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Unizor -Creative Mind through Art of Mathematics

Unizor is an open source mathematics and physics Web site that seeks to promote intellectual strength, creativity and analytical abilities.  Unizor’s founder, Zor Shekhtman, does this through a series of lectures on mathematics and physics designed to help high school students exercise the mind just as one would exercise his or her body in a gymnasium.  The abilities strengthened by using Unizor can readily be applied to real life.  Another great strength of Unizor is that parents and other responsible adults are placed in charge of their students’ education.

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Zor discusses Permutations.

So, how does Unizor do this?  A parent/supervisor goes to Unizor’s Web site and creates an account for him or herself.  The parent/supervisor then has two roles.  The first is to enroll his or her students into instructional programs.  The second is to manage the learners’ progression through the programs.  Each student has an account created by the parent/supervisor which makes this possible.  From here, students’ progress can be monitored, including exam scores, and they can be passed on to the next level within the course.

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Zor discusses possible outcomes of a given set of options.

How does Unizor work?  Each topic is presented by Zor Shekhtman as a video lecture.  Far from being dry, Zor conveys his enthusiasm for the curriculum through his instruction, which makes the lectures very engaging.  Zor also utilizes visual aids and examples to enhance the learning experience.  The educational experience is further augmented by the use of other media and materials.  Furthermore, teachers are not left out.  To quote from the Unizor home page, “The function of a Unizor teacher is to provide quality educational materials. Control over educational process is not a function of a Unizor teacher, this is supposed to be provided by parents/supervisors.”  Teachers can modify both instructional content and exams as well.

Unizor has a very different approach to mathematics education than the more prevalent  principles utilized by many schools.  These principles have an emphasis on formulas and procedures and the memorization of these.  The problem with this is that students, not finding immediate real-world application for this information, will soon forget it once the assessment is passed.  Unizor focuses on a logical and analytical approach to mathematics education, encouraging problem-solving, proving theorems, axiomatic foundation and rigorousness of educational material.  This approach is conducive to the development of students’ minds, something that will be of value in any occupation.

Unizor is ideal for learners who have been identified as gifted and talented.  The opportunities for academic and intellectual growth abound here.  Be aware, that Unizor is a work in progress.  However, there are more than 400 lectures available with more to come.  You should also know that the physics component is still predominantly under development.  So take control of your student’s learning and create a supervisor account on Unizor’s Web site today.

Resources

Unizor Home Page

References

http://unizor.com/

Gibbon: Open Source School Platform

What would be better for your school system: a Student Information System or a School Management System?  How’s about having both tools in one software package?  In this installment, I’d like to introduce you to Gibbon, an open source suite that can be utilized to organize your facilities and to record and analyze data on students.  In short, Gibbon is a SIS, a SMS and VLE functionality all in one place.  If you are involved in your school district’s decision-making, you should really check this suite out before shopping for proprietary software.

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The Planner window

The secret to Gibbon’s functionality is modules which can be added to make it do what you need it to do.  There are a set of core modules that are installed by default.  I’m going to take a look at some of those now.  The first of these is Planner.  Planner is a lesson planner that allows you to incorporate multimedia integration into your lessons.  Because these lesson plans are stored on a server, they can be readily shared with parents and students.  Homework can be assigned and collected online.  These lesson plans can even be organized into units and used to generate curriculum maps.  Assignments can be graded and the grades recorded.  Other cool features include students being able to comment on peers’ work, guests being able to take classes and students being able to “like” lessons by awarding them gold stars.

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A planning session with Timetable

Timetable allows for the creation of timetables for students and faculty alike.  Resources is a database which allows users to catalog and share resources school-wide.  Library empowers users with the capacity to catalog, lend and track items such as books, movies or even electronics.  The Individual Needs module allows for the creation of lessons designed to meet the needs of individual learners.  These can be archived as the student progresses and used to measure progress.  Activities facilitates the creation and management of school activities, including Web-based notifications and registration as well as attendees lists.  Markbook allows educators to record and track students academic progress.  This data can, if so desired, be easily shared with students and parents.  The Rubrics module not only allows teachers to create rubrics, but the rubrics are actually interactive via mouse-clicks.

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You too can track student performance using Gibbon.

There is one aspect of education that I haven’t addressed yet and it’s the most important component -people.  Students is the SIS module.  Student information from across the system can be accessed here.  Academic, behavioral and medical alerts can be generated and accessed by those who need them.  Students’ attendance history can be tracked in Attendance and behaviors, both positive and negative, can be tracked and analyzed using the Behavior module.  Data Updater assures that the right people, parents for example, have current data on certain students.  Other modules in this category can empower users with the ability to easily create groups of staff and students alike as well as to generate staff directories.  Finance is a tool for the tracking of finances, for example in a fund-raiser. Messenger, an internal messaging system that can be used to set up groups of specific recipients and supports such formats as email, SMS and Message Wall.  The last of the default modules addresses administration, both in terms of school and in terms of the system as well as user and timetable administration.

What could be better than having all of these components in one suite?  Being able to add to them.  There are far more expansion modules than I could possibly address here, but they include, and certainly are not limited to, assessment administration, query building, Moodle integration, an integrated Help Desk and Free Learning integration as well.   There are also proprietary modules available, should the open source modules not meet your needs.

As an experienced educator, I can tell you that if your school or district is looking for a school platform, the search should begin, and will end, here.

Thanks to Ross Parker for permission to use the screenshots and for his work on this extremely worthwhile project.

Resources

Gibbon Home Page

References

Parker, R.  (2011).  Features – Gibbon. Retrieved from https://gibbonedu.org/features/.