April 15, 2013 (Vol. 33, No. 8)
Strong Points: Great interactive virtual classroom
Weak Points: Does not simulate experiments/results–students must perform themselves
The Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory’s DNA Learning Center (DNALC) encompasses many great teaching resources, and the Lab Center website is no exception. This colorful website entices curious students to molecular biology by providing background reading, experimental protocols, and results sheets for six experiments to be carried out in the student’s actual classroom. Each lab—bacterial transformations, DNA extraction, DNA fingerprinting, restriction enzyme analysis, exploring mutant organisms, and Mendelian inheritance—is introduced by an instructor who appears before students on screen, as if leading an actual lab session. Behind the image of the instructor, various illustrations and animations appear to introduce the basic concepts. Next, it’s up to the students (and their teachers) to explore the virtual classroom to find the protocol, lab notebook, background information, and other resources before finally transitioning from the virtual world to an actual laboratory to conduct the experiment.