USC professors create educational DVD

first_imgWith the goal of teaching a wide array of students basic information about biology and genetics, two USC professors produced an educational DVD titled A Tale of Two MAO Genes: Exploring the Biology and Culture of Aggression and Anxiety.Marsha Kinder, a professor in the School of Cinematic Arts, and Jean Shih, a professor in the School of Pharmacy created the interactive DVD, which has also been translated into Mandarin for a students in Taiwan and Beijing.Shih began using the DVD in her classes this semester, but Kinder said that they are still waiting to hear what students think about the DVD.“USC should be a place where we have an institute of a collaboration of science and the arts,” Kinder said.The two professors are the only two female “University Professors” at USC, a title given to recognize faculty for doing innovative interdisciplinary research.Their goal was to teach students basic information about biology and genetics, as well as talk about Shih’s story and her career. Kinder and Shih wanted to make science education more compelling and more engaging to students, Kinder said.“It’s taken us a long time to make this,” Kinder said. “We saw this as a model, and indeed now USC is doing a lot of projects [similar to this.]”The pair proposed the project in 2005, and received funding from then-provost Lloyd Armstrong and started working on the project in 2006.The project focuses on Shih’s 30 years of research on an important pair of brain enzymes, the MAO A and MAO B (monoamine oxidase) genes, which help control aggression and anxiety in mice. Kinder said they not only wanted to focus on biological information, but cultural aspects of the target audience as well.“We like to present these findings artistically, at a level which students and the general public will understand and will be benefited from them,” Shih said.The DVD not only comes from a collaboration of Kinder and Shih, but also from The Labyrinth Project at the School of Cinematic Arts and The Shih Brain Research Laboratory at the School of Pharmacy. In 1997 Kinder founded the Labyrinth Project, a research initiative on database narrative and digital scholarship, which has produced 12 projects similar to this so far.Kinder and Shih wrote the content of the DVD together, and the animation was done by the students. According to Kinder, the two key artists in the group were Kristy Kang and Rosemary Comelia.The DVD, which contains six hours of content, was made to be interactive and simple to use. Kinder said that they wanted the DVD to be utilized at many different levels, including middle school, high school, undergraduate and graduate school.PDFs of articles related to the topics are also available.“[People are] absorbing the information in modular units, with a glossary, outline and video clips all in the same screen,” Kinder said. “There’s a glossary as the video clips are going. You can stop at any point and look at the glossary and definition [of a term related to the clip.]”The images in the DVD are presented in a variety of ways. There are live action shots, such as when Shih is in the lab with fighting mice, as well as 3D images and cartoon-like images. Kinder said the animator worked hard to understand what the images were supposed to look.“What people generally say about [the images] are that they are very beautiful and they are also very rigorously accurate,” Kinder said. “It’s the idea that the issues of representation are very important in science and in art.”One part of the DVD features the ethics of science, which is set up as a quiz in order to provoke classroom discussions. This area also features differing views on issues of religion and philosophy. Faculty in the departments of religion, philosophy and medical school are featured in the DVD.In 2007, the National Conference of China invited Kinder and Shih to present their DVD. After the presentation, they received a grant from the National Council of Taiwan to collaborate with a Taiwanese university to create a Mandarin version.“This innovative science education tool is powerful, it is more effective and interactive,” Shih said. “I hope it will stimulate students’ interest in science and will help them to make their career choice.”last_img

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