Monday, August 29, 2005

Biology 101. Seriously, Biology 101

Maybe someday I will get a postgraduate degree. Maybe.

Unfortunately, my undergraduate degree in Environmental Studies (B.A., UCSC, 1991) did not involve enough actual science classes. Nice at the time, but now I see that as a serious shortcoming. So, I enrolled in Biology 101 at Utah Valley State College's Wasatch campus. I start class tomorrow night.

  • I registerred for class on the web. I paid for registration through the same. I browsed and selected my one class online. It was so convenient, but that only scratches the surface of how information technology has improved higher education.

  • Multimedia and the Internet has totally changed education. I read the first couple sections of my textbook, then reviewed them through on line tutorials and quizzes.

  • Textbooks have changed almost as dramatically.
    • Recently, I visited my friends Phil and Jane Horn in Long Beach, CA. At their house, I perused a Biology 101 text book from the late '80's--a big hard-bound volume densely packed with text. (It remains on their bookshelf. It's hard to part with a book for which you paid so dearly, in both dollars and sweat.)
    • My textbook is soft-bound, with breathtakingly well done full color diagrams on every page. The text is very straightforward, explaining the concepts in a direct yet conversational voice. Best of all is that it provides relevancy and provokes critical thinking by tying to current biological science-related issues, such as engineered food, heart attacks in teenagers and cholesterol, and so on.
    • Many of the diagrams appear to have been made using a CAD (Computer-Aided Design) program. For that reason, production of graphics is probably a lot cheaper. More importantly, diagrams can be corrected an updated to the latest scientific findings. For that reason, the book is no longer produced as a huge tome that will stand the test of time on the bookshelves of so many graduates. The quality is still there, but the book feels ephemeral, which (to me) works much better with the spirit of science. Things change. We learn and discover. Scientific knowledge will grow and change. What need is there for a textbook that feels so cannonical, so much like "the final word?"

  • I will attend this class with the class of 2009--making 1987 birth year for most of this freshman class. 1987 is the year I graduated highschool and subsequently entered college.
    I have talked a lot with Janice Patten, my stepmother, about how much students complained about the reading workloads in her literature clasess. (She specialized in literature for young adults.) I am eager to hear the first complaint, so that I can launch into my best "when I was your age" diatribe.


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