Back to school is a busy time of year for Courtney Gillan. She serves as an Instructional Specialist at Brighton 27J Schools in Brighton, CO. With the help of the Science TOSA Coach, part of her role is to onboard new science teachers to the district, which includes a day of learning about 27J science and resources, including
Gillan has been in education since 2001, when she started her career as a teacher. Since then, her roles have included science teacher, AVID teacher, and TOSA Coach. Brighton 27J Schools is the fifteenth largest district in Colorado, with 12 elementary schools, five middle schools, four high schools (three comprehensive high schools and one alternative high school), and six charter schools. Gillan works at a district level and supports the implementation of Gizmos in grades 6-12.
Courtney Gillan in a Gizmos training for new science teachers, NEO (New Educator Orientation) for 23-24.
Choosing the right resources to support teachers and students
While working as a district coach before the pandemic, Gillan searched for resources to add to their materials bank. Some of the options they considered required a lot of teacher support. Others weren’t compatible with district technology capabilities. Many products had limited options.
“After surveying our teachers and thinking about our student needs, we chose Gizmos as our core lab supplemental resource,” said Gillan.
Teachers in her district felt that “Gizmos offered students a variety of ways to meet lab requirements in a fun and academic setting.”
The district assesses usage data for Gizmos monthly, which shows that the middle schools use Gizmos a bit more than high schools. “Gizmos provide grade-level experiences,” said Gillan. “This is helpful so our teachers don’t have to guess which concept at which depth is appropriate for their level or content.”
Gizmos have many uses in and out of the classroom
Gillan said, “Our students are looking for technology in the classroom to boost their learning experience. This program does just that and can be customized to be a warm-up, an entire lesson, a project, and more. Students can use their tech skills to share data and learn from one another.” In addition to classwork and homework, Gizmos are frequently used in their online courses and in buildings that have limited physical resources.
“Gizmos are especially useful for labs that tend to be on the more expensive side AND for labs with abstract concepts,” said Gillan.
Which Gizmos are favorites? The district’s usage data indicates that the
Food Chain Gizmo is at the top of the list.
Disease Spread is another popular choice, especially during COVID school closings when teachers were able to provide students with a laboratory option through Gizmos.
While Gillan noted that no computer simulation can replace hands-on learning, she understands the power of a tool that makes concepts come to life.
“Quite honestly, when used correctly, Gizmos stretched our student learning.”
Gillan has been most surprised by the differentiation options with Gizmos.
“I appreciate the various ways to expand my knowledge of the product. It seems that each time I play around with a Gizmo, there is something new I didn’t notice before.”
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