Science Up Close and Interactive on the Web
One of the most powerful features of the World Wide Web is its interactivity. Web sites are exploiting this feature in increasingly interesting and exciting ways. A growing number of science education sites are making use of it to promote active learning and critical thinking. One of the best known sites is the Interactive Patient at http://medicus.marshall.edu/medicus.htm. Produced by the Marshall University School of Medicine, the Interactive Patient offers medical students and physicians the opportunity to diagnose a fictitious patient's condition online and recommend a course of treatment. You can ask the patient questions, order X-rays and other lab reports, and even perform a physical exam, during which you can listen to the patient's heart and lungs. The site is set up so that you can submit your diagnosis and treatment plan, which will be evaluated and returned to you with comments via e-mail.
Another well-known interactive science site is the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's Whole Frog Project at http://george.lbl.gov/ITG.hm.pg.docs/Whole.Frog/Whole.Frog.html. Its most popular feature is the Virtual Frog Dissection Kit, which allows you to dissect a frog with a computer instead of a scalpel. The program also allows you to create on-the-fly "movie" clips, providing a full view of the frog you're working on. Using the Virtual Frog Builder Game, you can try your skill at building a frog from the ground up, so to speak, one organ at a time.
California State University's Electronic Desktop Project at http://vflylab.calstatela.edu/Welcome.html offers a number of interactive educational applications including the Virtual FlyLab, which teaches the principles of genetic inheritance by letting you play research geneticist. There's also the Virtual Earthquake, which illustrates the concepts of epicenter and Richter magnitude. You won't feel the ground shake, but you can view several regional seismograms and calculate the location of a quake's origin and its relative strength by measuring chart data. As with the other sites mentioned, all you need is a connection to the Internet and a graphical browser such as Netscape to access this material.
For information about connecting to the World Wide Web, contact the Computing Center's Help Desk at 645-3542.
-Nancy Schiller and Will Hepfer, University Libraries