October 17, 2013
Niels Walkau: ExploreLearning Educator of the Month
Niels Walkau is a teacher at Coberg West High School in Ontario. He has been using Gizmos for 4 years and has been teaching for 18 years. He teaches 10th and 11th grade academic-level Biology and Chemistry.
Mr. Walkau facilitates students’ academic growth by focusing on learning goals. One of the most important resources he uses to achieve this is Gizmos. He tells students, “There are a variety of resources to help you meet each goal, but one thing’s for sure, if you use the assigned Gizmos, you will learn.” Since adding Gizmos to the curriculum, his students have responded well. “The kids just run with it. They love the freedom and independence Gizmos provide. It allows them to speed experiments up, change variables, and helps them learn at their own pace. Also, it’s interactive and digital, so it maintains students’ enthusiasm and engagement.”
Gizmos have not only been helpful to Mr. Walkau’s teaching practice, but they have also added new content to his curriculum. He explains, “I didn’t teach the concept of star spectra before Gizmos, but after seeing it in the Star Spectra Gizmo, something just clicked. I realized that students need to know where matter comes from before they can start talking about its properties and behaviors. I realized Spectroscopy would be the cornerstone for the unit. Spectroscopy is one of the most important tools for element identification, and it made perfect sense to use the Star Spectra Gizmo as an intro to the topic. After using the Gizmo, the kids did a hands-on lab and burned elements. They used real spectroscopes to observe elemental spectra, just like the ones shown in the Gizmo. With Gizmos, kids that had no background knowledge could test and play, and then do it for real. When it was all tied together, students began to understand where the elements come from—students’ eyes were opened! It even led to a class discussion about the Big Bang theory.”
Gizmos also rekindled Mr. Walkau’s love of astronomy. After creating the unit with the Star Spectra Gizmo, he joined an astronomy group and has even begun collecting a few telescopes of his own. Happy star gazing, Mr. Walkau!