I spent a couple days at South Whidbey High School with Greg Ballog’s AP biology and general biology classes. He has be touted as the SEP “tech” teacher as he is a very savvy computer and general technology user. His classroom has a broad use of varying technologies did not leave me disappointed.
The most obvious tech in his class was his SMART Board. I have seen these in most classrooms I’ve visited but until this point I have yet to see them in action. His SMART Boards allowed him to seamlessly project and control a PowerPoint like presentation. The difference being that with the SMART’s version of PowerPoint the Greg was able to zoom in, add, change and move elements of his presentation on the fly to cater to a particular class. For example, even though he was teaching two general biology classes on infectious diseases one class needed more examples on one part of the lesson. Greg was easy to oblige as he had many different examples that only required some slight tweaking to bring to the forefront of the presentation. In addition to PowerPoint presentations, SMART Boards are a great remote free alternative to show movies and other multimedia to the class.
Greg paired his SMART Board up with his classroom set of Clickers and had a short three question quiz at the start of class. This was an effective way to review and reiterate material. He got immediate results from every student in the class and could report back to them instantly on how they did in class as a whole. In one AP Biology class period, he spent quite a bit of extra time to review material that the class appeared to be struggling with based on how poorly they performed on the class’s opening quiz.
Clickers are a great way to gather general status updates on students’ knowledge, whether that be a pre-test, post-test, or somewhere in the middle. Clickers also give each student a voice. The students more reluctant to participate in class due to their confidence level are able to answer anonymously so to avoid the fear of being wrong. In addition, they can also see how other students also answered the way they did; reinforcing that they really know the material or conversely that they don’t know the material, just like everyone else.
With the Clickers students at South Whidbey High School were all given a voice in class, and with their Lightspeed audio system they are also given ears. I wrote about this a little in my previous post (MicroK12 Tech Fest) but seeing Greg use his microphone in an actual classroom setting was pretty impressive. The volume wasn’t so loud as to be distracting or obnoxious, it was just loud enough for everyone to be able to hear each word clearly. So even when one student in a row is goofing off the student next to them can easily stay on task.
Greg also used Vernier Probeware providing students with an easy and professional way to record data. Coupled with a classroom set of Netbooks, the Probeware graphed the results of their lab(cell respiration) in real time. This seems to be an important element of the lab, especially for the AP Biology students, where they are more likely to go into science as a profession. His students are given an opportunity to learn real science technology skills giving them a leg up in an increasingly competitive college and job market.