Campus News

Profs will teach students about diabetes through gaming

When Scott Brown thinks about the future of education, he sees his students taking notes on tablets and looking at 3-D models while maneuvering textbook pages with the flick of a finger.

Brown imagines veterinary offices running the same way, with providers using handheld tablets to show pet owners exactly what is wrong with their animals and how procedures will help them.

“Technology is going to be everywhere, even more than now,” said Brown, professor of physiology and pharmacology and small animal medicine in the College of Veterinary Medicine. “We need to be at the cutting edge. We’ll fail in our teaching approaches otherwise.”

Brown received a $525,000, ­five-year grant to design, create and test interactive gaming technology that helps undergraduate students learn more about renal and cardiovascular physiology, diabetes and obesity by acting as virtual scientists studying renal physiology in a virtual research laboratory.

Funded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, the software will allow students to learn kidney functions by watching molecules interact and investigating tubular processes at
microscopic levels.

Students also will work on three digital case studies, allowing them to virtually examine renal and cardiac function of both healthy patients and those suffering from kidney and heart disease.

“We’ve historically used textbooks, lectures and presentations with comparatively simple graphics, but science is very 3-D,” Brown said. “When students are growing up and playing immersive games at home, there’s an expectation for high-quality graphics, and we need to mirror that.”

Brown, the Edward H. Gunst Professor of Small Animal Studies and a Meigs Distinguished Teaching Professor, along with fellow physiology and pharmacology associate professor Tom Robertson and large animal medicine and surgery professor Jim Moore, another Meigs Distinguished Teaching Professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine, are the content experts for the project.

They’ve teamed with Allan S. Cohen, the Aderhold Professor of Research Methodology and director of the Georgia Center for Assessment in the College of Education, and Casey O’Donnell, a gaming expert and telecommunications professor at Michigan State University, to test and analyze the programs they develop.