Teaching Biology             

    Through Simulation


A plethora of studies have shown that traditional classroom lecture based teaching is not optimal for most students. Students learn best when they are encouraged to learn by themselves or with the help of their peer groups. Thus problem-solving based active learning has emerged as a new paradigm that offers a replacement for the traditional classroom.

One of the most powerful ways of learning by doing could be by well-designed computer simulations. Computer simulations in the classroom could have many uses, and many target audiences. For example computer simulations allow visualization of complex processes. Something like the microscopic origins of pressure, for example, can be beautifully explained by computer simulations found here.

The computer simulations that we are making have a different purpose. Our goal is to use computer simulations to make "realistic" models of biological and ecological processes involving feedback. By "realistic" we mean a model that can reproduce some results in the research literature. Thus every model comes accompanied by a paper or two (or a textbook chapter), whose results, qualitative or quantitative, are sought to be reproduced.

The central idea behind this is that teachers can use these models not just as visualization tools, but tools that should give reasonable answers quantitatively or semi-quantitatively (depending on the model). However this allows these models to be used for prediction. How good the prediction is, compared with the data, tells us about the limits of the models and the assumptions behind it. This opens the door to teachers and students rewriting the simulation to make it more realistic, better match reality etc.

These models thus are potentially, not only a tool to understand science, but also a tool to do science!
(Note: These models are projects in development. They are being provided for educational purposes on an as-is basis. Use at your own risk)



About Netlogo http://ccl.northwestern.edu/netlogo/

Our Models

- Ocean Ecosystem Ocean_Ecosystem.html
- Antibiotic Resistance
- Photosynthesis Photosynthesis.html

Funded by an NSF CAREER Award to Ashok Prasad

Note: This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No PHY-1151454. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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