software

 

In-class Lesson Plan for Starry Night:

To use this software for biology, I would do the following lesson:

1. Compare and contrast the sky on the Starry Night software to the sky that you really see when you look outside.

2. Discuss several reasons why the sky in Los Angeles does not look like the sky on the Starry Night software.

3. How much do you think we would know about our solar system and space if the sky had always looked like it does presently?

4. Will our sky ever look like it does on the Starry Night software again? Explain your answer.

 

1. General Software Review:

a. Starry Night
Starry Night is an excellent program for teachers of Astronomy, Earth science and perhaps Physics but is not very applicable to the biology standards or material. I enjoyed having the opportunity to use it in class and will recommend it to the teachers in my department but it is not a program that I will use. The software allows you to see the night sky on any date and from a large number of locations. You are able to zoom out and see the solar system or visit other planets. Comets and satellites are also included in the program and their orbits can be studied as well. It is an excellent resource for teachers who are covering any standard dealing with space.

b. Virtual Lab Software - McDougal Littell
This is support software that is offered with the McDougal Littell Biology textbook materials. It contains computerized labs on a number of topics including gel electrophoresis, estimating population size, plant transpiration, and blood typing. The labs are very interactive and are an excellent resource in any biology class. One excellent feature of this software is the student's lab notebook. During the lab, the student is given the opportunity to type his/her hypothesis, make predictions, and record observations and conclusions in a lab notebook. Students can print out their lab notebook when the lab is complete. Throughout the lab there are questions that must be answered before they can procede to the next step which is another excellent feature because it requires that students actively participate in the virtual activity. In addition, many of the experiments in this software, allow students have to design the experiment in which they would select a control and experimental group, set dependent and independent variables, and collect data. Since this mimics science in the real world, it is excellent practice using the scientific method.

c. Virtual Labs CD-ROM - Prentice Hall
This is support software that is offered with the Prentice Hall Biology textbook materials. It contains computerized labs on a number of topics including enzyme activity, onion cell plasmolysis, mitosis in plant vs. animal cells, and a test of cardiovascular fitness. The labs allow students to move and manipulate different lab tools to complete the lab. Like the McDougal Littell software, there is a student lab notebook that allows the students to record data and answer analysis questions. However, in my opinion, this software is not quite as good as the virtual lab software from McDougal Littell. One feature that I didn't care for as well is the lab notebook has a tab that allows students to the check expected results. This allows students to skip the lab process and just copy the expected results, which defeats the purpose of the lab activity. The software provides excellent activities but would need some modification for use in the classroom so that students will have to complete the activity and analyze the results on their own without the aid of the answers.

d. Froguts
This software, available on line, allows for a virtual dissection of frogs, squid, owl pellets and now a fetal pig. It walks students through the process of dissection and goes of vocabulary, dissection tool usage, and anatomy of the specimen. It allows students to see what a dissection will be like and goes over the process of HOW to conduct your dissection. This would be an excellent acivity to use prior to dissection, especially if it the first dissection for a class. The software is not cheap ($300 per year for every student and computer) but students are allowed to install the software at home which would allow them an extra study tool and dissection practice. I would like to see their fetal pig program since that is the organism that the biology student in my class dissect each spring.

2. Formal Software Review:

(1) Description of program
This is support software that is offered with the McDougal Littell Biology textbook materials. It contains computerized labs on a number of topics including gel electrophoresis, estimating population size, plant transpiration, and blood typing. The labs are very interactive and are an excellent resource in any biology class. One excellent feature of this software is the student's lab notebook. During the lab, the student is given the opportunity to type his/her hypothesis, make predictions, and record observations and conclusions in a lab notebook. Students can print out their lab notebook when the lab is complete. Throughout the lab there are questions that must be answered before they can procede to the next step which is another excellent feature because it requires that students actively participate in the virtual activity. In addition, many of the experiments in this software, allow students have to design the experiment in which they would select a control and experimental group, set dependent and independent variables, and collect data. Since this mimics science in the real world, it is excellent practice using the scientific method.

(2) Basic Information
(a) Title: Lab Generator with Virtual Labs
(b) Publisher: McDougal Littell
(c) Cost: free with textbook adoption
(d) Commercial software

(3) Target Population
(a) This software is designed for students to use.
(b) This software is targeted for biology students at the high school level.
(c) The virtual labs contained in this software fit into many high school biology content standards and can be used for varying student ability levels.
(d) Since computere use is frequent with students, this is definitely software that they would enjoy using. The software allows for manipulation of many different lab materials and procedures. Some of these labs allow students to complete more complex lab activities than may be possible in many science classrooms. The software also allows students to record their own thoughts and ideas typed into their lab notebooks instead of writing them on paper which appeals to many students.
(4) Content Goals
(a) This software contains virtual labs to teach the following topics:
calorimetry, carbon transfer through snails and Elodea, investigating bacterial growth, breeding mutations in fruit flies, gel electrophoresis, bacterial transformation, comparing Hominid skulls, estimating population size, testing antibacterial agents, plant transpiration, exploring plant responses, insects and crime scene analysis, interpreting bird responses, and blood typing.
(b) I found these virtual labs to be very effective at teaching many scientific concepts. The program provides necessary background information, cleary states objectives, and contains a step-by-step procedure to lead students through the lab. During the lab and at its conclusion, students are given the opportunity to record data, analyze and discuss results, and explain conclusions.
(c) Since many schools or classrooms do not always have lab equipment available to do labs, they may be simulated through this software. In my biology classes we discuss genetic engineering but I do not have the equipment required for actual labs. This software gives me the opportunity to perform a recombinant DNA and Gel electrophoresis lab. The use of this software may provide a greater understanding of the process of genetic engineering.
 
(5) Process Goals
(a) The virtual labs in this software require many higher-order thinking skills such as comprehension, application, analysis, evaluation, deduction, and induction. Throughout the labs, students can be asked to make predictions, record original data, and interpret and analyze their results. Teachers can make extensions to help the students apply knowledge gained from their results to other similar situations, and evaluate their results. In addtion, some of the simulations allow the students to design their own experiments, selecting which conditions they want to test.
 
(b) Like most lab activities, the software requires students to analyze and discuss results and then apply these results to real-life situations. It is just as effective as actual hands-on labs because of the lab notebook that is part of the software.
 
 
(6) Lesson Plan
Genetics: This activity is one that can replace a several-weeks long lab on Drosophila. It allows the same types of crosses and independent investigation of crosses without the need flies buzzing the classroom. It is an excellent way to have students investigate genes and their inheritance patterns. I would have my students design their own crosses and determine the traits that are dominant and recessive and have them explain inheritance patterns over several generations for different characteristics. For extension students would be asked to look into dihybrid crosses.
Testing Antibacterial Agents: This activity is a great extension to a lab that is already done in both my anatomy and biology classes. After completing our lab on bacterial growth in class, cultured from a variety of substraits on campus and the effectiveness of handwashing, I would have students compare and contrast some other antibacterial agents commonly used (bleach, mouthwash, etc) through the virtual software and determine what is most and least effective.
Blood Typing: This is an activity that I would often like to complete with my anatomy students but I can never bring myself to buy the expensive typing kits offered for sale commercially. I would have my students perform the typing experiments on the software and draw their own conclusions about types that can be mixed or not. I would have them research the transfusion reaction and explain it in terms of antibodies and antigens. They would need to identify the universal donor and universal receiver type.
 
(7) Summary
If I had access to this software, I would definitely use it in my classroom. We currently have not adopted the McDougal Littell book but it is a strong selling point for the text is all other aspects are equal. The software allows students to act as scientists and record observations for experiments that are virtually manipulated.