Monday, April 25, 2011

Supplementary courses help A&P students succeed

A few years ago, we brainstormed about what else we could do as A&P professors to help our students succeed.  We realized that the two most common things holding our students back from reaching their full potential were:
  1. Lack of adequate preparation to begin A&P on a solid footing
  2. Lack of basic learning and study skills 
With the typical A&P course involving an unrelenting flood of facts, concepts, and applications, a lack of preparation and study skills can be catastrophic.

To address the lack of preparation, we have a prerequisite of "C or better in high school biology or its equivalent within the last five years."  That's the best we could manage given the constraints of our institution and its programs.  But even with the most stringent prerequisites, it's rare that students really walk into an A&P class ready with a comfortable foundation in biological chemistry and cell biology.

So I developed a refresher course that incoming A&P students could take just before entering their A&P 1 course.  Foundations in Science for Health Careers is a developmental level, one-hour course that is offered in a completely online self-paced format.  We offer it only during the short mini-mesters and half-semesters.

The Foundations course covers the basic chemistry and biology concepts students need as they begin A&P.

To address the lack of study skills, I developed a one-credit course for our A&P 1 students to take along with A&P 1.  Having been given the idea of a supplemental course by my friend Mari Hopper at Southern Indiana University, we began offering A&P 1 Supplement at our institution.

This course parallels the A&P 1 course, giving students how-to tips on specific study skills useful in A&P.  Students also have the opportunity to bring their sticking points to the class to get help in getting them unstuck.

The Foundations course is the refresher course and the Supplement course is the shortcut course.

Want to know more? 

Check out my video . . .

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Then check out the handout and helpful links at The A&P Professor website:

SEMINAR: Helping Students Succeed

Do these courses work?  We're still working on the statistics, but as the above presentations tell you, student feedback from anonymous surveys show that students are happy with what they are getting from these courses.  When we get some statistical analysis done, I'll let you know!
[NOTE: If your students would like to take our online pre-A&P refresher course (BIO 095 Foundations in Science for Health Careers) prior to taking your A&P course, they can enroll at St. Charles Community College during either of two 5-wk summer sessions or during either of two 1-wk pre-fall sessions . . . or beyond.]

Monday, April 18, 2011

First human brain map unveiled

Today NewScientist reported that the world's first computerized map of the brain was unveiled last week by neuroscientists at the Allen Institute for Brain Science.

The FREE interactive brain map must be downloaded and installed on your computer at   It's fun . . . you should try it! 

You can see both of two brains used to produce the maps and check which parts of the brain you want to see.  Each is shown in a different color and you check and uncheck brain parts as you explore.  For example, you can visualize just the cerebral nuclei, then add in the cerebral cortex.  You can also click on each part of the cortex and it will highlight (and name) the particular gyrus or region that you are on.

There are far more features than I've had the time to explore . . . and far more than I'll need to use in the classroom to help my students visualize the brain's structure.

All these richer features are available because it's meant as a research tool rather than a teaching tool.  The new map can show the biochemistry and gene expression at various sites based on in depth studies done on two human brains, for example.  But you don't have to use any of the richer features.

One of many interesting and useful tidbits of information that has come out of the research end of the project is that there is a 94% similarity in the biochemistry of the two human brains used int he study.

Another interesting fact is that at least 82% of all human genes are expressed in the human brain.  (Except perhaps in mine, especially on Fridays.)

While exploring the website at Allen Institute for Brain Science I also stumbled upon a nifty, interactive tool that I'll also probably use in my A&P course.  This FREE tool allows you to view different planes of the brain simultaneously while navigating around the brain.  I imagine that this tool would be fun to use in class to visualize anatomical relationships of the brain as students themselves navigate around and answer their own questions about the general nature of brain structure.

Want to know more?

World's first human brain map unveiled
H. Crawford
NewScientist published online 15 April 2011
[Brief news synopsis with images of applications of the new brain map]

Allen Institute's online MRI explorer
[FREE interactive tool that allows you to explore a human brain MRI to visualize brain structure at different levels that you control.]

Allen Institute's download page for Brain Explorer 2
[FREE interactive tool that allows researchers to locate biochemistry and/or gene expression at specific brain locations.]

Monday, April 11, 2011

Looking for a new one-semester A&P textbook?

I'm excited about the recent publication of my latest textbook for A&P students!  Essentials of Anatomy & Physiology is designed for use in one-semester A&P courses. 

Coauthors Gary Thibodeau and Matt Douglas worked closely with me and a very talented team of creative editors and scientific illustrators to produce a textbook that students will love to use.

What?  A text book that students will actually use?!  How can that be?

Let me summarize just two of the many reasons:
  • This book is the most visually oriented textbook in its niche.
    • There are more illustrations than in most other one-semester books, providing students with additional visual help in mastering concepts.

    • Each illustration is carefully designed for maximum learning effectiveness.

    • Most figures include a detailed "walk through" that explains the meaning of image, rather than merely providing a perfunctory title.

    • It includes the Clear View of the Human Body, a bound-in set of transparency overlays that provide a virtual dissection experience for readers as they peel away (or add) layers of the body from either an anterior view or a posterior view.  This experience allows readers to develop a sense of anatomical relationships among body structures.

    • Numerous summary  tables act as graphic organizers to help students see relationships among concepts.

    • We worked hard to get the images and tables close to related text.  This kind of visual integration not as easy at is sounds, requiring several passes at the layout to "get it right" and creatively fit everything together.

  • This text is carefully constructed to be easy to read and easy to raid.  Polls conducted with my students show that most students who use a textbook use some combination of reading chapter sections straight through and simply raiding parts of chapter sections when they need to find something.

    • Even strong readers have some difficulty reading highly technical scientific texts.  We use straightforward, conversational language to communicate difficult terminology and difficult concepts.

    • This text breaks the material down into smaller chapters so that readers do not get overwhelmed and get so discouraged they won't read the book.

    • Our page design uses many levels of bold headings to help students understand the organization of concepts as they read and to find specific concepts when they raid.

    • I worked with reading specialists and ESL teachers to find ways to make the book more accessible to all readers.  For example:

      • We include a significantly larger glossary than most texts in this market. 

      • In-chapter pronunciation guides for all boldface terms used in each students master the language of A&P.

    • We provide the meanings of word parts for all boldface terms so that students can start building their skills in understanding scientific terminology

    • A comprehensive outline summary at the end of each chapter visually organizes concepts so that readers can solidify their comprehension of the chapter.

      •  Downloadable audio chapter summaries (included in the included online resources) can be used along with the printed chapter summaries to strengthen understanding even more.
And that's just a small sample of the many unique features of our new Essentials of Anatomy & Physiology. You really do need to see it for yourself!

Want to know more?

If you go to the electronic brochure, you can view a sample chapter, get a list of available ancillaries, learn about the complete online course available with the textbook,  and request a FREE examination copy.

Click the link:

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Plaque-fighting bacteria

Have you noticed that the microbiome of the human body has taken off as one of the hottest areas?  Each month, new concepts of how our microbial partners keeps us healthy are revealed.  Last week, we were discussing teeth in my A&P 2 course and I wish I'd had this new tidbit to share with my students:

Researchers recently found that Streptococcus salivarius, one of the microbes in our mouth, can help fight the buildup of plaque on our teeth.  It does so by producing the enzyme FruA, which breaks down carbohydrates in our mouth more efficiently than can the bacteria that form plaque biofilms.  Thus, the plaque-forming bacteria are robbed of their nutrients.

I'll bet S. salivarius will become popular as an oral probiotic.  And its discovery may help us find better ways to manage our mouth's ecosystem to promote good health.

Want to know more?

Inhibition of Streptococcus mutans Biofilm Formation by Streptococcus salivarius FruA 
A. Ogawa, et al.
Applied and Environmental Microbiology Vol. 77, March 2011, p. 1572 doi:10.1128/AEM.02066-10, published online January 14, 2011
[Original research article]

Bacterial fight dental plaque
Tina Hesman Saey
Science News Published online April 1, 2011
[Brief summary of the discovery]
Click the image above to access a FREE animation of tooth decay you can use in your course as you explain the process.