When Dave Micklos and his colleagues launched Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory’s first DNA Learning Center Web site, Micklos said they just wanted to “get a little information online about our institution.” Fifteen years later, that Web site has grown into a portal to 18 different content areas, offering fascinating, interactive genetics learning experiences to more than 7 million viewers a year.
Physics professor Wolfgang Christian learned about the wonder of science when he was very young. Among the toys Christian’s father, an engineer, introduced to his son were electric trains, magnets, and lenses.
“A lot of my interest in science came about through interactive engagement at home,” said Christian.
An online project that puts access to an extremely powerful electron microscope into the hands of students all over the country has been selected by the journal Science to win the monthly Science Prize for Online Resources in Education (SPORE).
When Ken Hess was in ninth grade, he was lucky. His teacher wanted him to do a science project, and he knew exactly what it would be. He talked his dentist into letting him come to the dental office on Saturdays, when it was closed, so Hess could use the X-ray machine to bombard various objects with radiation, observing the results with a “cloud chamber” he had built. The young Hess’s research involved observing the trails made by radioactive particles traveling through the chamber.
When students using the Ask a Biologist Web site ask questions of a fictional character named Dr. Biology, they are actually accessing the combined knowledge of more than 150 volunteer experts in the field of biology and related areas.
“That’s why Dr. Biology is so amazing,” says Charles Kazilek, who created the Web site. “He’s the most brilliant biologist on the planet.”
Among the intriguing things Professor Eugenia Etkina could put on a resume is the fact that she can demonstrate Newton’s Laws of Motion on Rollerblades. As one of the creators of a Web site known as the Rutgers Physics Teaching Technology Resource, Etkina is committed to “increasing the excitement of learning physics.”
Growing up in Hungary, Alex Szalay was considered seriously cool. Often a winner of math and science competitions, the young Szalay got to travel to Budapest on a regular basis and to sit in on lectures given by future Nobel Prize-winners. He and his peers considered his early inclusion in the scientific community a great opportunity and an honor.
When MIT made a formal decision in the year 2000 to publish their course materials on the Internet, MIT alumni could have been miffed. Here was the institution’s renowned curriculum—previously accessible to students who paid for it with their tuition and hard-won academic achievement—being offered to anyone with a computer.
The executive director of the MIT OpenCourseWare program that manages publication of the curriculum, who herself is an alumna of MIT and the daughter of two more MIT graduates, says she and her former classmates were thrilled.
Students in introductory chemistry classes often start off with learning how to balance chemical equations. The educational message, according to Carnegie Mellon University chemistry professor David Yaron, seems to be, “if you take in this stuff that’s not very interesting, you may get to use it later.”