Originally posted by Tara Baxter, M.S.
Finding valuable learning tools can cost time and money, especially with the cost of educational resources rising higher and higher each year. Biologists are now in luck thanks to Scitable, an open, peer-reviewed science library and personal learning tool.
Although the content is focused mainly on genetics and cell biology, it’s applicable to most biology courses and specializations. Scientists at any stage in their career can build a profile, identifying their background and area of expertise, and use it to network with others in their field by joining groups and discussions.
Scitable provides relevant resources for anyone interested in biology. Budding scientists can find information about effective science communication and career paths, and professors and researchers can access peer-reviewed articles and current events in their field. The blog community at Scitable harbors an array of discussion topics for all audiences ranging from “Bioscience eLearning” to “Genetics of Dog Breeding” to “Microbe Matters.” Many of the posts feature relevant video content that may help pique students’ interests in different topics in genetics and biology by presenting information in the form that the digital native prefers: blogs and vidcast.
How to use Scitable in your course
One of my personal foci in science education is incorporating technology for digital native students. They are accustomed to a constant stream of bite-sized information, so blog posts and short videos can be an effective way to present information to them. This rides the coattails of informational videos and "now you know" style information (like TEDTalks) that are growing increasingly popular to people, young and old.
Scitable offers a unique resource that can help you accomplish this in your course: the ability to build a free virtual classroom. You can create a customized list of assigned readings, moderate class discussions, post announcements, and build a feed with top stories from Nature and Scientific American. This is the most direct way to incorporate Scitable’s rich stream of content into your course and engage your students in the real world of science using a medium that they’re comfortable with.
Scitable has a great mix of mini-review style articles and regular, high-level journal articles that are applicable to introductory courses, upper-level courses, and even biology seminars. The simplified mini-review style articles are a useful way to introduce new or undergraduate students to the style of journal writing without intimidating them with overly complex data. The articles are informative, short, and often include a scientific figure or table from the actual journal article. The information is presented in a way that is more approachable than it may have been in its original paper. It’s a good way for young students to begin considering novel concepts.
The eBooks and resource guides also provide a springboard for understanding and using some of the more complex and customizable online tools in genetics, like the UCSC Genome Browser. These types of resources can be incredibly effective for students taking courses that require hands-on work with tools that are used to conduct real experiments and studies. These tools are often daunting to students approaching them for the first time (even after they’ve had some exposure during class), so the dedicated guides on Scitable can also be handy.
Check out Scitable and its growing community of biologists. Whether you’re a professor looking for a way to engage your students, or a researcher who wants to stay connected with your peers, it could be extremely valuable to you!
Images from www.nature.com/scitable