Discovering Science: Topics in Biology and Ecology and Discovering Science: Topics in Biology and GeologyLouise Rodgerson
Department of Biological Sciences, University of Wollongong
These two CD-ROMs provide students with an excellent collection of resources for obtaining a solid introduction into some of the key concepts in biology. Students are able to work independently, without supervision, and at their own pace. The degree to which students can interact with the material varies between the modules, however, it is generally excellent. The activities range from structured tutorials which introduce some important and difficult topics in biology, to analytical exercises, to directed practical activities involving field work, data collection, analysis and interpretation. Students can access 'Help' menus and glossaries at any time and are provided with ample opportunity to explore a wide range of additional resources. The CD-ROMs are easy to use and the instructions for each module are excellent, with a few minor exceptions.
Discovering Science: Topics in Biology and Ecology contains two modules:
The Ecological chains module is excellent and the level of interactivity ensures the student's attention is maintained. Students explore various aspects of the woodland natural history before embarking upon an analysis of a typical food chain and energy which requires the use of a range of analytical skills. Many students find the numerical components of biology and ecology particularly difficult and I believe this module is likely to provide a valuable learning opportunity for many of these students.
In the Galapagos module students are introduced to the basic principles of evolution, adaptation and speciation by undertaking an exploration of the Galapagos Islands. This module is also very good, however, the level of interactivity is more basic than that required by the Ecological chains module, and thus the quality of the learning is unlikely to be as high. The interactivity sometimes just involves students completing a series of multiple choice exercises. Other activities involve students matching items correctly, for example, matching finch beak types with various food items and feeding mechanisms. This module has several annoying features which detract from the overall quality of the module. It is not possible to skip the introductory sections of the activity. This is particularly annoying when you are returning to the module to complete more advanced sections. In addition, there are times when insufficient information is provided to make informed decisions which leads to simply guessing answers.
Discovering Science: Topics in Biology and Geology includes four biology activities and three geology topics. Only the biology topics are included in this review. They are:
The Holly leaf miner module is excellent. However, its use to an Australian audience may be limited because of the taxonomic specificity of this activity. Students, after being introduced to this system, are guided through a field study involving data collection analysis and presentation of the mortality factors of holly resulting from herbivory by its leaf miner. The structure of the numerical activities is excellent and likely to be of great benefit to students who perceive numerical activities as difficult. The interactive resources provided are interesting and extensive but specific to this system.
Cells and energy is an advanced module, probably beyond the level of most introductory biology subjects. This module begins with a quick review of the structure and function of cell organelles. Students then undertake a series of activities to familiarise themselves with the pathway of glucose oxidation and the reactions of photosynthesis. The cellular and subcellular animations are fabulous and the level of interactivity is excellent.
Mitosis, meiosis and recombination is one of the best multimedia resources that I have encountered for enhancing students' learning of the key phases and events of mitosis, meiosis and recombination. After viewing videos and animations students are provided with the opportunity to direct a cell through these processes. Useful feedback is provided throughout the activity.
Overall, I believe these two packages are excellent teaching and learning resources that would complement any introductory biology programme.
UniServe Science News Volume 16 July 2000
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