SUBJECT: Application for Class of 1965 Endowment for Excellence in Teaching
Biology 245 General Ecology: a collaboration between Dr. Larry Hurd, the Media Center, and the Science Library
Purpose: to develop a suite of web-based multimedia tools for the purpose of instruction in this course in Fall term 1998; and to create both a pedagogical model and scalable courseware templates applicable to other courses in the sciences and elsewhere.
General Ecology provides an excellent test case for tool development and collaboration, drawing upon the complementary skills of Hurd, Blackburn and Blackmer: the course has well-developed visual materials (in the form of the instructor's extensive collection of slides), includes extensive use of mathematical models of population phenomena, and draws upon a broad literature in books and journals. Weekly labs involve student participation in data collection, statistical analysis, and presentation of findings.
We believe that each of these facets would benefit from web presentation:
The pedagogical significance and modus operandi of each of these points is worth developing in detail:
We propose to develop a simple and easy-to-use administrative interface which will enable the instructor to work with the digitized images, organizing them and composing accompanying explanatory text, without the need to resort to the intricacies of HTML code. Such a tool would have broad utility and general applicability for any courses that use still images. We will also develop appropriate procedures for dealing with copyright questions for images from other sources.
An example (a version of the Lotka-Volterra equations which model
predator-prey relations) of a Java implementation (including the Java
code for the applet) is available at http://126.96.36.199/individuals/pensakd/SimplestApplet.html , and the existence at W&L of a site license for Symantec's Visual Café(in effect, a Java interface construction kit) makes it possib
consider building the tools to assist instructors in creating their own interactive realizations of models.
We propose to develop applets to allow students to work with
the standard models of biological ecology (outlined in Gotelli 1995 A
Primer of Ecology), using the applet above as a model. The broader
objective is to develop generally applicable templates and procedures
that will minimize the necessity for an instructor to learn the
intricacies of Java or Perl (though consultation with skilled programmers
may still be necessary to realize an idea as a working applet).
We propose to experiment with a librarian as a 'Resident Adjunct' to (and participant observer of) Biology 245. Opportunities for augmenting course materials will probably center upon use of the web as a tool to create and distribute materials linking lecture and lab material to relevant library and Internet resources, but may include other activities as well.
The web provides a medium for composition and distribution of personal creations, and the "Save As HTML" feature of the latest versions of word processors puts the basic web page creation tool in the hands of any user of W&L's networked computers. Jefferson and Madison make it a relatively simple thing to make web pages accessible (to other members of a class, to all W&L users, or to the world at large). We propose to experiment with this potential, in part to see what kinds of support would be required to extend this sort of active creation of (semi-)public documents to other courses.
We will also explore the creation of online data input and statistical analysis modules for the laboratory portion of the course, using spreadsheet macros, perl, and Java applets.
Success with this project will have the following benefits for the participants in the collaboration:
Slide digitizer: this equipment (use of which needs supervision and training, and which should be located with a dedicated and accessible multimedia workstation) is an essential for the Media Center as more courses begin to consider the web as a distribution medium for images. It makes particular sense as an investment when used in conjunction with the forms-based link construction utility described in (1), above. Cost: $2,000
Image manipulation software: PhotoShop is the industry standard, and often comes bundled with slide digitizers. Cost: $250
Slide digitizing and image processing labor: the basic process is not complicated, but is time consuming. Summer employment for several weeks for a high school student. Cost: $750
Java programming: while it would be nice to think that Science Librarian and Media Center Director can develop the requisite skills, it's probably wiser to budget for the services of a Computer Science student who has taken courses in Java. Cost: $1,000