We began our third module of ETEC 533 by examining visualization tools for math and science. We’ve now collaboratively collected a fairly large collection of software visualization tools, most of which pertain to science. These vary from small java scripts to youtube video, to more complex web software and downloadable software.

I opted to share two resources that I found. The first was one that I found specifically for this ETEC 533 task. Previously I was aware of McGraw Hill’s Anatomy and Physiology Revealed software, but without any demo or web software to show, it was difficult to show off to my peers. I dug a big deeper into this idea of virtual cadever, and came across Zygotebody, is a virtual cadaver program that allows the user to peal away layers of a virtual human, to investigate the anatomy. I believe Zygotebody may have been purchased/taken over by google. The second resource I shared was the software program the Universe Sandbox, a program that performs visual simulations of celestial bodies moving and orbiting in space.


The Significance
While I like playing around with the virtual cadever, I initially had to think really hard as to the significance of a it from an educational point of view. I suppose there are some obvious uses in post-secondary biology/physiology courses, as Maza (2010) shows that using virtual cadavers can be equally effective when compared to using real cadavers, when teaching human anatomy. In these terms, the importance of a virtual cadaver is clear, because of cost, space, availability and logistics issues when using human cadevers. However, I’m more interested in secondary school science – my hunch is that Grade 8 science in BC could certainly take advantage of the simulators though, as part of the unit on “Body Systems.”

I believe the visual representation for grade 8 students when using a virtual cadever could be significant. Keyser (2010) showed that high school students made significant gains in anatomical understanding when using a simulation compared to not using a simulation. In particular, she found that the students have a difficult time visualizing and understanding the relationship between the cardiovascular system and respiratory system. By using the simulation, students demonstrated better knowledge recall as well as knowledge involving connections and analysis.

The Extension
I think that it stands to reason that virtual cadavers help in multiple ways. First, there is the real-life visual of human anatomy as compared to looking at a coloured image in a book. This could stimulate learning by increasing engagement, or by giving added perspective on relative size and 3D shape. While there are excellent detailed textbooks on the market, high school students will have very little practice with visualizing 3D shapes from 2D information. Geometry in math could very well be the only other time this skill is taught or used. Secondly, the cadavers help with recognizing interactions between organs and body systems, as mentioned above. Thirdly, the progress of layering (or peeling of layers) gives the user an experience of dissection that cannot be delivered from a textbook. While I personally don’t give much weight to the idea of “kinetic learners” via Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences, nonetheless research shows a real phenomena (Kaya et al., 2007) and a virtual cadever would therefore be of value.

Virtual cadavers could be used in a computer lab for human body systems and anatomy lessons. Perhaps a lesson could incorporate constructivist methodologies by placing the simulation with the context of a WISE project or TPCK framework. A T-GEM learning cycle could be initiated with the class could be given a list of organ sizes, and the students then have to explore the body and figure out which organ is which while focusing on size factors. The students could then try to find other properties of body systems, such as interconnections.

Universe Sandbox

The front page of the website for the Universe Sandbox contains a nice youtube video that demonstrates some of the simulations.

The Significance
Having taught a unit on Space in grade 9 science this year, I don’t know how many times I was asked questions like, “what would have if the Sun disappeared for an hour?” Well, with the Universe Sandbox the students can experiment with this.

What the Universe Sandbox allows is for students to use their imagination and inquiry to experiment and play with the universe. We didn’t use it formally in class, but I showed it to the students and I know that several installed it on their computers and played with it. The Universe Sandbox lets students move outside of a static realm of presentation and use creativity to see connections between cause and effect. Whereas celestial movements are the way they are because of our laws of physics, the Universe Sandbox lets us explore the possibility of alternative scenarios.

I can imagine the Universe Sandbox playing an integral part of a SKI learning cycle, or perhaps a T-GEM cycle.

BTW, the Universe Sandbox is not free but there is a demo.


Kaya, O. N., Dogan, A., Gokcek, N., Kilic, Z., & Kilic, E. (2007). Comparing multiple intelligences approach with traditional teaching on eight grade students’ achievement in and attitudes toward science. Online Submission. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=ED500722&login.asp&site=ehost-live

Keyser, D. (2010). A comparative analysis of student learning with a collaborative computer simulation of the cardiopulmonary system. Online Submission. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=ED509520&site=ehost-live

Maza, P. S. (2010, January 1). Comparison of gross anatomy test scores using traditional specimens vs. quicktime virtual reality animated specimens. ProQuest LLC. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=ED521352&login.asp&site=ehost-live

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