For many students, and indeed adults, frog dissection is one of their most powerful and vivid memories of school science, lingering long after graduation. The experience of exploring the way the body works for the first time is unforgettable and actually seeing the anatomy and organ systems up close makes for a pretty incredible experiment. These days, however, for reasons ranging from budget cuts to environmental concerns, many schools have stopped performing the classic frog dissection in class. Luckily, thanks to the wonders of education technology, a host of fantastic online programs have sprung up to allow students to experience the activity virtually, and in some ways, the experience they provide is even better! Doing the experiment virtually avoids the need for real frogs as subjects, saves you from having to provide actual tools, eliminates mess and makes the project more user-friendly for squeamish students! In addition, the graphic images are often clearer and more easily distinguished than real organs. Here are our picks of three of the best online tools for virtual frog dissection.
This fantastically detailed tool mixes real video footage and digital images. The program takes you through a frog dissection step-by-step, with sections of video and audio narration explaining the scientific details students need to learn at each stage of the process. The digestive, respiratory, circulatory, reproductive, excretory, nervous, muscular and skeletal systems are each analysed in detail. Extra information about the similarities between the amphibian and human organ systems is also included.
Interactive features allow students to select the relevant dissecting tools and ‘use’ them to follow the motions of an actual dissection, so they don’t miss out on learning how the process is carried out. (Though the limited extent of interaction might be frustrating for particularly hands-on kids). A great design feature of the program is that it allows you to go back and repeat any stage of the process without restarting from the beginning. Individual sections allow you to explore each separate organ system, so unlike a real dissection, the lesson could be spread over several different sessions, or even set as a homework exercise.
This site looks a little older (the most up-to-date tool was last modified in 2002) and is consequently slightly less user-friendly, with the different options laid out in a more confusing way. However, for older students, who will be able to cope with navigating through the steps, it might be a better choice, as it has a more interactive element than the McGraw Hill version.
Each page explores a different step in the frog dissection process, with optional narration and an overview of the tools that would be required in a real lab. On most pages, a “try it” button allows students to get hands-on, and this is where the tool performs better than the McGraw Hill version, as it allows students to actually select the areas of the frog they would cut or pin, telling them whether they have succeeded or failed depending on where they make their incisions. This enables a real element of practice after having seen the tutorial and the possibility of failure gives students a greater sense of responsibility and involvement.
Each section also concludes with a review and quiz, giving this tool the edge in terms of actual learning and fact retention for older students.
The Froguts tool combines the clarity and simplicity of McGraw Hill with the details of Net Frog, and is probably the most challenging virtual tool for student participation. It demands precise mouse work to make incisions in exactly the correct place and has a 3D setting that allows students to tilt and examine the frog more closely.
Most importantly, the magnifier button included in the toolbar allows for the most detailed and clear view of the frog’s interior of all three programs, with students then challenged to locate individual organs through careful analysis and selection from this fantastically detailed image. So in terms of visuals and the actual experience of dissection, this is the best tool for giving students the full dissection experience.
The downside, however, is that this free demo goes no further – you don’t get any of the useful scientific information included in the other programs or any fact tests or quizzes. Without buying the full version, the tool also doesn’t go as far as removing any of the organs or explaining how the various body systems work.
Overall the three tools have different strengths, with the Froguts Demo leading the way on detail and realism, while the McGraw Hill version is best for younger students and Net Frog will provide the best learning foundation for retaining information.
Have you tried any online dissection tools? Let us know your thoughts!
First image courtesy of Flickr, mattmangum
Second image courtesy of Flickr, Timothy Lock