Educators Debate Taking The Blood And Explosions Out Of Science

from the no-fun dept

Can computers and the internet be used to simulate a lab in an educational setting? This is the subject of an emerging debate, as more classrooms opt to forego real lab equipment, in favor of virtual replications. So instead of carving up a frog with a scalpel, a student can use their mouse to do the same thing. Those in favor of the practice note its cost savings and the fact that students trained this way have shown strong scores on standardized science tests. The predictable response is that virtual training is no substitute for the real world. And there may be something to this charge. The antiseptic virtual environment can’t train a student to properly care for lab equipment, take proper safety measure, or deal with unexpected events that may occur in the process. For anyone who might go on to do science academically or professionally, these are vital skills. Another dynamic at play here is the ongoing assault on anything that might be dangerous. This summer, Wired had an excellent piece about how new regulations make it difficult to obtain basic chemistry sets, and other scientific equipment that could be “dangerous to children”. Of course, by eliminating the possibility of a child ever being in the presence of a chemical explosion, you eliminate much of what makes a kid want to be a scientist. If you take the blood and guts out of dissection, then you’re basically just playing puzzle. While computers can be a great educational tool, with endless possibilities in the sciences, it seems that kids are missing out by eliminating the real-world experience.

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Comments on “Educators Debate Taking The Blood And Explosions Out Of Science”

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Anonymous Coward says:

I’ve used several educational (medical) programs and although they’re great for teaching academic information, without vocational experience it’s not much of an education.

However, think when I was in highschool I would have welcomed computer simulation. We disected, worms, mice, rats, fish, cows eyes and pigs. All the while I was gagging on the formadelhyde. So, for HS sims are okay. If someone wants to persue a biological degreee at college then that is the place where they should get knee-deep in guts.

Beaker1991 says:

Re: Re:

To a certain degree I agree, but I think you need some cutting up of formally living things in HS. It was disecting dead animals in Junior and High School that I realized I did not want to become a doctor. The gagging and just the feeling of things going squish did it for me. I would think this would be important before college, so you don’t waste a year or two of very expensive college education going down the wrong educational path.

Anonymous Coward says:

the danger of overprotection

as any parent can tell you, if you shield kids from every conceivable danger until they’re old enough to move out of the house, you have just raised an adult with the experience level of a three year old. Kids _need_ to have exposure to e.g. playground games that could involve bumps and scrapes (tag, dodgeball, etc.), real science classes, and in general, the consequences of their actions. The last thing we need is to raise a generation of people even less aware that their actions have consequences for which they must take responsibility.

Protect kids from the truly dangerous things, but allow them to learn and grow – and experience (read: mistakes and their aftermath) is the best teacher.

Sanguine Dream says:

And what...

happens when a candidate to become a medical examiner sees a dead organism (obviously not human but dead nonetheless) for the first time in college instead being exposed to dead animals in high school and they freak out?

Most soldiers will say that while training is great it still doesn’t fully prepare you for actual combat.

And besides without actual lab gear we wouldn’t have anywhere as many superheroes…

Bill says:

Re: And what...

“…the first time in college instead being exposed to dead animals in high school and they freak out?”

In my HS, part of our educational experience included a trip to the morgue to view a autopsy. Now, I don’t know how many people have had this experience but I can bet for sure that anyone who is going to be freaked out by carving into a dead animal isn’t going to be any better off when they wade through human intestines the first time.

What did I gain from this and the multitude of animal dissections? Well, I’m comfortable using a scalpel, but blood still freaks me out. Seeing the organs just gave me nightmares and I’m no more likely to enter the medical profession than I was before bio class. I was required to take the class, it’s done and I’m never taking biology again!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: And what...

Some people don’t know they’re interested in, say, biology, until they slice open something in HS, or mix up good ol’ gun powder in HS chemistry. At first, it’s just explosions, but talk to a lot of older chemists and doctors and engineers, and it’s that sort of play that eventually led them to the very jobs that our own government is warning us has so few people entering that it’s actually a security risk.

Anonymous Coward says:

well, this can go many ways. maybe introduce at a YOUNGER age? so kids know what “lab” is, and can be ready for the “real world” stuf in jr/sr high.

take physics, how can you do free fall measurements or gravity effects? a computer would either give you a “perfect” answer, or a standard random answer (i.e. everyon got the same wrong answer) the best times we had, was wen one groups expierment went completly haywire, and they tried to figure it out, then the rest of the class tried, then the teacher stepped in. oops, i started measuring at the 20 mark and forgot to subtract the 20 extra units doh! real labs have real value. teach you more than the “theory” behind the lab. they teach you to understand we don’t live in a perfect world. they teach how to overcome obsticals and spot mistakes.

Matt Bennett says:

Blood, guts and explosions

I am tired of sanitizing everything. Risks get taken in life, and if you try to eliminate risks, you eliminate life. I’m not agqainst taking some reasonable precautions here or there, but it’s my life to live. If I feel better riding my bike without helmet, who are you to judge? Is it hurting you?

Moreover, kids need to learn what an acceptable risk is. Sometimes the best solution to avoid getting hurt falling from high up is to learn not to fall. kids need to break an arm at least once, get a skined knee and a dirty nose.

NSMike says:


On one hand, I can see the value of this virtual training. Aside from saving the districts thousands on lab equipment, materials and specimens, both chemical and organic, there’s also the fact that if we were to do a test with, say, hydrochloric acid, there’s less chance of skin exposure to fellow students.

Unfortunately, there’s also not the learning experience of having spilled the acid on a classmate, and the potential consequences of such an action (In my case, laughing my ass off at the guy who has red, itchy arms for the rest of the day after I spilled the acid on him).

Bob says:

Medical School

In my recent reading, I found out an amazing bit
of history: until “real” medical schools were established
in the United States (late in the 19th century,
and early 20th) the great majority of
medical students received an
MD without ever seeing or touching a patient.
They rarely if ever participated in cadaver study.

I like the idea of mixed experience where people
should use the simulator AND have hands-on
experience. Same with currently-practicing
doctors and surgeons, since that will help them with
new techniques.

Bjorn (user link) says:

Animal Experiments

I find the very idea of killing animals so that kids can get a cheap thrill without much educational content quite abhorrent. There is precious little extra that can be gained from a live disection vs. a simulated one at the High School level — and what little extra there might be can probably also be learned in the kitchen, helping a parent making dinner or by going hunting and fishing.

We ought to have enough respect for life, any life, that we don’t throw it away wantonly.

Don’t get me wrong though, I’m all for animal experiments when it comes to finding cures for diseases, etc. People who select this field of study must of course also be allowed training, but very few in High School have selected a field yet, so it seems natural, at least to me, to hold off on disection in the classroom until sophomore year in college.

pure.Caprice says:

Re: Animal Experiments

Right, let’s all keep our kids from dissecting animals until they’ve ALREADY chosen they’re career, nevermind that they’re first dissection can be so intsramental in the choice.

And what happens to the poor kid who decided to follow that career, performs his first dissection at the end of the education process, and finds out it’s not for him?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Animal Experiments

Well I was educated in the UK and most schools do not have dissections at all. It really hasn’t stopped people becoming doctors or scientists.

If you are very seriously telling me that cutting up a dead animal will be the deciding factor on whether you become a doctor/scientist then you are a fucking retard.

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