the definition of "ballin" is "Living the good life" in and out of work. This is what makes me love life.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Presenting at NYSCATE's Digital Learning Summit 2014

On Monday March 31st I had the wonderful opportunity to present at the Digital Leadership Conference in Liverpool, NY. Many of the attendees were school district administrators from all over New York State. I am very grateful that NYSCATE believes in teachers like me and helps teachers to learn new and innovative ways to motivate students in the classroom. 
Online learning is something that I could talk about for hours (literally) and I ran out of time to cover my entire presentation so I have shared my presentation here.

From the Trenches: Life in a Blended Learning Classroom 

Presenter: Amy Balling is NABT's 2013 Outstanding Biology Teacher of the Year for New York State.

This session will address triumphs and struggles faced in the past four years of running a blended Regents biology class. We will take a look at how online learning helps to address the needs of the students in a mixed classroom with students at various levels of ability. You will walk away with cost-effective strategies and free tools to enhance your traditional classroom and get you on your way to creating your own blended learning environment.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Presenting at STANYS Mini-Conference March 26, 2014

This afternoon I will be presenting at the STANYS Mini-Conference at the Buffalo Museum of Science.

My topic will be Aurasma and Augmented Reality in the classroom. I blogged about it here. Here is a slideshare of my presentation. Enjoy!
Click here to see my presentation.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

2014 Pinterest Challenge Chalkboard Slow Cooker and chili recipe

So I'm going to accept the 2014 Pinterest Challenge. I am challenging myself to try out something on Pinterest each month (and hopefully blog about it.)  

So here goes...
I found this Pin on Pinterest and filed it away for a rainy day. Yesterday was a 50 degree rainy day here in Buffalo (I know, in January that's crazy.) So I decided to try it.

The good news was that I already had everything I needed from previous projects so overall it cost me NOTHING!  I actually have 2 slow cookers a really nice stainless steel one and this ugly one that was collecting dust in the basement. I almost never use it because it was all discolored.

You can see the discoloring better in this picture....ewww. (don't judge)

These are the materials I used: Glidden Gripper Primer, Valspar Black Chalkboard paint, Greased Lightening Multi-purpose spray, Frog Tape, and 300 grit sandpaper.

I washed the slow cooker with the Greased Lightening spray 
(It is amazing at washing up greasy surfaces)

I also lightly sanded the surface, washed off the dust, and put Frog Tape on the areas that I didn't want painted.

This is what it looked like after one coat of primer.

and after 2 coats of primer

 After one coat of chalkboard paint

After two coats of chalkboard paint


While it's out I might as well use's how I make chili:

 The ingredients

Amy's Sweet Jesus Chili
1 pound 95% fat free ground beef
medium onion, chopped
medium pepper, chopped
28 oz can crushed tomatoes
6 oz can tomato paste
15.5 oz can black beans (undrained)
15.5 oz can red beans (undrained)
half of a 12 oz can of Coca Cola, Dr Pepper, or Pepsi 
3 tablespoons chili powder
1/2 tablespoon of cumin
1/2 tablespoon of smoked paprika
1/2 tablespoon of Sriracha Hot Sauce

Cut up a medium onion and a medium pepper (I used little snacker peppers)

Mix the raw ground beef and the peppers and onions in the pot.

Add the remaining ingredients (do NOT drain the beans...that's where a LOT of the fiber is at)

Stir well to mix and then turn on the slow cooker.  4 hours on high, or 8 hours on low.


What slow cooker recipes do you love?

Join me in the 2014 Pinterest Challenge and share your Pinterest successes

originally posted on

Modeling Mitosis with Oreo Cookies 1e: Designing Coherent Instruction

Oreo Cookie Mitosis

The problem was: What do I do with the students the day before Winter Recess?

We were about to finish the Reproduction and Development Unit but needed one or two days of review before the test.  I know a lot of teachers like to show a video but the way I see it you are essentially telling the students that "today isn't an important day, you aren't important to me, let's just take it easy."

I was looking for a fun activity that would help the students review and would entertain them and keep them out of trouble for 40 minutes.  For whatever reason I ended up googling: Mitosis Cookies and found resources and ideas on the following websites:

I then took parts from each site and created this handout for my 9th grade Biology students: Click here for the handout

oreo cookies provided by students
They brought in plenty of cookies, and I provided the colored sprinkles, plastic dixie cups, toothpicks, and construction paper.

colored sprinkles

It was a huge hit!  The kids loved it, they were ALL engaged in the lesson and were able to eat the cookies when they were done.

You can see the pictures of what they produced below.

What fun activities do your students enjoy before a vacation?

originally posted on

Monday, November 18, 2013

1c: Setting Instructional Outcomes with Augmented Reality in the Classroom

This is going to knock your socks off!

The other day I found a new app (new to me at least) and I think it might change education as we know it. As you can imagine I have gone absolutely crazy trying out some different ways to use it.  The app (Aurasma) is free and it can be downloaded from iTunes here:  (It is also available for Android devices too.)

What are you waiting for? Download the app! 
This blog post won't mean much to you if you don't see it in action.

Here is the write up on iTunes:
          Aurasma – a new way to see and interact with the world
          Aurasma is an augmented reality app that’s changing the way millions of people see and interact with the world.
          · Bring tagged images, objects and even physical locations to life with interactive digital content, such as video, animations and 3D scenes, we call Auras
          · Look out for our ‘A’ logo in newspapers, magazines, books and on product packaging and clothing–wherever you spot the ‘A’, there’s an Aura for you to discover
          · Use the map feature to discover Auras at nearby locations
          · Browse the ‘explore’ and ‘featured’ sections of the app to find the latest and most popular Auras Aurasma is the only application that lets you create and share your own augmented reality.
          · Use the simple tools within the app to create your own Auras and share them with friends and other Aurasma users
          · Create Auras by choosing from thousands of digital animations already on the platform or alternatively use your own photos and videos  
          · Most popular user-generated Auras include adding 3D dinosaurs to your street, sending a video message on a greetings card, leaving hidden clues in a treasure hunt, adding instructional information to a machine and augmenting text books and project work in education
           Use Aurasma to get creative and share digital content in a new way. There’s a whole world out there to tag.
           What’s your Aura?

So this is how I use it in the classroom:

I give my students instructions on how to download the app and follow me on Aurasma. Link to the handout here.

This blog post will make more sense to you if you follow the directions in the handout and sign up to follow me (ballingbiology) on the Aurasma app.

I then have them go around the room and scan for Auras. To get them used to the app I have them practice with some of my family pictures where I have tagged a funny family video for them to see.

 I also have put informational videos with some of the instructional models I have in the classroom. Like this Fluid Mosiac Model that has a video tagged that goes with it. Another example is this Diffusion model with a diffusion video linked to it.

In an upcoming lab I have created and linked videos that supplement what they read when doing the lab. Some are videos from Youtube, others are videos or photos that I took showing them how to do the lab. 

Here is a link to part of the lab...print it out and check out the "Auras." You can scan and see auras on the lab where I have placed a small Aurasma symbol like this:

NOTE: You do not have to put the symbol for the Auras to work, I put them there so my students know where to look.

What are some other ways this can be used?
I think this can be VERY powerful in education for many reasons. Here are some I just thought up in the past couple days:
  • A student can see a video of the concept when they need it, watch it as many times as they want and learn at their own pace.
  • Teachers can record examples for the students or show them how to do something for example: in the lab I put a short video explaining how I want them to label and draw the graph with their data. 
  • It could also be used for students on home instruction.
  • Teachers could add videos that go along with material in the textbook.

How do I create the Auras?

These are the very brief instructions from the makers of Aurasma

It took a LOT of trial and error to figure out exactly how to do I'm going to show you step by step what I did.

Using an iPad or ipod's camera app, record a video or take a picture.

Download the Aurasma app and sign in. (following each step, I have included a screen shot of what you should see)

In the app click on the White A in the bottom center of the screen.

    Click on the + at the bottom of the screen to "Create an Aura"

    Use one of their free Auras or...

    Use one of your own (like the picture or video you just recorded. Click on Device in the bottom right

    click on the purple + box

    select the photo album and select your video or photo

    give it a name

    click finish

    click on that image and click on select

    the camera will open up in the app

    use the camera to capture the Trigger Image

    To create a tag, you need the image to register green in the bar below the picture (sometimes it helps to make the viewing box smaller and move the device closer or farther away)

    adjust the size and location of the photo or video

click the purple arrow

give it a name

click on Public

and click Finish

Using the app, hover over the object and the aura you created will pop up! 

When I was recording videos of myself demostarting how to do the lab I found it difficult to hold the iPad steady and create videos of myself I created a free iPad stand with a ring stand supported by textbooks.

I hope that this blog post brings you some inspiration and please share with me how you plan to use this in your classroom.

originally posted on