Vinay K. Chaudhri, Nikhil Dinesh, Craig Heller. Conceptual Models of Structure and Function, in Second Annual Conference on Advances in Cognitive Systems, 2013.
A student studying introductory biology at the college level faces the challenges of both mastering a large new vocabulary and integrating diverse, core concepts across different levels of biological organization. This task is made even more difficult due to the metaphoric language that is typical of introductory biology textbooks. In this paper, we report our achievements in creating conceptual, multidimensional models of biological structure and function out of the linear text of an introductory biology textbook. By formalizing biological terms and the relationships between them, we created a complex biological knowledge base (KB) that is embedded into the prototype of an intelligent textbook. The resulting system enables students to explore topics across multiple levels of organization and to pose their own questions that are answered by machine reasoning. This intelligent e-book is a powerful learning tool that gives students information such as definitions and descriptions of terms, but also enables them to explore structure, function, systems, and concepts across different levels of biological organization. When scaled to the full syllabus, this approach will bring computational thinking to the teaching of biology.