Friday, November 24, 2006

Genscope

See comments for review.

3 comments:

eileen_yvette said...

Genscope is the predecessor of Biologica and is a software-based learning environment, that used to be downloadable for free from a website. Using the software, teachers and students can chose certain programs that offer a simulation-type experience that helps students learn and test genetic theories and processes, such as evolution, population increases and decreases, etc. The original form uses a fictional creature, dragons, to teach real-life natural processes. Other programs are based on horses, humans, etc.
The learning goal behind GenScope is to help students “learn science like scientists”; that is understand and apply knowledge of systems, rather than memorize textbook-based facts. I was not able to see if this goal could be accomplished by the program, since the installer couldn’t be opened after download, even on a machine with all the requirements listed on the website. The website mentioned previous “problems” and “bugs” in the software, but said they were all currently “fixed”.

The makers of GenScope were able to do research on classrooms who used their programs and found three main positive effects: (1) “After using GenScope, student ability to reason about genetics improved”, (2) “GenScope helped bring about a fundamental, qualitative change in student thinking” and (3) “In later test-taking situations, GenScope students took risks in solving problems that non-GenScope users simply passed by”. This all sounds promising, even though it seems the developers abandoned the project to work on Biologica. They say that they are using the components of GenScope that worked best for students to create Biologica. Since GenScope claims to “bring about a fundamental, qualitative change in student thinking”, its easy to understand why Jonassen included it in his book.

If I would’ve been able to open the program, I would’ve been using what the makers define as a “computer-based manipulative” (CBM), that would allow me to “directly manipulate and experiment within the learning environment. While using GenScope, students can “manipulate the processes of inheritance on six different, but related, levels: DNA, chromosome, cell, organism, pedigree, and population.” Thus, students can mess with a physical trait of the creature they’re working with at the genetic level, or see how mating and selection can change traits over time. This way, students can directly visualize and test the very processes that organize life in our world. If this program works as well as it says, I definitely see its value in the classroom.

I think this program would be most useful in junior high classrooms because of the content involved. It sounds easy to use, but I can’t be sure. It’s obviously not easy to access, but perhaps it used to be—it’s certainly meant to be since it should be downloadable for free from the website.

A few major drawbacks is that the program only runs on Macs, which are more expensive machines in general, and not all schools have them. Specifically, GenScope “recommends” a 68K or PowerPC with at least 4 Meg of free RAM and 3 Meg of available hard disk space. In addition, it doesn’t run on Windows, the most popular operating system. It also requires a computer for at least every 2 students, if not for each student.

eileen_yvette said...

see BioLogica review for more on GenScope

eileeny said...

in order to download GenScope, go to the Biologica website and download the Pedogogica software package...it's still free.