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  • Illustration of human torso showing musculature and internal organs with a focus on the heart, lungs, and major vessels.

    PAL 4.0: Your virtual accomplice in enhanced A&P learning

    By Ruth Heisler

    Practice Anatomy Lab, or PAL 4.0, is a virtual anatomy lab study and practice tool created by faculty (like me) who teach Anatomy and A&P courses to undergraduates at 2-year & 4-year institutions. It is included within Mastering A&P at no extra cost. Conveniently located in the Study Area, it provides students with 24/7 lab access to the most widely used lab specimens and is inclusive of the most common materials used to teach gross anatomy: human cadavers, anatomical models, histology, cat, and fetal pig. What makes PAL 4.0 a secret weapon in your students’ learning journey is the intentional and helpful extras that promote active learning and encourage students to practice using tools such as:

    • Built-in audio pronunciations. For students and faculty alike! Latin and Greek-based anatomical terms aren’t easy. Make sure you are saying them correctly.
    • Muscle Origin, Insertion, Action animations. These focused animations make it easier to visualize where muscles are attached to the bone, and what the action looks like.
    • Flashcards. Customizable and a student favorite!
    • Practice quizzes. Multiple-choice format. The instructor bank has hundreds of different questions if you want to create a practice or for-credit quiz.
    • Practice lab practicals. Fill-in-the-blank format. The instructor bank has hundreds of different questions if you want to create a practice or for-credit practical.
    • 3D Interactive Models. Students can rotate 360°, remove structures, select to see names, and view side-by-side model/cadaver images for comparison. Each of the 30 models is a tour through a system (or part of a system) and allows students to explore and manipulate.
    • Instructor resources. Looking for an image from PAL that is fully labeled? Want to be able to edit those labels and move the leader lines? Show one of the animations in your lecture? Or maybe you just want an image of a single structure highlighted? Downloadable instructor resource files have all of this and more in editable PowerPoints, making it easy to incorporate into a lecture presentation, create a worksheet, or add to one of your LMS assignments.

    PAL 4.0 nudges students to take control of their own learning by implementing more effective learning strategies that activate different areas of the brain. And we know that utilizing different parts of the brain is an important part of the learning process.
    Intrigued by what it has to offer but overwhelmed by trying to figure out how to incorporate it into your course? Here are some suggestions. (Pro tip: pick just one to start with to see how it works for your class and your style of teaching.)

    Integrate images into your lectures and assignments. Screen shots and editable labeled images are available for every image and highlighted structure by downloading the PAL 4.0 instructor resource files. You can use these images in a multitude of ways: add to your lecture presentation, create a worksheet, or include as part of a quiz or assignment in your course LMS.

    Create and assign pre- or post-lab quizzes in Mastering A&P. Mastering A&P has an extensive test bank that includes hundreds of multiple-choice quiz questions, all of which feature an image from PAL. These questions can easily be selected to create a quiz within Mastering A&P. Assigning the quiz and syncing the grade is easy to do through your LMS.

    Create and assign lab practicals in Mastering A&P, for practice or credit. Students love the opportunity to practice. Mastering A&P has an extensive test bank that includes hundreds of fill-in-the-blank questions, all of which feature an image from PAL. These questions can easily be selected to create a practical within Mastering A&P. This can be created as a practice assignment or assigned for a grade. Syncing graded assignments with your LMS gradebook is easy to do!

    The jigsaw method: encourage students to teach each other. This is a favorite of mine. Students are broken into two or three groups, and each group is assigned a portion of the structures from the weekly lesson to learn before they come to lab. They do this using PAL 4.0. Using the test bank that already exists in Mastering, a short pre-lab quiz can be created to hold them accountable. Once they are in lab, they are paired with someone from the other group and must teach each other the material. As we all know, having to teach someone else is a powerful way to learn!

    Use the interactive 3D models in class. Why show static, 2D images in lecture when you can use a 3D model? I love the way these models can be easily rotated, structures can be removed, and relationships of structures can be better demonstrated. Students can access these 3D models in PAL to review and study. Each model is a series of 3D images that can be manipulated and take you on a tour through a body system or portion of a body system. You really should check these out.

    Use Muscle Origin, Insertion, and Action animations in your lecture or recitation. I will confess to occasionally accessing these animations when I have a hard time explaining an action to a student. Whether you use plastic models, human cadavers, or cats in your lab, it can be extremely hard to see where exactly the muscle originates from and/or where it inserts. These animations isolate a single muscle so all of this is easy to visualize, and then shows and narrates the movement. There are also a series of videos specific to the major synovial joints that demonstrate the muscles involved in movement at that specific joint.

    Impromptu “how to pronounce” breaks during lecture or lab. I frequently use this feature to settle arguments as to the “right way” to pronounce a specific structure. Whether it is a colleague or a student that isn’t quite sure, it is easy to click on the name of a structure in PAL and hear the pronunciation. These pronunciations were all carefully vetted by my eloquent co-author Dr. Nora Hebert.

    Make up assignments or provide extra credit. The last few years have taught us to expect the unexpected. PAL 4.0 can help. If a student has an excused absence or if a weather closure (or pandemic) cancels lab, assigning students to review structures in PAL combined with a quiz or lab practical created in Mastering A&P can replace the missed work.

    Beef up your online course. Prior to COVID, I would have told you it wasn’t possible to successfully teach an anatomy course in an online format. Well, I proved myself wrong. We are fortunate to have resources that make it possible for students to have virtual access to resources that support their learning in an online environment. PAL 4.0 is a perfect tool for helping students learn anatomy and, paired with the assessment tools available in Mastering A&P, provides the perfect partner to your online course.

    Independent & supplemental learning. A favorite feature of students is the ability to create their own flashcards. Additionally, faculty can create a customized list of structures for students to review in PAL 4.0, and then create questions in Mastering around this list.

    There are so many ways PAL 4.0 can be incorporated into your course to better support students’ learning. Have you thought of other ways to use PAL 4.0? We would love to hear about it!

  • Female scientist working in the lab with students

    #BreakTheBias in Biology

    By Dr. Lourdes Norman-McKay and Dr. Lisa Urry

    74% of women believe all types of bias and discrimination are still making it difficult to find new career opportunities, according to the findings in our Global Learner Survey. This International Women’s Day, we envision a world without bias, one that is inclusive and equal, where differences are celebrated. Drs Lourdes Norman McKay & Lisa Urry are educators, authors, and biologists working towards equality in their fields. Below they share their experiences as women in science and their hopes for the future.  

    What was it like for you in the early stages of your career as a woman in science? 

    Lourdes: I would say early on it was it was rather challenging. I wouldn't say it was academically difficult for me so much as it was an emotional challenge. I ended up constantly having to prove myself, over and over again, much more so than a lot of my male peers. It’s a recurring theme I hear from other women scientists, so it's nice that I wasn't alone, but it's also disappointing that that's still often the case for women in STEM. 

    Lisa: When I was in graduate school in the nineties, it was tough for women. I remember there was a class of graduate students a few years behind me – 30 students, eight of which were women - that came to me for help. They all occupied the same office and there were four men in particular that were harassing them badly during the entire year. 

    They felt like they should be able to handle it themselves, but they ended up coming to us and we publicly acknowledged this and let everybody know it was not OK. I followed up with those four women, and I think only one or two of them are still in biology. And those four guys are all still in biology.  

    There were a lot of subtle biases against women, and even now women's voices don't get heard as often.  

    Are you seeing the same challenges for young women entering STEM now? 

    Lourdes: A big thing that still is facing women in STEM is the career or family versus career and family, which is disappointing. So many women are having to make decisions between those things rather than being given the chance to blend them successfully.  

    I said to one of my young coworkers, you shouldn't apologize so much for being a mother. And it's not that she was really apologizing for being a mother but that was the situation she was struggling with emotionally. She didn't want to it come across as “dropping the ball” now that she had a child. 

    I remind young women in the workplace not to be so apologetic. It's OK that your child is sick, and it's OK if you get sick, and it's OK if you take a day off. We're human beings, and we should not have to feel that we have to do twice as much to prove ourselves.  

    Lisa: There still is a lot of bias and it's still something we have to be really careful about. And not only against women but transgender and non-gender binary people. 50% of the students don't identify as binary genders at my school, and it's really important to have all these voices at the table. 

    There’s a study by a group of women researchers who were studying birds and birdsong. They found something no one had ever found before – female birds have their own songs. Usually, these research teams have been all men, who had found the male bird song but hadn’t identified any female birds. None. And it just goes to show science is not objective, it's subjective. And I think it's important for the progress of biology that we include all people and have a wide variety of voices and viewpoints at the table. We need Black biologists, we need women biologists, we need people that are not as represented.  

    What are you hopeful for?  

    Lourdes: I'm hopeful for a time when your gender is not important at all to the career that you choose. And I would say this for men and women. You know, a lot of men want to go into nursing and it's a feminized area, just like teaching is, and there shouldn't be any sort of perception as to who is a nurse who is a teacher. And there should also definitely not be any perception as to who is a scientist. 

    I look forward to the day when a young woman who says she's a scientist isn't told, “Well, you don't look like a scientist.” To be accepted in the discipline she's pursuing. To avoid harassment and all the challenges that so many women in STEM report and have experienced, myself included. So, I want that for my daughter and for all the young women out there who pursue this career path. And I think hearing those voices from women encourages more women to speak out about how we want to see our workplaces change; how we want to see STEM change. And that's important because it changes the culture, and it can change behavior. 

    Lisa: I'm hopeful for institutions supporting women as they're starting their careers, making them feel included, wanted, and that their contributions are valued because they have unique contributions to make. And this includes trans people, LGBTQ+, disabled people, BIPOC, and groups of people that have been marginalized, pushed aside – not made to feel welcome in biology and other sciences. It's really important to value all biologists and not just the ones who are established white men. 

    Hear more about how we can #BreakTheBias in STEM in our webinar Intentionally Cultivating STEM Identity to Promote Diversity & Inclusion featuring Dr. Lourdes Norman-McKay. 

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    Bridging the STEM gender gap

    Although women fill 47% of U.S. jobs, they only hold 24% of jobs in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.* Despite an increase in awareness regarding gender inequity, women are still underrepresented in STEM careers.

    It’s time to bridge the gender gap and open the doors into the scientific and engineering fields for women. Hear from Dr. Catherine Murphy, professor of chemistry at the University of Illinois, co-author of Chemistry – The Central Science,and senior editor of the Journal of Physical Chemistry, about her STEM journey and how to overcome obstacles that women in these fields face.

    Why did you choose to study chemistry?

    I always liked nature and science from a young age and had great chemistry teachers in junior high and high school, so I became a chemistry major in college.

    How have you dealt with competition and the gender gap in the STEM field?

    My advice is to do good work and eventually reasonable people will recognize it. I was the first woman hired on the tenure track at my previous university (University of South Carolina in 1993), and the faculty there really were excellent at making sure I had good mentoring.

    How has technology changed your life, particularly in STEM education?

    Technology makes it possible for me to work anywhere, all the time. That’s both good and bad! I use a little technology when I teach classes, so students can text answers rather than raise their hand.

    What advice would you give to women wanting to enter a STEM field?

    You can do it! Double down on math and read widely to find your technical interests. Don’t let one not-great instructor in an intro class discourage what could be a lifetime of scientific joy.

    Learn more about Professor Murphy

    Get inspired

    Follow our Nevertheless Podcast series celebrating women who are using tech to transform teaching and learning. Hear their stories and how they persisted to create change.

    *Source: Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration, 2017 report

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    Chemist Linda Bush on mixed reality and changing the way people learn

    By Robin Beck, Contributor, Pearson

    Linda Bush is the Director of STEM, Nursing, Business Studies and Program Development for Smarthinking, Pearson’s Online Tutoring Service. In this role, she manages hundreds of subject expert tutors for college-level online academic support, provides consultative services to client institutions and faculty on optimal integration of online tutoring into their courses, and works on new programs and business opportunities for Smarthinking.

    In anticipation of Educause 2018, we spoke with Linda about discovering her love of science, empowering learners, and imagining the possibilities of mixed reality.

    Explain your career path to date. How did you come to work in education?

    I got my undergrad degree at Bryn Mawr, and I have a PhD in organic chemistry from Yale. I was fortunate to have a mentor in graduate school who was a preeminent scholar and teacher. I learned so much from him about thinking critically, asking the right questions, and considering multiple solutions to problems.

    In my work life I’ve had at least three careers so far! I was a chemistry professor, then a freelance media consultant and contributor for a textbook publisher, which sort of led to my third career as Director of Online Tutoring in STEM for Smarthinking and Pearson. All my work has been education focused. I always had such respect for my teachers, and I’m really a nerd, so education was a natural path for me. I love science and chemistry, and I’m drawn to any opportunity to share more about those subjects with anyone willing to learn.

    Pearson supports Nevertheless, a podcast celebrating the women transforming teaching and learning through technology. Who or what inspired you to pursue a STEM career?

    When I was growing up, our neighbor was a biology lab instructor at a local college, and she would spend hours with me looking at pond water samples under a microscope or collecting and curating bugs and snakes in our shared yards. Also, my dad had a PhD in chemistry, so although he never pressed it, that sort of thing was always on my radar. As I said earlier, I went to Bryn Mawr College, a women’s college with very strong programs in STEM, and that’s when I really found my own calling in chemistry.

    I know you worked with Bryn Mawr College recently! Can you share more about the work you and your team did there?

    This was really how I got involved with the Pearson Immersive team. There are features of Windows10 Skype which allow enhanced video calls between HoloLens and other devices. In 2016, the Immersive team reached out to Smarthinking to explore the potential use of this type of virtual connection for academic tutoring. I am an active alumna, so I contacted some faculty at Bryn Mawr College to see if they’d help us run some testing and focus groups with students.

    Once they had HoloLens devices on campus, the instructional technology team at Bryn Mawr really made the most of them. Students jumped into the project with enthusiasm. There was tremendous interest in students learning programming and coding for mixed reality. Because of Pearson’s partnership with Microsoft, we were also able to sponsor some on-campus internship experiences. We learned a lot about app design from things the students built into their creations.

    It was very empowering for those young women to have a hands-on experience with cutting-edge technology. It meant a lot to them to know that they were among a relatively small number of people worldwide who have used and developed content for HoloLens. It also meant a lot to me and the whole Pearson team to be able to share our work with them.

    Explain the HoloLens to a six year old.

    HoloLens is like a special set of glasses or goggles through which you can see the world around you, but with two additional features: little cameras on the front that map the contours of objects in your environment and allow you to control the device with hand gestures and transparent screens in front of your eyes on which holograms can be projected. Those holograms seem to actually take up space in your environment. While wearing the HoloLens, the holograms have presence in your world and you interact with them as though they are real physical objects.

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    Innovation and inspiring talent

    By Marykay Wells, Chief Information Officer, Pearson

    It’s our differences that make a difference.

    I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have endured a career in Information Technology for many years. At university, I decided that I was interested in pursuing a career in technology and haven’t regretted my decision. Since joining Pearson four years ago, I have had the opportunity to experience how technology is leveraged to fuel the education business. It’s remarkable that millions of learners globally depend on Pearson’s technology platforms to acquire knowledge essential in growing their careers. At Pearson, the technology team is at the heart of our digital transformation and we are challenged every day to find innovative ways to learn and exploit new and emerging technology and trends. Examples of these technologies are Big Data & Analytics through Robotic Process Automation, Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence.

    As part of my role, I have a highly rewarding and demanding responsibility of nurturing and inspiring talent. This is an essential part of leadership, but as a woman who has experienced many years in the technology field, I understand how critical it is for me to prioritize this as it can’t be tackled by a rule book or process.

    We’ve recently seen many headlines regarding the scant number of women pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). There are many reasons why girls aren’t deciding to pursue degrees in technology and when they do choose to enter a technology career, there are many more reasons for why they decide to change course early in their careers.

    During the journey, many women continue to be affected by explicit and implicit biases that impact their decision to continue with a degree or a career in technology. Sometimes these biases are the catalyst to barriers of success, and more often than not, it’s women who become the casualties of this. It’s important that we intervene prior to this resulting in a loss of confidence and a feeling of not being “good enough” to excel in the field of technology — ultimately a tremendous loss of talent.

    I am inspired by the growing number of initiatives out there to reach young people who have the odds stacked against them. I advocate for men and women to lift as they climb. Zerin Azun Karim, senior portfolio analyst in tech operations at Pearson, found her way into technology after working at the Genius Bar in an Apple store. Today, Zerin mentors other Bangladeshi women as they navigate STEM careers. It’s hugely encouraging to see talent like Zerin at Pearson, and she’s also made a point to help others facing the same odds she did. I really encourage you to listen to Nevertheless, a podcast celebrating the women transforming teaching and learning through technology, to learn more about Zerin’s story.

    Embracing innovation is also a critical part of success. Overcoming barriers — with or without the help of others — to get your foot in the door is only the start of the battle. Technology is changing and the world at large is changing at an unprecedented speed. In this climate it’s critical that our thinking changes too so that we can keep pace and succeed in an aggressively competitive environment. Technology is not going to wait for us to catch up and I’ve adapted my own style throughout my career. I applaud individuals that push against the status quo, positively disrupting business as usual. Speaking out and trying new things can be daunting, especially at companies that have existed for over a hundred years, but that makes thinking differently all the more urgent and necessary. The stakes are higher, but so are the rewards.

    As a leader, the job of creating an environment where people feel safe and challenging norms rests on my shoulders. It’s simply impossible to tap into the creativity of seasoned professionals if they’re constantly desk-bound, number crunching, fire-fighting or in fear of breaking protocol. There’s equally no incentive for creativity if we solely reward or recognize people for immediate, tangible results. I’m proud to work for a company that recognizes that it’s our differences that make the difference.

    I urge everyone reading this to join me in opening doors for others when and where they can. I encourage you to think big and take calculated risks — everyone will be better for it. After all, innovation has no barriers, except those put up by people.

    Nevertheless is a a podcast celebrating the women transforming teaching and learning through technology. Supported by Pearson. Subscribe on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, Soundcloud, TuneIn or RadioPublic.

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    A teachable moment

    By Emily Lai, Ph.D, Kristen DiCerbo, Ph.D, Peter Foltz, Ph.D

    Nevertheless, a series produced with Storythings, celebrates women both inside and outside of Pearson who are using technology to transform teaching and learning and improve outcomes for students. 

    Pearson’s Emily Lai on trust, children, and information literacy

    A little-known fact about me is that I was once a librarian. Before I entered the world of educational measurement, I completed a degree in Library and Information Science and worked in an archive. This fact is ironic because there was a time in my life when I actually suffered from library anxiety.

    This occurred during my sophomore year of high school, when I had an English assignment to write a research paper summarizing and critically evaluating evidence of some paranormal topic of my choice (my topic: people who claim to recover memories of “past lives” through hypnosis.) Our class made several visits to the library of a local university so we could carry out research. At that time, there were no full-text electronic databases to consult, just stacks and stacks of books, hard-cover periodical indices, and a computer-based card catalog. Even this was intimidating to me.

    I remember spending way too much time trying to figure out how to search the collection and then retrieve the results — only to find that they weren’t all that relevant to my topic. I should have approached the reference librarian (the most under-utilized resource in the library!) but I was too shy. I felt this was something I should figure out on my own.

    Eventually, I overcame my paralysis in the library and learned to see it as a treasure trove. The tools to support information retrieval projects like this have vastly improved, thanks in no small part to technology. But technology has also made it even more important that students develop information literacy: the ability to diagnose an information need, identify what kind of information is needed, search and retrieve information, evaluate its relevance and quality, and use it responsibly to answer a question or solve a problem. It’s more important today simply because the internet and mobile technology enable ridiculous amounts of information to be instantly accessible to us, anytime and anywhere.

    Recently watching my 9-year old daughter try to research rights and responsibilities of citizens for a school assignment brought me full circle. Although she was sitting at home (not in a library) and using her computer (not bound books) to look for sources, she ended up with about the same result as my fruitless search from years before — a small collection of marginally relevant information sources of dubious credibility for the topic. She didn’t know what question she was trying to answer or how to describe what type of information would be best suited to answering it. She was simply googling her way through the assignment.

    If ever there was a teachable moment for information literacy, this was it. So we talked about how to search for information and how to judge whether that information is valuable for a given question. We talked about mis-information and the need to critically interrogate information sources to figure out if they are trustable.

    If you’re a parent like me who is concerned that your kids aren’t picking up these skills at school, or you’re just interested to hear more perspectives on the topic of trust and technology, make sure you check out the next episode of the Nevertheless podcast, entitled The First Click.