Friday, September 18, 2009

Technology in Biology Class

Photo used under a Creative Commons licence from Vik Nanda at

A post on twitter earlier this week asked people to suggest some unique ways to use technology in a biology classroom. The following ideas came to mind. Not all that original but I hoped that they might serve to spark some further ideas.

• Sharing resources online with social bookmarking tools such as delicious or diigo
• Use RSS feeds for biology news delivered to you like netvibes or google reader
Google maps – track virus outbreaks, show species distribution
• Use Toondoo or another online tool to create cartoons to illustrate concepts or processes
• Mind mapping tools for showing relationships. Larry Ferlazzo has a list of useful online mindmapping tools.
• Create screencasts to use as study aids or combine with a draw program to illustrate concepts
• Use a combination of flickr and jing to create annotated digital biology stories. Have students use images licenced under a creative commons licence. There is an extensive list on the copyright friendly wiki.
• Video conference with a biologist to learn about jobs in biology or to hear them talk about new developments in the field.

Then I had an even better idea. I emailed former colleague, retired biology teacher Briar Ballou. Briar is a master teacher who led her school in the innovative use of technology. Here are some of her ideas:

• there are some pretty cool biology songs. Students could pick the song and set up a power point or keynote to it. Listen to Earth Songs I would also suggest having students create their own biology songs using GarageBand if you have a licence or a new, free online tool called Myna

• pick a central theme, like mitosis and have the students do a video to represent what is happening. See this example on you tube: Shoe Mitosis. Look for other biology clips on YouTube.

• Isabella Rosselini is known for her animal sequence on Green porno. The earthworm one is safe to show. Have students select an organism and then do a short video clip on it. I would strongly recommend previewing before showing to students.

• Kids love karaoke and there are some clever biology themes. I love the tRNA one.

• in the 70's one cool prof set up a large class video on protein synthesis. Students could create their own works in small groups.

• one thing I was trying to set up before I "graduated" was doing some podcasts on selected topics. These would be a great resource for other students.

• Publish a new guide to a specific topic. Have you seen the small soft cover books that you can produce now? About 20 pages cost $12 for three from iPhoto.

• Crazy idea: run a photo contest. Print the winning photo. A large 1/2 size poster can cost under $20.

• Another crazy idea: using media, create a study guide for specific topics. Include photos, summary notes; you can set your own criteria for it.

• The new Nano has video ability and Flip cameras are easy to use.

So thanks Briar, for those inspiring ideas. And to you, my readers, how do you bring technology into the biology classrooms in your schools.

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