The proliferation of technology has changed how educators teach, how students learn, and how teachers and students communicate. In a recent Educause survey, 75 percent of students said technology helps them achieve their academic outcomes, and 55 percent said they wish their instructors used more technology resources. Mike Balla is granting that wish for his students by implementing different technologies into his classroom.
Balla graduated from the McKay School of Education in 2007 with a BS in math education. At the McKay School, he learned important lessons that have advanced his teaching style. “I learned to embrace all forms of technology and to not give up if it doesn’t work at first,” Balla said.
Balla uses “just about every kind of technology imaginable” in his classroom. Moby Inter Write, Turning Point remote software, and iPads are just a few that he has integrated to enhance his students’ learning experience. However, what Balla is most famous for is his online lectures he created in order to “flip his classroom.”
A flipped classroom is a form of blended learning with the use of technology as leverage. The method works by having the students first study the topic on their own, typically through video lessons. The students then apply the knowledge by solving problems and doing practical work in the classroom with the teacher acting as a tutor. This method of teaching allows for more individual learning and interactive teaching, which is Balla’s goal. “I try and get the kids to do most of the teaching themselves,” Balla said. “In class, I try to get my students out of their seats and as involved as possible in the learning process.”
Flipping the classroom is relatively new and therefore the results are not clear, but Balla plans to continue the method in his classroom. “I have seen constant improvement in standardized test scores since using this method,” Balla said. “My kids now use a higher level of thinking to learn and better conversation skills to teach each other. They are more engaged than ever. They also have to be personally accountable for their own learning like in college, which gets them ready for when they graduate. I love this method.”
Balla and his wife, Karen, have three children, and they currently live in Houston, Texas, where Balla is teaching. Since Balla has been using the flipped classroom approach, his entire department has started using the same model.