ABT article

Kathleen Archer Kathleen.Archer at trincoll.edu
Fri Feb 16 13:14:16 EST 2001

For me, having students look at tissues or cells or structures and then try
to draw them greatly strenthens their observations.  If one must draw what
one sees, one focuses much more intently. Certainly this is true for
myself, I suddenly see a great deal more than if I merely had to observe
and remember enough to recognize again. I encourage drawing as a means to
heighten observational skills, and often get students to notice far more
than if no drawing is required. 

The question was raised 
"Just what is the outcome being achieved in being able to identify and
comment on a projected, or directly observed, image in 30 seconds or one
minute? Does any professional biologist work under such conditions? Is this
form of assessment authentic on any objective scale?"

I would say, yes, this is authentic.  I definitely find myself in this
position when I look for plant species to show various cell types or want
to know what the bundle anatomy of a stem looks like in some species.  I
make a quick hand section and scan what I see, looking for cells I can
recognize.  The outcome is knowing what I'm looking at quickly and
efficiently. That has been a very useful skill for me.

I want to emphasize that what should drive the use of technology in
teaching is not the ability to do cool things, but the ability to enhance
learning about living organisms - if the technology doesn't improve on
helping students understand and and appreciate the complexity of life then
we have been distracted from our purpose.  As much as is practical (and in
large classes sometimes it can be a little harder) we should try to stay as
close as we can to real, live, cells and tissues and organisms.  I have
students get far more excited and engaged over a small piece of real moss
in their hands, than I have showing them a photograph of a moss.  I
routinely use real specimens in an auditorium, passing out enough for 2 or
3 students to look at right then and there.  

This has gotten somewhat peripheral to the original question of how to use
technology in exams, and I don't mean to imply that I don't use Powerpoint
or photographs in my teaching.  I just think that direct observation of the
real thing is far superior to static images of any kind, and should be
preferred whenever practical and possible.
Kathleen Archer

Kathleen Archer


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