Thursday, March 12, 2009

The BIODIDAC Project

BIODIDAC: A bank of digital resources for teaching biology

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This site’s objective is to create and display a collection of digital images, animations, and video that can be used in teaching Biology. Use of this material is allowed for professors as long as they register the use, acknowledge the supplier of the material, and do not use anything from the site for commercial purposes. BIODIDAC currently holds 6153 items that fall under the categories of organismal biology, histology, and human biology.

The description of the project page lists the above information as well as specific data concerning the file formats and file names. Information regarding resolution, file type, and file size are listed for black and white diagrams, color diagrams, photographs, and labeled diagrams and photographs. The creators of the images are very conscious of their audience, biology teachers and professors, and make sure the diagrams and photos are of good quality for printing on paper or acetate and are forthright about how much space the color diagrams take up in comparison to the black and white. An in depth description of the file naming conventions is also listed.

In order to use the files, the user fills out a short registration form detailing what institution will be using them, what level of education, and how many students will benefit from it per year as well as other basic information. Users can also contribute files to the project by email. The site has a page that lists what’s new, including links to recently added files, the date they were added, a short description, and who contributed them as well as other updates to the site. There’s also a button you can select to view the site in French. The University of Ottawa and a program from Heritage Canada and the Government of Quebec through something called RUFHQ fund the site. The link to RUFHQ is broken.

The images are listed under the categories of eubacteria, protista, fungi, plantae, animalia, human biology, and histology. The user can select one of these categories or utilize the search function. The search engine contains fields for subject (zoology, botony, or histology), type (photo, diagram, etc), taxon, keyword, submitted by, and the date submitted on. If you click on one of the image categories, there is a keyword cloud at the top of the page with more specific scientific categories and families to further narrow your search. The user can browse the images one page at a time and is able to view a thumbnail, file name, and short description of each image.

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Interestingly, there’s not a lot of metadata for each item. This is probably due to the project’s mission: to fill the void of too little digital material for teaching. Thus the main focus of the site would be to present as many digital materials as they can at the best quality for use in the classroom. I selected a line drawing of a bird wing. The information included on the drawing’s page was a description, the file resolution, the amount of bytes, who submitted it, and information about the display. The file can be clicked on and enlarged to a very large, detailed size appropriate for printing.

The audience for this site is obviously biology professors and students. There are an extensive amount of high quality, printable images that are offered to anyone who can follow the simple regulations provided by the site. The metadata is slim, but the information regarding the files is useful and descriptive. I enjoyed the site because it is so easy to navigate with fascinating images, but I wish there had been more metadata.

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