edition provides a pre-packaged unit complete learning module.

Uses: I chose the Solid Earth Module for fourth grade.   The Solid Earth Module! Explore the Geology Lab to find out about different types of rocks and the landforms found on Earth’s surface!  The best way for students to appreciate the scientific enterprise, learn important scientific and engineering concepts, and develop the ability to think well is to actively participate in scientific practices through their own investigations and analyses.

Review: The Solid Earth Module consists of five sequential investigations, each designed to introduce or reinforce concepts in earth science. The investigations provide students with firsthand experiences with rocks and minerals, and modeling experiences to study changes to rocks and minerals at Earth’s surface.  The FOSS modules are organized into three sections: physical science, earth science, and life science. Each section has navigation on the left side.  Navigation menu includes: Activities, books, vocabulary, websites.  There is a section for parents and teachers that include: module summary, home/school connection and teacher resources.  The sequence of modules in each strand relates to the core ideas described in the national framework. The FOSS Program bridges research and practice by providing tools and strategies to engage students and teachers in enduring experiences that lead to deeper understanding of the natural and designed worlds.

Relation to Theme: I would use this site for the Geology lab, vocabulary, websites, and teacher resources.  In the Geology lab there is a volcano resource.  Here you will find the different types of volcanoes.  When you roll you mouse over a volcano it has an action.  If you click on the volcano it will open up real-world information of that type of volcano. For example, I would use the cinder volcanoes to relate to the local geographical landforms in our county.

Write a blog about the relative advantage of using technology to enhance the content areas.
3. Site: National Library of Virtual Manipulatives

Uses: I used the Bar Chart creator. This was a great virtual manipulative, and again, very user friendly. This tool allows you to create up to 8 categories. The list and numbers are easily entered, and then you create your chart. The charts are displayed very colorfully. I had the option to show the key or not.   A Bar Chart creates a bar chart showing quantities or percentages by labeling columns and clicking on values.

Review: This was very easy to use. The one draw-back is that there is no way to save your chart. I did not download the free trial; perhaps you are able to do this when you sign up. You could always print the page once you have created your chart.   This manipulative is intended to introduce users to the idea of visual representation of data by means of a bar chart. It is sufficiently flexible that it can conveniently record a great many different kinds of data, but size and color limits require that it be used with some direction. The spinners allow the user to have as many as 12 columns, each with as many as 20 cells. The user can label any column as desired, but with lots of columns the space available for a label shrinks.


Relation to Theme: The possibilities to use a bar chart with the Volcano Unit are endless. This activity would be useful for students to create a chart of volcanoes using the field/columns for location, type, type, latitude, longitude, elevation.   This data can be researched from the other activities in the Volcano Thematic Unit.  Once a collection has been separated into sub-categories and described, students should label the Bar Chart columns and enter the number of items in each category. The resulting chart can serve to describe results from the classification activity. Students should be encouraged to fully describe what the amount in a given column represents. For example, “25% of our collections are shield volcanoes.”  Additionally, there are all sorts of activities in which it may be desirable to group columns in various ways, supporting discussions of different ways to display or communicate data.

4. Site: National Library of Virtual Manipulatives

Uses: I used the “Wave on a String” manipulative, this was very user friendly.

Review: In this simulation you will be taking measurements (wavelength and time period) from a wave simulated by a computer application. You will use these measurements to create a graph by hand. From your graph you will find the speed of the wave.  Pulse is very helpful to focus particularly on what happens to a wave as it travels in the medium and during reflection. Using Low Tension with pulse slows the motion, so makes for good demonstrations. Pressing Pulse a second time allows for analysis of superposition.

Relation to Theme: This tool would be a great resource for teaching about seismic waves in relationship to an earth quake.   This activity is inquiry based. The simulation will be used as the introduction to wave properties and behavior for mechanical waves.  Seismic waves are the waves of energy caused by the sudden breaking of rock within the earth or an explosion. They are the energy that travels through the earth and is recorded on seismographs. Research could be done to discover seismic wave frequencies, then the simulation could be adjusted to determine the force of the waves. You can pause the simulation, and then set the parameters. In a demonstration, it would provide easy opportunity to ask “What if..?  You could use the simulation as many times as needed, and you can record your results.

Wave on a String

This entry was posted in 1.3 Instructional Strategies, 2.3 Computer-Based Technologies, 2.4 Integrated Technologies, AECT Standards, EdTech 541, Reflections, Standard 1: Design, Standard 2: Development and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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