Using Technology to Study Cellular and Molecular Biology
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National Center for Research Resources

Using Technology to Study Cellular and Molecular Biology

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Teacher's Guide

Introduction to Using Technology to Study Cellular and Molecular Biology

The abilities to develop and use technology are inherent human characteristics. We recognize problems and look for solutions. Technology makes our lives easier and more comfortable. At the same time, critical research technologies have advanced scientific discovery. Where scientists once gazed in awe at individual cells and microorganisms, we now can view the electron clouds of individual atoms and reconstruct detailed three-dimensional structures of biological molecules, such as proteins, and biological structures, such as ribosomes. As the depth and breadth of scientific knowledge have increased, human health and our quality of life have improved.

What Are the Objectives of the Module?

Using Technology to Study Cellular and Molecular Biology has several objectives. The first is to help students understand that technology is a means of solving a problem. As a consequence, students realize that technologies affect all facets of our lives and that technology relates to more than computers.

The second objective is to allow students to investigate how technology is used to deepen and broaden our knowledge of cellular and molecular biology. Lessons in this module help students sharpen their skills in observation, critical thinking, experimental design, and data analysis. They also make connections to other disciplines such as English, history, mathematics, and social science.

The third objective is to convey to students the purpose of scientific research. Ongoing research affects how we understand the world around us and provides the foundation for improving our choices about our personal health and the health of our community. With this module, students experience how science provides evidence that can be used to understand and treat human disease. The National Center for Research Resources believes that education is an important way to accomplish its mission, which includes helping the public understand the importance of technology use and development to health.

The lessons in this module encourage students to think about the relationships among knowledge, choice, behavior, and human health in this way:

Knowledge (what is known and not known) + Choice = Power

Power + Behavior = Enhanced Human Health

The final objective of this module is to encourage students to think in terms of these relationships now and as they grow older.

Why Teach the Module?

High school biology classes offer an ideal setting for integrating many areas of student interest.

In this module, students participate in activities that integrate inquiry science, human health, mathematics, and the interweaving of science, technology, and society. The real-life context of the module's classroom lessons is engaging for students, and the knowledge gained can be applied immediately to students' lives.

"Lesson 3 was a great inquiry experience. Students enjoyed the activity and at the same time, learned how to apply what they know about technology. The scale activity really got students thinking about the size of the cell and what is in the cell. This was a wow activity."—Field-Test Teacher

"The activities made us think. We figured out things ourselves, and we actually did stuff instead of just reading."—Field-Test Student

What's in It for the Teacher?

Using Technology to Study Cellular and Molecular Biology meets many of the criteria by which teachers and their programs are assessed.

In addition, the module provides a means for professional development. Teachers can engage in new and different teaching practices like those described in this module without completely overhauling their entire program. In Designing Professional Development for Teachers of Science and Mathematics, the authors write that replacement modules such as this one "offer a window through which teachers get a glimpse of what new teaching strategies look like in action."16 By experiencing a short-term unit, teachers can "change how they think about teaching and embrace new approaches that stimulate students to problem solve, reason, investigate, and construct their own meaning for the content." The use of a supplemental unit such as this module can encourage reflection and discussion and stimulate teachers to improve their practices by focusing on student learning through inquiry.

The following table correlates topics often included in the high school biology curriculum with the major concepts presented in this module. This information is presented to help teachers make decisions about incorporating this material into the curriculum.

If you have any questions about the supplement, please contact the NIH Office of Science Education at

Correlation of Using Technology to Study Cellular and Molecular Biology to High School Biology Topics
Topics Lesson 1 Lesson 2 Lesson 3 Lesson 4
The development of new technologies is continuous, and the ability to develop new technologies is characteristic of humans. topic contained in lesson 1     topic contained in lesson 4
Technology provides a means of solving a problem. topic contained in lesson 1 topic contained in lesson 2 topic contained in lesson 3 topic contained in lesson 4
Biological structures differ in size. topic contained in lesson 1      
Different technologies are used to study biological structures of different sizes.   topic contained in lesson 2 topic contained in lesson 3  
Biologists use microscopes to study cells.     topic contained in lesson 3 topic contained in lesson 4
Proteins are important biological molecules. Their structure is related to their function.     topic contained in lesson 3 topic contained in lesson 4
Science and technology influence, and are influenced by, society. topic contained in lesson 1     topic contained in lesson 4

Next: Implementing the Module

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