biological teaching aids

Ben Jones jonesbb at BELOIT.EDU
Mon Mar 22 23:54:18 EST 1993

David Salt wrote:

>We were having a discussion today about the possibility of using computers
>as teaching aids in our botany department for example mutimedia boards
>running CD-ROM sound etc to get across concepts like plant morphology
>plant physiology, evolution, ecology....the list goes on and on.
>With all this great new audio/visual technology out there i figure that there
>must be some great programs which for example "let you take a ride through
>the vascular bundle of a plant" or look inside a chloroplast etc etc.
>Anybody got any ideas....i remember isaak asimos created some type of CD-ROM
>based package for physics?

Since I have not seen any responses to this question, I thought our
software might help.  I shall say up front that I am employed by BioQUEST,
which is a non-profit consortium of biology professors, based at Beloit
College.  To head off any question of whether this message is appropriate
use, I ran it past Dave Kristofferson first and he approved it.

BioQUEST does not have any software such as you describe, but it might have
something that you can use.  The philosophy behind our software is that
students learn science by doing science.  Therefore we have avoided any
software that uses rote learning, guided tours, etc.  What we have are
simulations which present problems to the students, and they have to solve
the problems using the tools that biologists in that field normally use. 
For example, in Genetics Construction Kit, or GCK, the user receives a vial
of flies, and he or she can do mate individual flies, do back-crosses, do
chi-squared analyses, etc. to determine what genetics of the flies in the
vial.  It can get extremely sophisticated in its genetics.  An important
aspect is that the teacher doesn't know what is in the vial either, so his
or her role is to help the student think rather than to mark the results as
right or wrong.

In population biology, we have a program called Biota, which is currently
being used by botanists.  It can be used in two ways.  In one form it
presents a "black box" problem to the user, as described above, so that the
students must use simulated "field tools" to investigate the species in the
simulation.  In another form it lets you model the species in a simulation,
and manipulate the birth and death rates, migration routes, predation,
mathematical models, interactions, etc.

We will be having a workshop this summer for developing new software
concerned with population biology, evolution, etc. this summer.

There are a total of 14 programs in a variety of biological fields
including mendelian genetics, population genetics, microbial genetics,
neurology, molecular biology, heart physiology, systems ecology, modelling,
data collection, and biometrics.

It is due to be published within a couple of months by the University of
Maryland Academic Softwaer Development Group.  For purchasing information
you can contact them at:

    asdg at umdd.umd.edu

For more information about the software and the teaching philosophy,

    bioquest at beloit.edu

Ben Jones                  BioQUEST / Department of Biology
jonesbb at beloit.edu         Beloit College, Beloit, Wisconsin

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