Building on the popularity of the CSI television programs, the Interactive Virtual Intelligent System for Scientific Inquiry in a Biology Learning Environment (INVISSIBLE) will involve students by having them investigate a murder crime scene, the Thomas Jefferson-Sally Hemings genealogy debate, and the origin theory of Homo sapiens.
"We want students to learn that there are different ways of applying a scientific method," said Brian P. Butz, director of ISAC and principal investigator on the NSF grant. "For example, we want them to understand that you don't have to have a laboratory with experiments, where you take those experiments and you analyze them, build a hypothesis from them and try to replicate the data.
Using INVISSIBLE, students will interact in the three scenarios that reflect the authentic experiences of a scientist engaged in using scientific inquiry methods. The students must use scientific inquiry skills and reasoning patterns necessary for the reconstruction of past events, said Butz, who is a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Temple.
The first scenario presents students with a murder investigation where they are charged with the responsibility of identifying suspects and solving the crime. Identifying suspects is analogous to generating multiple working hypotheses. According to Butz, his module will introduce students to the procedures of evidence-gathering and analysis used by scientists who study past events, but it will do so in a context that is likely to be familiar to students.