Friday, November 24, 2006

Biologica

See comments for review.

1 comment:

eileen_yvette said...

The goals of BioLogica are the same as GenScope: to provide a simulated learning environment for students to test genetic processes. However, Biologica was created to provide more guided activities and monitor student progress more closely. In addition, students can save their activities so they can revisit ideas they’ve mastered at a later time.

The creators refer to BioLogica as a “hypermodel for teaching high school genetics”, it’s a set of activates that introduce and scaffold GenScope—the download includes GenScope. It’s very hard to simply start playing GenScope—just go in and start changing alleles and mating dragons. BioLogica offers a hands-on introduction to the concepts behind GenScope—text boxes define key vocab words, and quiz-like activities prompt students to reach main points and ideas. In another activity, meiosis is simulated. The most fun and useful activities included problem-solving activities—how to manipulate a dragon’s genotype to match a certain genotype.
I think the biggest improvement in BioLogica is that once students solve a problem-based activity, the program asks them to explain their decisions, and save a “report” which can be sent to the teacher or saved in the student’s portfolio. This way, teachers can make sure that students are internalizing lessons and are able to explain them in their own words—a crucial test for true learning. The website points out that this feature has manifold benefits: it “enable[s] students to progress at their own pace, and help the teacher to identify those "teachable moments" that might otherwise pass unobserved in a busy classroom. They combine the constructivist approach of student-initiated investigations with the structure and pedagogy required for transfer to take place.” This seems like a very practical goal, in particular, for teachers in classrooms that have district-mandated standards and content goals.
Although I can understand why the software is meant for high school—the content is complex—the format suggests a younger, junior high audience, because of the use of cartoon dragons and exclamation-filled dialogue boxes. High schools students may find this childish or silly.

BioLogica is pretty easy to use if you follow all the dialogue boxes and guided introductory activities—which could easily take about 5 hours. A teacher would have to be very knowledgeable about the software to make lessons with time-constraints.

BioLogica is very accessible. It’s free and it takes about 5 minutes to download. In another big improvement from GenScope, the software runs on both Windows and Macintosh computers.