Curriculum Software

Publishers and professors have been cautiously moving content from the printed book to the screen. Simulations and virtual experiences are now available for many academic courses. We see this particularly in the sciences, where the ability to experience, fairly realistically, the microscopic, the dynamic, and the theoretical has changed the way students approach learning. The humanities have discovered the value of being able to organize ideas and gather information more creatively. In foreign language learning, media always had a valuable role to play. This is an area where technology is readily accepted and new approaches to teaching are welcome.

Biology Labs Online
Biology Labs Online consists of 12 inquiry-based interactive labs covering standard laboratory topics in introductory biology. The simulations serve a number of purposes, from complementing existing "wet"labs to augmenting hands-on labs as tools for further study. Some labs offer content typically not covered in lab courses because of time, safety, or financial constraints. Each lab features an introduction, list of objectives, bibliography of prerequisite reading, glossary, and the lab assignment itself. Among the experimental topics are evolution, photosynthesis, cellular respiration, population ecology, and genetics. As in a hands-on lab, students control and adjust variables, run tests, and draw conclusions. Students can design their own experiments, some of which are uniquely available in a simulation format: for instance, in the evolution lab, students can observe changes over hundreds of years. The applets rely on smart objects that perform much like their real-life equivalents or at least simulate their actions. Because biology is taught at several levels, the publisher offers both nonmajors and majors-level lab assignments. The labs are also suitable for AP Biology courses at the high school level. Labs may be purchased several ways: as content aggregates (such as genetics labs), as an entire set, or individually.

Contact: Benjamin Cummings Pub., San Francisco, CA; (415) 402-2500;www.biologylabsonline.com.


JMP IN
JMP IN is the academic version of JMP 5.1, professional statistics software. JMP IN, available in early 2004, replaces JMP Academic. JMP IN is an intelligent, visual, interactive, and easy-to-use desktop application that allows students to learn statistical concepts quickly, and for instructors to spend more time teaching statistics and less time on software instruction. The JMP IN package includes a guided handbook of data analysis with JMP, all operating systems (Windows, Macintosh, and Linux) on one CD, and complete documentation. A four-year renewable license comes with the purchase. The new version offers a new design of experiments platform and new statistical platform, among other improvements. JMP IN will be distributed by Duxbury Press.

Contact: SAS Institute, Cary, NC; (800) 874-2383; www.jmp.com.


Mathematica for Students 5

Mathematica combines a numeric and symbolic computational engine, documentation system, graphics system, programming language, the world’s most complete collection of mathematical functions, and advanced connectivity to other applications. Mathematica for Students 5 has the same powerful features as the professional version at about 10 percent of the price. Only enrolled students working toward a degree at an accredited institution may purchase the product at this reduced price. Depending on the user’s level of expertise in mathematics, Mathematica can be a super-calculator or a computational powerhouse. It can handle complex equations involving millions of terms. It performs numerical modeling and simulations. It loads, analyzes, and visualizes data of any type, not just numerical data. It lets users create 2D and 3D animations and graphs, and has sound capabilities. Finally, it helps users to collect, synthesize, and present mathematical information for reports, lectures, or application development. The software is available in the following platforms: Windows 95/98/Me/NT/2000/XP, Mac OS 7.5.3 or later, Linux (PC, Power PC), and Mac OS X.

Contact: Wolfram Research, Champaign, IL; (217) 398-0700; www.wolfram.com.


MERLOT
The premier database for teaching resources, MERLOT (Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching) is a consortium created by its contributors. Members and non-members alike can draw from its ever-expanding list of exercises, lectures, and applets. Browse by subject to find statistics resources. A free membership allows visitors to add their own teaching material to the database. Serving as a "gateway" to modular learning materials that faculty can incorporate into their own courses, MERLOT operates on the assumption that most faculty do not have the time to develop electronic content and are not interested in adopting a pre-packaged course. Further, the project rests on the belief that working in teaching and learning communities, going beyond the scope of an individual campus, increases the possibility of discovering the very best in teaching and learning materials and the best strategies available. Materials posted in MERLOT are for the most part, interactive simulations, animations, and tutorials that are peer-reviewed and tested in appropriate educational settings. Faculty members and students are also able to add their user comments to share their experiences with the learning material.

Visit www.merlot.org for more information.


Research Assistant Hyperfolio
Research Assistant Hyperfolio (RAHF) provides users with a "collection icon," a small, colorful button that appears on the browser screen. Users can capture anything found on the Web—including texts, images, video files, and audio files—by dragging-and-dropping it into the collection icon. The software then generates a Note Card that prompts students to complete three necessary research steps: take notes, record bibliographic information, and evaluate the source for relevance to the project. The software automatically adds the URL. In the second step of the research and writing process, students take the various note cards, now compiled into one data set, and outline a paper or presentation using the Worksheet feature. Again using drag-and-drop, or point-and-click, students organize and string together the appropriate material, pulling from the left side of the Worksheet (the note card information) to the open page on the right. The screen looks much like the split screen displayed when one calls up a Web search "history" in one’s browser. The software will, on request, generate a complete bibliography in MLA, Chicago, or APA format. Students can work with multiple note cards and multiple worksheets simultaneously, for an array of organizational options. RAHF is available as a stand-alone product and also comes bundled with The Bedford Researcher, is a text, CD-ROM, and Web site product from Bedford/St. Martin’s.

Contact: Bedford/St. Martin’s, Boston, MA; (800) 779-7440; www.bedfordstmartins.com.


Virtual Biology Laboratory
Virtual Biology Laboratory (VBL) is a series of 30 exercises organized into 10 modules. These online laboratory simulations enable students to make comparative observations, set up experiments, acquire data, and draw conclusions on a variety of topics. Each exercise is accompanied by suggested activities, a worksheet, a self-test for each exercise and module, and an instructor's answer key. This set of online laboratory experiments is designed within a simulation format to enable students to actually "do" science by acquiring data, performing experiments, and using that data to explain biological concepts or phenomenon. Students can do all this while working from their school’s computer lab, dorm room desktop, or home computer. Instructors can use the virtual lab experiments to supplement the experience of a "wet" lab and to introduce biology students to the same techniques and equipment currently being used in many research laboratories. Online labs allow students to "use" expensive or otherwise unavailable laboratory equipment or supplies.

To see descriptions and/or demos of the 10 modules, visit: www.http://www.brookscole.com/biology_d/vbl.com.


Zettl’s VideoLab 3.0
Intended for courses in video or television production, Zettl's VideoLab 3.0 is the fully updated version of an award-winning DVD-ROM that brings a virtual video production studio right to the students' computer desktop. Students get hands-on video production experience introducing them to the principles of camera, lighting, audio, switching, editing, and process. This stand-alone, interactive DVD-ROM uses demonstrations and guided practice to teach students the basics of the video production process. The software, which can be used in conjunction with a textbook or by itself, establishes a scenario in which the student plays the role of a video production intern, learning the basics of production planning, camera use, lighting, audio, and editing. Version 3.0 includes enhanced interactivity, more material on studio lighting, and more options for exploring audio and video techniques.

Contact: Wadsworth Publishing, Belmont, CA; (800) 423-0563; www.wadsworth.com.

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