Using the Web for Teaching - Emphasis on Visuals

A. Malcolm Campbell
Biology Department, Davidson College

If we want students to have 24 x 7 access to reading materials, paper versions are still the best medium. However, paper versions, especially photocopies in black and white, cannot provide all the information that can be provided on the web. This page illustrates four ways I use thew web for enhanced communication for teaching.

Virtual Reprints

Virtual reprints is the term I use to describe online reproductions of primary literature. Photocopies of originals suffer from several disadvantages:

1) Subtle details are lost in figure so students cannot evaluate data for themselves and therefore rely on authors' interpretations instead of developing their own. Example

2) Some colors do not photocopy at all and figures wind up at black boxes (in more ways than one). Example

3) I project figrues in class and label them on white boards so everyone can see the class discussion develop. Example

Interactive Viewing Molecules in "3D"

Much of biology occurs at the molecular level, which is too small for some students to comprehend. Since all molecules occupy space and have specific shapes, it is important for students to understand the shapes. One rule in biology is that form meets function. To understand function, students need to understand the structure.

1) Chime is a free web plugin that allows the user to view molecules interactively. Students can view small molecules and compare their structures. Example

2) Students can look at one protein in different ways. Example

3) Chime tutorials can be created which guide students through hidden facets of a protein's structure. Example

Interactive Animations

Many text books have very good content, both in text and in graphics. However, some concepts are so difficult that students have a difficult time constructing mental models which put all the information into one integrated picture. To help students with difficult concepts, I have begun to create Molecular Movies which summarize well written text. These animations cannot replace the text but they help students who have read the material.

1) This example shows how B cells discover the body has a bacterial infection and they must repsond by making antibodies.

2) Here is a second example that shows how B cells are allowed to survive is they do not recognize "self-proteins".

Prelab Tutorials

There are some methods that are easier to understand if students can see what is supposed to happen, rather than just reading about them. This is not unusual; imagine learning how to tie your shoes by only reading directions but never seeing anyone demonstrate how. For this reason, I have started to create tutorials for some methods. The idea is for students to look before they come to lab and/or for me to show them with the AV systems so we can all watch at the same time.

This example shows an interactive tutorial on the proper use of microscopes used in Introductory Biology (Bio111). It combines image maps and mpeg movies. Internet Explorer works best for the movies.


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