CUBE 99Mary Peat
Director, UniServe Science
The CTI Biology Centre held its annual conference in July on Implementing Technology in Bioscience Teaching. It was to have been a two-day event, but owing to a lack of registrations it was reduced to a one-day meeting and with mostly overseas presenters. There were two keynote addresses - the first from Steve Blackmore of the Natural History Museum (Department of Botany) on the use of computers in systematic botany. Steve gave a focused overview of the importance of computers in storing and organising the vast body of historical information needed in the reconstruction of evolutionary history. He showed how, with the aid of the Internet, information from systematic biology is gradually being made available to users around the world. This is being supported by a UK initiative from the UK Systematics Forum (Government funded) which has identified three priority areas for action - discovery and documentation of the diversity of living and fossil species; organisation of that diversity of species into classifications based on patterns of evolutionary history; and greater access to the information and expertise produced by systematics.
The second keynote was given by Grainne Conole on linking research with development with respect to innovations in learning technology. A systematic methodology for integrating learning technologies, which encourage good practice and innovations and is underpinned by relevant research, was outlined. Much of the talk discussed the barriers to success at the institutional level and how to overcome them. There were three papers and a choice of two from four workshops to attend.
The papers were from overseas delegates (Dawn Gleeson, University of Melbourne; Mary Peat, The University of Sydney; and Patti Soderberg, Beloit College, USA). Dawn and Mary showed how two large first year biology groups are integrating web and computer based materials into teaching programs and Patti showed materials from the BioQuest Project in which software modules, that provide students with the opportunity to solve complex biology problems, are being used. Currently Volume V of The BioQuest Library (published by Academic Press) has over 65 software simulations, tools, and supporting materials (http://www.bioquest.org/). Two of the workshops were by the BioQuest group on the use of simulations and Internet conferencing by students. The lack of take-up for this conference by UK based biologists was probably due to the recent major changes within the UK Higher Education sector which have taken over a year to crystalise (see "Is there life after the CTIs?" in this newsletter). Virtual CUBE 99 was held in September mirroring the physical conference.
UniServe Science News Volume 14 November 1999
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