Using iBooks Author, the Biosystematics Department of the Natural History Museum of Denmark has developed a digital compendium that makes the teaching of entomology more visual and engaging. The aim was to reduce the learning curve and the tedium often associated with building up knowledge of insects during the early stages of the course, and to produce a beautiful tool that would inspire students to explore the world of insects.
What is it?
David Koon-Bong Chung and Line Kræmer have converted a printed compendium for the Terrestrial Field Zoology course into a digital and interactive compendium, supplemented with their own high-quality photos and other material (e.g. 3D models and videos). iBooks Author makes it easy to create your own digital compendium/e-book. It’s highly intuitive, and enables you to add videos, galleries, interactive diagrams, 3D objects, mathematical symbols, etc.
David, who started developing the digital compendium for his lectures, has long been passionate about designing interactive species-identification tools. While he was teaching Terrestrial Field Biology II (at the Natural History Museum of Denmark), he decided to concentrate on developing tools for biology students. Line Kræmer was the first student to work on the development of the interactive compendium. Under the supervision of Lars Vilhelmsen and David, she was tasked with converting the paper-based identification key for Denmark’s common beetle families into a digital version for a project-based course. Now all three of them are hard at work making the compendium even more comprehensive, encompassing all of the most commonly encountered insect groups in Denmark.
How do they use it in the lectures?
Students catch the insects in the field, then identify them using the digital compendium on their iPads. The digital compendium makes it much easier to identify them correctly, as navigating between chapters is more manageable, and the zoom feature and 3D pictures make it easier to see the insects’ defining characteristics. It even has a glossary embedded in the text, so that the students are able to select words they don’t understand and read a definition right away. Instead of lugging around a large paper compendium, it’s more practical to carry an iPad or iPhone – especially out in the field.
What was the students’ reaction?
So far, the compendium has only been tested informally, for feedback purposes. But the students’ reactions were generally positive.
“The students loved having access to a variety of images to help them with the identification process. They all said it made the material much easier to understand, and that it was much more fun to explore the diversity of insect life this way.”
Following their entomology compendium, Line and David both see the potential in similar digital compendia for other subjects and courses. “It’s very user-friendly, and allows you to include a lot of information – even your Keynote presentations.” You will need copyright for the pictures and the compendium, and the KUB Copyright Service can help you with this. Please note, however, that iBooks Author is only available for later versions of Apple OSX.
Lars Vilhelmsen, associate professor at the Natural History Museum of Denmark, obtained grants from the Augustinus and 15th of June foundations to finance the project.