Welcome to the Classroom Materials & Media
Reviews column, with a transition to announce.
For many years we have been very well served
by column editor Remy Dou, who is stepping
down. I am pleased to be taking over as the
new editor, so please join me in thanking
Remy for all of his contributions and wish
him the best of luck in his new pursuits.
When I sat down to write this introductory
column, I spent a lot of time thinking about
how classroom media and technology have
changed over the past 20 years. When I first
started writing technology reviews for ABT back
in 1999, many of the items I reviewed included
CR-ROMs and videos. Publishers were fairly
generous sending out their materials when the
cost of an expensive software package was a
good trade-off for an unbiased and professional
review in a well-known journal.
One of the greatest video programs I
reviewed was called The Shape of Life. This
10-part series covered the evolution of all the
major animal phyla, from Porifera to Chordata. It included great state-of-the-art animations of prehistoric oceans and intermixed
them with actual footage of the organisms in
action. I had seen the video series advertised
at a conference I attended, and I recommended to the column editor at the time that
we review the product. He contacted the publisher, and after much negotiation they finally
sent us all 10 videotapes. Yes, videotapes – this
was right at the dawn of the DVD age.
I reviewed the series for ABT back in 2004.
Well, jump ahead to 2014 at a science
teaching conference in Boston. I came across
a booth in the exhibition hall with the banner “Shape of Life.” I found that this product
contained the same content I had reviewed
10 years earlier, but now all of it was available, for free, online. (So I actually reviewed
the content again for ABT.)
This takes me to my point. Classroom
media collectively has undergone a huge shift
in the past 20 years. Publishers no longer typi-
cally provide their content on CD-ROMs or
DVDs. Instead, at a huge cost savings, they
just post their content online. Many times the
publisher will offer a free trial of their product,
with the hope that the full version will be
purchased. This works out well for teachers
because it gives them an opportunity to try
the material before purchasing. There are also
many materials, such as Shape of Life, that are
available completely for free online. Many of
the publishers create study guides or assess-
ments that relate to their content (in fact, I have
been part of many writing teams for these types
of materials) and that are well designed to align
their materials to state and national standards.
It’s always tricky to predict the future, but
let me say a few words about where class-
room media may be heading. Virtual reality
software has greatly improved, with many
applications that can be loaded directly onto
a cell phone. A great one new to the market
is called InViewR. This VR application uses
real image data to show the parts of the cell.
Users can move through the cell layer-by-
layer, getting a perfect view of the cell’s parts.
Since kids most likely already own the equip-
ment, schools just have to purchase the app
and the viewers. This could dramatically cut
down on costs and provide students with a
great interactive learning experience. Imagine
being able to take students to the bottom of
the ocean (virtually) and observe marine
organisms in their natural habitat. What an
engaging way to teach!
Phone and tablet apps are another way
teachers will engage students in the classroom.
A quick search for “biology” in the App Store
resulted in 48 apps that relate to general biol-
ogy/chemistry topics. These range from a basic
biology textbook that has been digitized to
gene analysis expression software. Some of
these apps have simulations, while others just
read text to students. Simulations are another
area where things are likely to improve. Virtual
dissections have been around since the 1990s,
but the graphics were usually very basic. New
computer-generated models take the user
right into the organism, allowing them to pick
up and manipulate the organ. Technology will
continue to advance, and hopefully classroom
media will go right along with it.
The purpose of this column remains to
serve as a forum for sharing current materials
you can use in your classrooms to enhance
student learning. Since technology is such a
huge part of teaching and learning today,
helping classroom teachers make decisions
about what’s new and what’s effective is not
only useful, but also desperately needed.
So, let me end by putting out an open call
to ABT readers for suggestions of things to
review (or better yet, let’s talk about how
you can become a reviewer and get published
in The American Biology Teacher!). Even if you
are not interested in reviewing, please bring
my attention to anything you come across
you think would be of interest or useful to
our members. I would be happy to take a
look at it and potentially review these materi-
als in future issues.
Again, I am honored to be taking over as
editor of Classroom Materials & Media
Reviews and look forward to hearing from
NABT members and ABT readers with any
suggestions for enhancing biology teaching
and learning in the classroom through media.
Jeffrey D. Sack
Science Content Writer
JEFFREY SACK is a science content writer
specializing in curriculum and assessment. He
taught all aspects of biology in both public
and private schools for many years and also
served as the education director for a
traveling museum company. He can be
reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The American Biology Teacher, Vol. 81, No. 6, p. 459, ISSN 0002-7685, electronic ISSN 1938-4211. © 2019 National Association of Biology Teachers. All rights
reserved. Please direct all requests for permission to photocopy or reproduce article content through the University of California Press’s Reprints and Permissions web page,
www.ucpress.edu/journals.php?p=reprints. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1525/abt.2019.81.6.459.
THE AMERICAN BIOLOGY TEACHER CLASSROOM MATERIALS & MEDIA REVIEWS
JEFFREY D. SACK, DEPARTMENT EDITOR