High Five!

Active Learning in the Human Anatomy Lab

Students in Patrick Kilkenny’s undergraduate Human Anatomy Lab (BIO 290) have a variety of hands-on and interactive ways to learn anatomical structures.   Traditional resources such as models, wall charts, and plastinated cadavers are now augmented with the use of Sharp AQUOS BOARD™ interactive displays.

When the new Human Anatomy lab on the third floor of the HHS building was being designed in February 2012, Dr. Steve Keffer (Biology) contacted the Center for Instructional Technology’s Classroom Technology Services group (CTS) concerning the display options. They were hoping to use 60" LED displays coupled with either a laptop and/or with an AppleTV-iPad combination.  After CTS informed the Anatomy team (Keffer, Kilkenny and Lon Jarvis) that the iPad to Apple TV solution would not work due to issues with JMU’s network security, they recommended the Sharp AQUOS BOARD™ system.  “It’s a very nice platform to be able to move through multiple images and have the students annotate” Kilkenny says.  

The lab area consists of a centralized, shared plastinated cadaver lab connected on either side to the interactive lab classrooms. CTS installed 4 display units in each of the lab classrooms and one in the cadaver lab and were ready to go for the start of the fall 2012 semester.   Kudos to Doug Gimbert for the majority of the install!  The anatomy lab is now a visual hands-on, teaching lab as opposed to a traditional lecture classroom.  One instructor and an undergraduate teaching assistant move between small groups actively engaged in learning. 

Using SMART Sync software, the anatomical drawing files can be easily transferred from the instructor display to all other displays.  Working in the broadcast mode, anything the instructor displays on the primary screen can be pushed to all other boards simultaneously which can be useful for short introductory lectures. In most cases, however, the system is set up so all displays are independent of one another allowing small groups of students to navigate through the images and add individual annotations.

One distinct advantage of the Sharp AQUOS BOARD™ displays over other smart board technology is that they are not projector based so there is no need to dim the lights.  Radiographs and x-rays which previously required light boxes and projectors have now been loaded into digital files and can be viewed easily on the display boards.

Something that Kilkenny hopes to add by the fall 2013 semester is animations.  “Animations are extremely helpful with videos that we just never had in our labs before. If you think about it, a muscle moving the skeletal system is very dynamic. If we can isolate and make an animation for just one muscle moving at a time, we can watch the action, see how it moves, and isolate systems.  That’s something we haven’t been able to do before without displays like these”.

While Kilkenny feels the new technology is a great addition to the lab, it is not a replacement for the usual models and charts.  “But at the end of the day, for me and some of the other faculty, it’s another resource.  There are still the traditional tried and true, but as long as we are getting to use those in conjunction with this, it’s extremely helpful” Kilkenny says.