Frequently Asked Questions

How are 3D animations useful for teaching cell biology?
The text-heavy explanations in most cell biology textbooks do not reach all types of learners. Those who learn best visually may find this collection of animations useful to help understand cellular structures and processes.

Why is there no text?
It is difficult to take in two different kinds of visual information at the same time. I encourage students to watch the animations closely and listen to the audio.

How may a student use this site?
The site contains 39 narrated animations. I suggest that you click on the thumnails to the sides of each animation to navigate to a structure or process you are having difficulty understanding. Watch and listen to the animations a few times. Compare the animations to the textual descriptions or other visual learning resources you may have. Then, check your own understanding. Write or sketch a description of a cellular structure or process on your own or explain it to a friend.

How may a teacher use this site?
You may find it useful to display a few animations in class and then assign independent exploration of the site during class time or for homework. Make full use of the controls: pause the animation, turn off the sound, enter full-screen mode -- anything that makes the resource more useful as you structure instructional activities for your class.

How can I display an animation on my web site?
3D Cell Explorer uses embed tags in the same manner as YouTube and Flickr. Scroll down to the text field underneath each animation. Click in the field and then Ctrl-A (Mac: Apple-A) or click and drag to select all of the text in the field. Now, you have in the clipboard the code that will display an animation on your site.

You need to be able to add HTML to your web site. Most web-based editors have an HTML mode, in which you can change the HTML contents of a page. For example, in Moodle, click on the double braces button in the toolbar. Once in HTML mode, paste the code from 3D Cell Explorer into your site.

Aren't interactive animations more compelling?
Yes, and they took a lot longer to create. I made three: base-pairing, translation, and solute pump.

Are the animations completely accurate?
No. The animations are meant to represent real structures, not copy them exactly. These representations are designed to help students of first-year biology better understand cell structure and function.

Why are some parts missing?
As a classroom teacher (at the time), I was more interested in explaining the most frequently studied cellular processes than being comprehensive. I also didn't have the time to do everything, for example free ribosomes or centromeres.

Richard Kassissieh, Portland, Oregon