life on earth - DOC by Diaryofamadband

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									Katie Murcott                      Stage 2 Project

   Educational material to accompany the ' Unseen Life on Earth'
                                    video series.
In 1999 the ASM (American Society for Microbiology) produced 4 1hour long
programmes covering all aspects of microbiology. This was originally shown on TV
as a documentary series. From this the ASM converted the 4 programmes into 12 x
30 minute videos with the intention that these would become teaching resources.
Unfortunately they were not widely distributed, especially in the UK, and had little or
no learning activities to accompany them, therefore reducing the effectiveness of
this, potentially very useful resource.

The videos are, in sequence:-
1) Microbial Universe
This provided a very good introduction to microbiology, covering a variety of topic
areas and highlighting practical applications of microbiology.

2) Unity of Living Systems
This was interesting although a little out of date now with some of the facts and
information provided for example the size of the human genome. It did however give
a good explanation of endosymbiosis, cell structure and viruses. Possible editing out
of the outdated information would make it more useful.

3) Metabolism
This video had segments, which were good i.e. that presented ideas clearly and
were easily understood, and some were very poor, for example the explanation of
anabolism and catabolism was very poor and left the viewers (myself and others who
watched it with me) confused. It did, however, show some good examples of the
practical applications of microorganisms, which were well presented, had clear
explanations and involved outdoor filming, therefore enabling the viewer to see for
themselves the processes involved. Examples used were sewage treatments and
fermentation, in particular brewing.

Katie Murcott                    Stage 2 Project

4) Reading the Code of Life
This was a good introduction to microbial genetics and gave clear explanations of
transcription and translation.   The animation that reinforced this point was also
clearer and more easily understood.      The animation, however, for mutation and
transformation with respect to antibiotic resistance was very poor.
It did give an introduction to radiation-induced mutation, although the Russian
scientist that was interviewed needed subtitles!

5) Genetic Transfer
This discussed the concepts of transformation (via bacteriophage intervention),
conjugation, transduction and transposons. On the whole the explanations were
good although they were let down in parts by the poor quality of animation. It also
used a very interesting case study (Casava mosaic virus) introducing the idea of
genetic engineering.

6) Microbial Evolution
This was a very interesting video and gave a good insight into the evolution of life on
Earth and the importance of microorganisms within this. Karl Stedder was quite
distracting though and it would have probably been better without him talking! The
video also introduced the idea of the 'Tree of Life' and the work of Carl Woese.

7) Microbial Diversity
This video also had reference to Carl Woese. The interview with him was very
interesting. It also put across the idea that microbial diversity far exceeds that of
plants and animals, giving you plenty to think about.
The video also showed examples of the practical applications of microbiology, with
respect to gel electrophoresis and an explanation of shotgun sequencing.

8) Microbial Ecology
This was an excellent video and showed the importance of microorganisms within an
ecosystem. The case study used was 'Biosphere 2' and put across theories as to
why the experiment failed.
The video also highlighted the importance of microorganisms in other environments
e.g in estuaries and the symbiotic relationship in a cow's rumen.             Practical

Katie Murcott                    Stage 2 Project

applications were again shown, using examples in sewage treatments and landfill

9) Microbial Control
This was also a very good video. It introduced the idea of disinfectants, antibiotics
and antiseptics as control methods. The case studies used were also very good,
these being a space shuttle, hospital and the food industry, in particular the canning
of foods.

10) Microbial Interactions
This showed excellent examples of the relationships between microorganisms and
ourselves and also with other organisms i.e. cows, termites and leaf cutter ants.
There was also a good example of bioremediation.

11) Human Defences
This again was a very good video, with a good use of examples e.g. Salmonella sp.
It also outlined both the positive and negative relationship between microorganisms
and ourselves. It gave good explanations of viral infections and replication and also
the development of vaccines.

12) Microbes and Human Disease
Again, this was an excellent video showing how public health improvements aided
with the decline of many diseases. There were also good examples of emerging
diseases for example Hanta virus.

On the whole the video series is very good, putting across some very important and
interesting facts in a manner that is understandable. They also show some good
examples of the practical applications of microorganisms, which would also aid with
understanding some difficult concepts. The videos in the early part of the series
seemed to be let down by the poor use of animation. The series was only produced
in 1999 but the choice of animation seemed far too basic for the technology that
would have been available. The latter part of the series seemed to improve greatly.
It was more interesting and kept the attention more with the good use of examples
and case studies, which may not have been taught ordinarily. This may encourage

Katie Murcott                     Stage 2 Project

students to think more widely and not just limit themselves to the examples used in

Project aims

The brief for this project was to produce material, which would enable more
widespread and increased usage of this little used resource. This would be split into
2 areas,
   a) For people who already had the video series (using MMU department as the
       subject) – this would be funded by MMU.
   b) For more general use, 30 second clips on the website – this would be funded
       by LTSN

I thought about how best the videos could be used on a large scale, for example in a
lecture setting. I decided the easiest method would be to show the video to the
lecture students and then present them with a worksheet to either fill in while they
watched it or to complete it after the lecture. If the latter was the case then extra
activities would be included that involved researching by the student. This would
form the basis for the MMU funded part of the project.

I had to then watch the videos to try to identify which ones would be most useful and
most appropriate to make up worksheets from. Initially I identified:-
       Microbial Universe
       Microbial Diversity
       Microbial Ecology
       Microbial Control
       Microbial Interactions
       Microbes and Human Disease
With the possibility of using
       Microbial Evolution
       Reading the Code of Life

Katie Murcott                    Stage 2 Project

I chose these particular videos in the series as I felt they were most appropriate, as
the topics covered in the video would fit in to the topic areas that would be covered
within the lectures of the new degrees.

I was also given several websites to look at to see if there were any ideas or
information, which I would be able to use or incorporate. The websites;, and were very useful although the ASM website was of
most use as it contained links to microbe library, images that had already been
referenced and video animation from the series, which meant they could be imported
onto either the worksheets or uploaded on the either the internet or intranet or both,
if needed.

Katie Murcott                  Stage 2 Project

Examples of images from

Anabaena cyanobacteria

Katie Murcott                     Stage 2 Project

What was done

After speaking with lecturers it was thought that it would be useful to use the videos
and worksheets with the new Stage 1 students starting in the new academic year
(2003 – 2004).
After watching the videos again and consulting curriculum documents I realised that
some of the subject areas discussed were aimed more at Stage 2 level rather than
Stage 1, so I thought it best to omit Microbial Control and Microbes and Human
Disease. As there were going to be new degrees starting in 2003 -2004 I was
unable to use my own Stage 1 syllabus to see where best to use the videos. It was
arranged that I would get a copy of the new degrees and lecture programmes.

Prof. Verran and I discussed the possibility of using ‘Microbes and Human Diseases’
as part of a Medical Microbiology tutorial for stage 3 students as the video discussed
emerging diseases which forms part of the syllabus.

I spoke with Dr Christine Jones (Year 2 tutor), as she had used video/worksheet with
students in the past, regarding the best way to write and present the worksheet. She
advised me to pick out facts from watching the videos and write questions around
that but also to be aware of the spacing of the questions i.e the questions aren't all in
clumps leaving big gaps of the video with no activity.

I wrote the questions for Microbial Universe and Metabolism (see appendix A & B
respectively), albeit with more questions than were needed but this was to allow me
to ensure the correct spacing. Later these were shown to the appropriate lecturers.
Dr John Wilcox, Dr Trevor Gross, Dr Christine Jones, Dr Maureen Dawson, Prof.
Joanna Verran and Dr Gordon Craig.          The discussions centered around which
questions were the most relevant and which questions could be removed from the
list. This involved the group of lecturers and myself watching the videos together
and going through each question individually assessing their educational relevance.
Questions which they thought were not needed were omitted. The videos were also
shown to some Stage 2 students. Again this involved watching the videos as a
group and commenting on the educational relevance to the questions. The students
then gave feedback as to which questions they believed should be left out. The

Katie Murcott                    Stage 2 Project

questions were altered accordingly (see appendix A). Dr Gross wasn’t too keen on
using the Metabolism video as he felt that some of the content was not accurate. It
would have been possible to edit the video, but this idea was not pursued.

I thought I should look up 'Active learning' on the Internet to see if there were any
ideas regarding using worksheets. The sites I used were: Institute for Learning and
Teaching in Higher Education (, The National Teaching and Learning
Forum (, Network of Cooperative Learning in Higher Education and
Online collaborative Learning in Higher Education (
Although little was mentioned about worksheets they did show a lot of research and
journals relating to the effectiveness of active learning as opposed to passive
learning. Network of Cooperative Learning in Higher Education found that, after a
lecture 45% of students retained information for 3-4 days after the lecture and only
24% of students retained the same information for 8 weeks after the lecture. The
results of students who had a teacher induced discussion after the lecture rose to
99% of students retaining more information and found it more useful.

I spoke with Dr Craig who was very keen on using Microbial Evolution and Microbial
Diversity. He also thought they would be more useful if the parts of the video that
were not needed were edited out. We both went through both videos and decided
what should be taken out. They were then edited in the media lab worksheets were
produced (see appendix C & D respectively). Dr Craig also showed interest in using
Microbial Interactions. I again produced a set of questions (see appendix E) to go
with the video and passed it back to him for feedback.

I attended two 1-day sessions at MMU Teacher Training campus at Didsbury. The
1st session I attended was at the Faculty of Community Studies, Law and Education
Annual Learning and Teaching Conference.           This provided some interesting
information on: Team teaching which, although, not really relevant to this project
was still interesting; and e-Learning using WebCT whereby work and assessment
are done on-line.    Although this would require a change in the curriculum to
accommodate it, it should be kept in mind for the future. Accessibility needs for
'disabled students' was also discussed. Although very important, I hadn't given it
much thought.    I was advised that any difficulties regarding making work more

Katie Murcott                     Stage 2 Project

accessible could be discussed with the Universities learning support department.
The 2nd session was a meeting with some PGCE students, which had been arranged
by Prof. Verran and myself with Jan Green from the Disbury campus, to discuss the
use of videos as a teaching resource. The day was useful and interesting with
respect to general teaching methods but it didn’t shed much light on the project in
hand. Even when questioned, the students didn’t seem to have much experience of
this. The meeting, however, cemented the idea that interactive learning was the best
method of encouraging students to retain information.

After returning from the conference I discussed with Prof. Verran the possibility of
using WebCT in the future with regards to this project and work like it. If WebCT
were used successfully it would allow much greater accessibility for students and
give lecturers the ability to track students’ efforts. Prof. Verran advised me to speak
to Robert Ready, in Educational Resource Unit, as he was the expert in this field. I
arranged a meeting with Robert Ready to discuss the possibility of setting up WebCT
for the worksheets and activities. He said that without the knowledge of producing
WebCT I would find it very difficult and technical support is not available for students.
Several staff are involved with WebCT development in other projects

After discussions with Prof. Verran it was decided that Microbial Ecology would also
be a good video to use. I e-mailed and messaged the relevant ecology lecturers to
explain the project and to ask if we could meet to watch the video. Unfortunately I
only managed to contact one of the lecturers, Dr Sullivan. After I had produced a set
of questions (see appendix F) I left a copy of both the video and questions for him to
look at and then give me feedback on.

Prof. Verran contacted the ASM regarding copyright of the videos to see if we would
be able to edit sections of the videos to be digitised and uploaded onto the ASM
website, the LTSN website and the Universities departmental website. The ASM
couldn’t grant full copyright release but advised us that if there were any 30 second
clips that we thought explained a point well, then they could look at them being used.
I then revisited the videos to try to identify any 30-second clips and also wrote
activities to go with them. The activities would be aimed more towards the tutorial
setting therefore smaller group sizes. From the videos I was able to identify 8 clips

Katie Murcott                     Stage 2 Project

that could be used and put together the activities to go with them. (see appendix G).
The identification of these clips formed the basis for the LTSN funding.

For this project I was assigned 2 'critical friends', Dr Joy Perkins of Huddersfield
University and Dr John Heritage of Leeds University. I e-mailed them both with the
work I had done to see if they thought I needed to change anything or add anything.
I am waiting to hear from them.

Katie Murcott                    Stage 2 Project

What I have achieved

    Worksheets and edited Microbial Evolution and Microbial Diversity videos for
      Dr Gordon Craig. For use in

    Worksheets for Microbial Universe for both Dr John Wilcox and Dr Gordon
      Craig. For use in ‘Life on Earth’ and ‘Cells and Society’ stage 1 lectures.

    Worksheets for Microbial Ecology and Metabolism with the possibility of the
      use in ‘Life on Earth’ and ‘Cells in Action’ stage 1 lectures.

    Worksheet for Microbial Interactions with the possibility of the use in ‘Cells
      and Society’ stage 1 lectures.

    Identified 8 x 30 second clips and accompanying activities to be digitised with
      the prospect of uploading them onto the ASM website and MMU departmental

To be done
    Medical Microbiology stage 3 tutorial
    LTSN report
    SGM presentation

Katie Murcott                      Stage 2 Project

What I have learnt

This project has allowed me to gain many skills, most of which are transferable and
would hopefully benefit me in my future career in teaching. It has taught me how to
study videos and extract the relevant information while screening out the irrelevant
information, also how to effectively evaluate data.

I have also learnt how to approach, plan and carry out a project, which is a skill I will
be able to apply to other projects that I undertake. I have also developed the ability
to identify and extract key learning messages from the videos.

I think probably one of the most important skills I have gained from this is that I've
'learnt about learning', about how people learn, about concentration and how to
maintain it. Also the importance of making learning stimulating and interesting and
the need for student participation.      This is especially important with regards to
information retention.

Another skill I feel I have gained is the ability to structure learning questionnaires to
reinforce the learning process. This will, hopefully, be very useful to me in the future.

This project has also reinforced my own knowledge on some of the subject areas
and also made me aware of others, for example the cyclical appearance of infectious
disease i.e. Hanta virus and English sweating disease.

Overall I feel I have benefited greatly from carrying out this project.

Katie Murcott                     Stage 2 Project

What could be done to carry it on

The possible uses for this video series have by no means been exhausted. Other
activities could include:-

1) Editing together of the mistakes in selected video e.g.
       - The lack of use of aseptic techniques for plating samples ( doing it outside or
       in the lab)
       - Laboratory coats not being worn in the lab.
       - Incorrect spelling of microorganisms.
       - The incorrect Penicillium sp used (should be notatum and not chrysogenum)

Students would then have to identify what the mistakes were and also why they
were mistakes.
2) Video-streaming:
       -   Putting digitised 30-second video clips on the Web (Intranet, Internet or
           both). This would allow e-Learning or distance learning which would make
           the Universities courses more widespread and accessible.
       -   Video clips would go together with an activity for tutorial or project work.
           This could be used both internally, in the University, and externally, on the
       -   This could include digitised case studies for further research by students.

3) Put together a WebCT package, this would not only allow ease of accessing the
   units and student assessment but would give the lecturers the ability to track the
   students’ progress. It would also show which students have logged on and which

4) Students would watch the video in a lecture setting, then in small groups or pairs
   would research and prepare a poster or a presentation relating to one of the
   subject areas from the video specified by the lecturer e.g. emerging diseases,
   bioremediation etc.

Katie Murcott                   Stage 2 Project

5) Incorporate the information from the videos into midterm exams. This would
   enable the lecturer to evaluate whether the video/worksheet had been effective in
   increasing the amount of information retained by the student.

6) Trialling the video/worksheets with 2 groups of students. This however would
   only work if the 2 groups were run in tandem. This could be done by possibly
   showing one group the video with the worksheet and the other group only the
   video and drawing a comparison between the 2 groups on the results from
   subsequent tests incorporating information that was in the video. In order that
   the group who only watched the video without the worksheet wasn’t at a
   disadvantage they would be given an answer sheet later on.


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