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Real Time Data Aquisition

Marc Roy (Beloit College)
Screen Shots | System Requirements

Real Time Data Acquisition is a text embedded with QuickTime movies which describes and illustrates the use and advantages of using computerized real time data acquisition systems in biology labs. These systems, which consist of an analog to digital (A/D) converter and the appropriate software, allow students to use computers to collect and immediately analyze data. The module describes some general features of several of the data acquisition systems available for the Macintosh operating system, including MacLab, LabView, MacScope, BIOPAC, and the Universal Lab Interface (ULI). Most of the actual examples of use come from either the MacLab or the MacScope system, since these are the systems which the author has used in his labs.

The descriptions of techniques are accompanied by QuickTime movies which illustrate the procedures used. An example window is shown below. Double clicking on the window will play the QuickTime movie (if you are using Microsoft Word 5.1 or later) or the movies can be played separately using the Movie Player application included on the Library CD.

In addition to discussing the “how-to” of computerized real time data acquisition, the module also addresses some of the issues involved in the “why-to” of using these systems in biology classrooms:

In recent years, “critical thinking” has become a buzzword used frequently by science educators as we try to encourage students to develop their skills in problem solving. There have been suggestions that we discard “canned labs” that encourage students to follow a set procedure in an attempt to find a single correct answer. At the same time, I have encountered some resistance from educators who do not want to give up control of the laboratory environment and I have heard comments like, “students need to learn these important concepts.” While there is an element of truth to this, by changing the way that we approach laboratory investigations, students can learn important concepts through scientific investigation.

For example, in my introductory human biology course, students use one lecture period to design experiments in which they test hypotheses about factors that may influence their ECG (other than the obvious effects of running or jumping!). In the next laboratory period, they are given a brief introduction to the real time data acquisition system and then they conduct their experiments. A critical component to this process is the sharing of ideas. Before conducting the experiments, student groups present their ideas to the other members of the class and there is an exchange of ideas about the experiments. The students benefit by hearing other ideas about their experiments, and they may avoid some difficulties that they had not considered. At the conclusion of the experiments, the students share their results and discuss whether they can be used to support or reject their hypotheses. The exact content of the experiments will vary for each group of students. However, in sum, each student will learn about a variety of experiments and the total content may be greater than if they had been handed an experiment to conduct. Furthermore, the students may explore questions that are not typically posed for them and, with a greater sense of ownership of the problem, I believe that they learn more than they would with a more traditional approach. (page 15)


Screen Shots

Movie 5. Zooming in on respiration data using MacLab. The controls for zooming in are found in the lower right corner.


System Requirements

This document is available in Portable Document Format (PDF) or Microsoft Word 5.1 format. To access the file in PDF you must install the Acrobat™ Reader (versions for Macintosh and Windows are included on the CD). To access the file in MSWord format you will need software that recognizes MSWord 5.1 format.

To run the embedded movies, you must have a version of QuickTime in your computer's System folder.

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