Collaboratively Designing and Building a Digital Entomology Lab at K-State

Collaboratively Designing and Building a Digital Entomology Lab at K-State

Shalin Hai-Jew (Kansas State University, USA)
Copyright: © 2013 |Pages: 28
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-1933-3.ch012


With the creation of ENTOM 312, General Entomology, as an online class, the question arose about whether to pursue development of a Digital Entomology Lab to support student learning of insect morphology (structures and forms) and functions. The early conceptualization described how this lab could benefit learners from a variety of academic fields—horticulture, agriculture, engineering (robotics) and others—to benefit the larger campus and even those from off-campus. In the first iteration, no real considerations were made for broader nonformal or informal learning. This endeavor was funded in early 2011, and Phase 1 (the capture of insect imagery from five major angles, the metadata labeling, and the uploading of the contents onto a static site) was completed. To spark conversations about digital labs and online learning and to get creative design ideas for Phase 2, a participatory design article was created and published through the peer-reviewed online journal Educause Quarterly. This interactive article was “The Participatory Design of a (Today and) Future Digital Entomology Lab” (Hai-Jew, 2011). The commentary of participants was collected on an open-source MediaWiki™ page for possible inclusion in Phase 2 of the Digital Entomology Lab. This participatory design endeavor involved design questions about how to brand the site, set it up for a variety of use cases, replenish digital contents, design for nonformal learning, design for informal learning, anticipate possible K-12 uses and users, and to possibly pursue integration with other digital repositories. This chapter summarizes the learning from this participatory design “thought experiment” put into practice and what was learned about evolving a Digital Entomology Lab to accommodate the needs of formal, nonformal, and informal learning.
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“Forty years after those early initiatives—and in spite of the example of the Open University, which has not only shown that science can be taught at a distance, but has become a world center of high quality science—the prejudice that science can only be taught face-to-face is still widespread, especially in the United States. Indeed innovative course and program proposals frequently fail to get off the ground because of very ill-informed assertions by classroom teachers that distance teaching of science is not possible.” (Michael Grahame Moore in Dietmar, Kennepohl, & Lawton Shaw, 2010, p. x)



The study of foundational general entomology generally involves the study of the role of insects in the biosphere. Their wide proliferation (with some 10 quintillion individual insects on earth at any given moment, with some 200,000,000 insects to one human) is a beginning point-of-interest for new learners. A general approach in this class involves a lecture / lab combined approach. The lectures highlight various facts about insects’ various structures and functions; the lab part enables learners to learn more about insect cephalization (the evolution of the insect body form) and insect morphology (structures and functions) up close. They may have a field project in which they go out and capture particular insects for closer study. More in-depth types of studies in entomology involve internships; field-based courses (sometimes called “land labs”), or farmer-field-school approaches which enable many people from different sectors of society to be co-trained simultaneously (Barfield, 2004). The formal learning here is intentional and often conducted in a structured way in order to help the learners earn college credit. People with degrees in entomology may branch out into other fields in agriculture, education, government (such as inspection services), lab work, public health, and environmental protection, among others.

Phase 1 of this project began in February 2011 when a simple photobox was set up in a small student club space in the basement of one of the academic buildings on campus. A high-end camera was purchased for the capture of the macro images. The close-up images of various common insects were captured from five main angles (lateral, anterior, posterior, dorsal, and ventral) and made available as both stand-alone images and as integrated factsheets. A 2D (25 mm x 25 mm) black-and-white grid structure enabled users to gain a sense of the relative sizes of the various insects. The detailed close-up images clearly demonstrated the insects’ physical structures. Phase 1 concluded with the contents made available on a fairly static site.

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