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Students Exploring Cyberspace (SECs) Project

By Gail Carmack

Type of Activity:

  • authentic assessment
  • group/cooperative learning
  • community outreach/off-site activity
  • review/reinforcement
  • extension
  • mentorship
  • Target Audience:

  • Advanced/AP Biology
  • Biology
  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Life Science
  • Special Needs (gifted)
  • What question does this lab/activity/unit help students answer?
    The question answered depends on the students. In our class students choose an AIDS-related topic that interest them and then they focus on that topic. Sample topics include AIDS treatments., AIDS vaccines, women and AIDS, children and AIDS, how AIDS is viewed in other cultures, how HIV infects cells, and epidemics through history. Although each group answers only one question, every group shares information with other groups so the groups all become familiar with each other's topics.


    Notes for teacher:

    Students should be familiar with viruses and their reproductive cycles. Students should also be familiar with the immune system. Aside from this, we provide students with basic information on AIDS (e.g., what it is, what causes it, risk behaviors, common treatments, etc.,) and some training on Internet skills. In addition to lecture materials on AIDS, we show the video "And the Band Played On" and the CBS news videodisc on AIDS. We also provide students with selected current articles on AIDS and viruses.

    Required of students:

    Students are required to choose a topic, research that topic using library and Internet sources, and produce a HyperCard stack (minimum of 10 cards) which teaches junior high students about their topic. Since one of the goals of the project is to become familiar with current information about AIDS, students are not allowed to include encyclopedias or books as references for their project. They may use print materials that are no more than 5 years old and they must include at least four Internet based sources.

    Preparation time:

    We spend 6 class hours on viruses, 8-10 hours on the immune system, and 10 hours on AIDS. We also spend some time teaching students how to use newsgroups, Gopher, WWW, and telnet. The amount of time required for the Internet training depends on the skills of the students and the kind of Internet access one has. When we only had access to a modem in the library, we rotated students onto the modem over the course of a semester. Now that we have a networked lab, we can accomplish the same training in a matter of days. We relate the training activities to the project (e.g. students use newsgroups to find information on AIDS) so that the training time is also project time.

    Class time:

    Again, this will depend on the resources available to you. We spend 6 hours in the library before going to the computers. We provide 10 hours of class time for students to work on the computers. This time is divided into about 6 hours gathering information on the Internet and 4 hours creating the HyperCard stack. Students usually spend about 6-10 hours outside class time working on their projects as well. Our students are already familiar with HyperCard so they need very little time to formulate their stacks once they have the information.



    Project SECs (Students Exploring Cyberspace) allows biology and social studies students to study AIDS and other current topics in a multinational, interdisciplinary fashion. Student groups use Internet resources such as Gopher, Veronica, Archie, telnet, WWW, and ftp to research current information about AIDS pathology, epidemiology, treatment, and social implications. Additionally, they communicate with students from other countries throughout e-mail to find out how AIDS impacts other societies. They then produce HyperCard stacks that can be used to teach AIDS at junior high schools. High school students will use Internet newsgroups to mentor junior high students who are also studying the AIDS.

    Materials needed:

    • computer and modem
    • communication software such as TELIX or Kermit
    • Internet account
    • student instructions on how to use Internet resources and HyperCard printer
    • HyperCard
    • Word processing software (if you need to upload files as a batch process)
    • disks

    Procedure/Description of Project:

    How you begin the project will depend on the student's skills and Internet access. I begin the project with a newsgroup exercise. In this exercise, I teach a small group of students how to use newsgroups and then I require the students to find a newsgroup article on AIDS and post a summary of the article in our project newsgroup. Once the group completes this task, one of the group members is responsible for teaching the next group how to use newsgroups. The next activity is a Gopher scavenger hunt. I teach the last group of students from the newsgroup activity how to use Gopher. Those students are then required to use Gopher to find an interesting tidbit about AIDS. Once they find their tidbit, they compose a scavenger hunt clue and write down the path to the answer. They post their clue as a follow-up comment to a newsgroup article and e-mail me the solution and path. When all the students have posted their clues, they are required to use Gopher to find the answers to two groups' clues. They send their answers with the Gopher paths to me via e-mail. For other Internet resources, students are required to keep a log of places they visit. This log includes, addresses, helpful hints, and highlighted files. Once students are familiar with Internet resources, they are required to select an AIDS-related topic, find at least four Internet source on that topic, and write a short HyperCard stack that teaches junior high students about their topic. Their stacks are graded on a simple rubric: 50% of information, 25% for artistic quality, and 25% for functionality / meeting minimum requirements. For a more complete description of project activities, gopher to gopher.tenet.edu, select mini-grant awards from the main menu, and then select Students exploring Cyberspace from the next menu.

    Method of Evaluation:

    Students present their stacks to each other in a round-table format. Half the class presents while the other half judges the stacks. Groups of student judges rotate among the presenters until every presenter has presented to every judge. The presenters then become judges and the judges present their stacks in the same format.


    Student stacks are distribute to local junior high schools where the junior high students evaluate them. Junior high students' comments are relayed to the high school students via our newsgroup where they provide the basis for peer interaction and mentorship. Additionally, some high school students choose to interact with scientists and professors on-line. This leads to community mentorship of the highs school students.

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