This site is the result of a collaboration between Coyle and Cassidy High School and Brown University with funding from CESAME. It a has two main sections, the Virtual Cell Tour (with worksheets for teachers), and the Virtual Text Book, which is based on the same material, but is in a more conventional ‘page’ format, generally with more detail and including the animations found in the Tour.
The Tour includes a cell diagram with interactive components which can be rotated and enlarged, as well as pronunciation guide to the cell structures. Clicking on any of the structures gives further animations and explanations. Navigation through the sequences of slides is done with a simple arrow forward/backwards system.
The Textbook includes sections on how to use the site and download the files, information on the origin and development of the site, and a list of the awards received. There are chapters on biology, chemistry, math and physics. Each links to graphics/animations with short explanation defining the graphic. Files can be downloaded as ZIP files so avoiding any bandwidth problems in the classroom.
The site is available in English, Russian, Spanish and French.
The site needs updating and attention to broken links.
Type of Material:
Suggests best viewed in Netscape. No problems with Firefox. May use QuickTime but some material is animated GIF
Identify Major Learning Goals:
The student will acquire knowledge and understanding of the cell and its integral structures, as well as information about key molecules involved in cellular processes
Target Student Population:
Middle school, high school, first year college
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:
Basic biological knowledge would be helpful as well as some knowledge of chemistry and molecular structure.
• Many animations can be rotated and enlarged for clarity.
• Animations and graphics are appealing, well designed and clear
• Table of contents states ‘This page is under heavy construction’, but it does not appear to have been updated since 2002 (see home page) and some chapters are empty whilst others warn that they are incomplete, eg in Table of contents, there is no link to Biology chapter 1 basic chemistry, chapter 2 is incomplete; in Math, neither chapter 1 nor 2 has a link to any content
• Some grammatical/spelling errors, eg in Chapter Two: Carbohydrates ‘Carbohydrates are generally are used for energy…’; in Chapter Two: the Biomolecules ‘dimentional’. Plug in (Metastream) does not download; Chapter 3 Cell biology, cell membrane – function – regulation of transport, ‘carrier proteins are peripharal’; Chapter 3 Cell Biology, Cytoplasm, energy producing organelles, the chloroplast – ‘the chloroplast is the photosynthesis’. Chapter 3 cell biology, cytoplasm, energy producing organelles, the chloroplast, take a tour of the chloroplast – link does not connect,; table of contents for textbook Chapter 3, lists ‘protein producing orangelles’
• What’s New section seems to finish in 1999, so material may not be fully up to date
• Animations are on small screen which does not have any way to enlarge, making viewing difficult – you need to be really close to the screen to read the text. Reducing screen resolution enlarges the images, but still not to full screen size.
Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool
The section on Cell structure is well constructed, easy to follow, and with a good range of detail.
Two teachers’ worksheets are included to be used in class.
Other sections are fragmented or missing altogether.
Learning outcomes and indications of desirable prerequisite knowledge are not included.
Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty
• Navigation is simple using point and click, and arrow buttons.
• Information is clearly presented, easy to understand and follow
• Students/teachers can progress through the material at their own pace
• Animations and graphics clear and easy to understand
too many dysfunctional components
Other Issues and Comments:
The Section on Cell Structure is well designed, useful graphics and explanatory texts.
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