Setting up wet labs is very time-consuming and poses significant classroom management challenges.
Significant savings over traditional wet labs.
No concerns over sharp scalpels used in classrooms.
No concerns over formalin allergies.
Many biology teachers believe that dissection is still the best way to learn biology. While that may be true for a small number of students, mounting evidence suggests that virtual dissection programs such as The Digital Frog are just as good, if not a better way to learn anatomy and physiology than tradtional dissections. Proponents of traditional dissection often lose sight of the reason for dissecting in the first place—to learn anatomy and physiology, not to learn dissection skills.
Interestingly, many doctors are also opposed to dissection in schools. Nancy Harrison, a practicing pathologist in California asserts that cutting up preserved frogs bears little relation to cutting human flesh and is therefore of no educational value for aspiring doctors.
Even medical schools are embracing virtual training. Alan Liu, Ph.D., a research scientist for virtual reality at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS) in Bethesda, Md. says “A virtual environment is very forgiving, You can practice all you want; you can fumble all you want; you can kill a ‘patient’ repeatedly, learning from your mistakes. In essence, you can keep rewinding a procedure until you’re good at it.” So why not in high school biology?
A recent Ph.D. study compared the effectiveness of wet labs to the use of a virtual frog dissection program. The conclusion was that not only was the virtual frog dissection program more effective, but the learning was accomplished in 44% less time.
The PCRM (Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine) cost comparison indicates that a school can save $1488 over five years by purchasing a Building Site License for The Digital Frog 2.5 instead of dissecting preserved frogs. These savings are based on one class of 30 students. Savings increase dramatically with more students.
The purchase and disposal of preserved frogs (which should be treated as biohazardous waste due to the potential carcinogenic nature of the preservatives) is becoming increasingly expensive.
The Digital Frog 2.5 engages students with an interactive, virtual dissection, allowing the student to learn each of the cuts necessary by doing it themselves - virtually. As one beta tester remarked, cutting up digital frogs is much safer because "then I don't have to dodge the scalpels of the kid behind me". And no formaldehyde!
Wet labs require careful management. Biology teachers put a lot of effort into ensuring that wet labs are safe and effective, but the focus is often on the dissection, at the expense of anatomy and physiology.
The Digital Frog eliminates the need for frog dissection to teach anatomy, protecting a diminishing species. The Digital Frog focuses the student on the study of structure and function, rather than on the process of dissection. The Digital Frog also encourages squeamish students who may otherwise avoid biology and science.
Excerpt from thesis submitted by Kenneth R. Fleischmann to Rensselaer Polytechnic (with permission)
Dissection simulations, on the other hand, focus on human–computer interaction rather than human–human interaction. The emphasis on a single user interacting with the simulation is not restricted to dissection simulation software — it is in fact widespread within the realm of educational simulation software, where a "single user license" refers to a license for the software to be used on one computer, while a "multiple user license" refers to a license for the software to be used on multiple computers (National Centre for Technology in Education). Indeed, even the phrase, "personal computer," implies that the technology is intended to be used by a single user. Thus, the terminology used for describing computers and software carries the implicit use of a single copy of software by an individual, rather than by a group.
One of the selling points of dissection simulations, especially at the K–12 level, is that they replace everything — specimen, biology textbook, dissection manual, and perhaps even teacher. In a simulation such as The Digital Frog 2, not only has the frog been transferred to virtual form, but the software comes equipped with inline instructions for conducting the dissection, giving the user a step–by–step procedure for exploring the anatomy of the frog. The textbook is also included, in the form of the parallel anatomy section which explains not only the anatomy and physiology of the frog but also includes a "compare to human" feature which allows the user to compare an aspect of the frog’s anatomy such as the heart to the human, explaining significant similarities and differences. The Digital Frog 2 also comes with an ecology module, explaining the behavior of the frog and its relationship with its environment. While there are clear advantages to the multiple functionalities incorporated in the software, there is also an understated yet unmistakable transition from a multiple–student teamwork activity to a single–student solitary activity.