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Education catching up with science; preparing students for 3D literacy in cell biology - News Script

Date: 12/07/2012

Education catching up with science; preparing students for 3D literacy in cell biology

The numerous solved molecular structures have led to the development of a new semiotic system in life sciences with increasing use of accurate molecular representations. To determine how this change impacts students’ learning we incorporated image-tests into our introductory cell biology course. Students had to learn from a consistent text dealing with signal transduction, supplemented with images made in one of three iconographic styles. Typically,we employed realistic renderings, using computer-generated PDB structures, realistic-schematic renderings, using shapes inspired by PDB structures, or schematic renderings, using simple geometric shapes to represent cellular components.The control group received a list of keywords. When students had to draw and describe the process in their own style and reply to multiple-choice questions, the different iconographic approaches equally improved the overall outcome of the tests (relative to keywords). Students also find them equally useful but, when asked to select, they largely favor a realistic-schematic style. When students had to annotate “raw” realistic images, both key words and schematic representations failed to prepare them for this task. We conclude that supplementary images facilitate the sense-making process and that, despite their visual clutter, realistic representations do not hinder learning in an introductory course.

read more in CBE Life Sciences Education, winter issue of 2012.




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