I just learned that the National Human Genome Research Institute sponsors a Talking Glossary of Genetic Terms. The glossary is available as a free app, which you can find at the Education page at genome.gov. I spent some time with the iPad app today; here’s what I discovered.
First, the app is really easy to use. Tapping the “Terms” button on the main menu reveals a screen like the one you see at right. I have chosen “meiosis,” which is highlighted in the list of alphabetical terms along the left side of the screen. At the top you can click to hear the word pronounced, and the definition appears at the center of the screen. At the bottom, you can click to hear Francis Collins briefly describe what meiosis means and why it is important. Many scientists contributed descriptions of different terms. In each case the explanations are informal (i.e., not read from a script), so they are interesting to listen to but can be a bit rambling at times.
Many of the terms also have illustrations; at right is a screenshot of the meiosis illustration.
If you return to the main menu you can also find a quiz, which consists of a random selection of 10 questions about the terms. The quiz chimes when you are correct and buzzes gently when you are wrong, or you can skip a question entirely.
As you can see from the example illustrated here, the quiz questions are very much factual, not applied. You can ask for a hint, but it might not be very helpful if you are not already very familiar with the vocabulary.
The least appealing part of the app was the Quiz Summary, shown in the last screenshot. The top line shows your score, followed by hard-to-read descriptions of the answers to each question. The quiz summary’s display is so plain that it’s hard to imagine anyone using it as a study tool.
How might you use this app in your class? If you have iPads in your classroom, one idea would be to assign each group of students a random selection of 10 terms that are important to know for your class. You could have each group use the app to learn more about each definition, and then use a concept-mapping app (or pencil and paper!) to create a concept map showing the relationships among the terms. If iPads aren’t available, you could do the same assignment using computers and the web version of the glossary.