Welcome to the 2006 International Society for Plant Pathology Teaching Symposium Archive

On-line from May 15th to June 4th, 2006


About the Symposium

This ISPP symposium was an opportunity for plant pathology teachers, no matter where they were in the world, to share their ideas, tips and techniques.

Each week as indicated, the papers listed were made available for viewing and discussion. Also a weekly forum was opened on the topics indicated. At the end of each week, discussion closed and a new set of papers and a new forum went live.

The symposium is now closed but will remain at this address as an archive for the foreseeable future. You are welcome to read the papers and the (now read-only) discussion. Please be aware that URLS listed in the papers or discussion were current at the time of the symposium, but these may, over time, become broken. However, an email to the author or contributor should point you to any updates.

Official Time Zone

Dates and times during the Symposium were in Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). The time and date stamped next to a contribution in the paper discussions or forums is in GMT.

Digital Databases and Web Tools to Support Teaching and Extension of Plant Pathology in Brazil

Emerson Del Ponte and Valmir Duarte
Department of Fitossanidade, Agronomy
Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul

The use of the Web to deliver content to support teaching and extension activities in plant pathology is very recent in Brazil. Virtually nothing relevant existed prior 2000, and we have seen an exponential increase in the number of web sites on the subject in the recent years. Many dozens of websites with pertinent information on different aspects of plant pathology are now available in the country. However, not many have made effective use of the medium either by integrating sophisticated technology or by continuously updating the content with reliable and accurate information. We briefly report on our experience in the development of digital databases and tools for storage and delivery of content over the web that support the teaching of plant pathology in Brazil. We present five projects we have been coordinating and briefly discuss their status, challenges and future directions.


Project 1
Online Manual for Identification of Seed Pathogens
Established in 2002, we aimed at providing useful information to aid seed pathogen identification. The database-driven website allows one to consult a list of pathogens by host or group of pathogens (fungi, bacteria, etc.), and to do a text-search on scientific names of seed pathogens. Each pathogen has information on pathogen preferred name, other names, main and alternative hosts, importance, detection method, characteristics and references. Images of pathogen growth on seeds or culture media are presented.

Project 2
Online Compendium of Plant Disease Fact Sheets
Released in 2002, the first version had a few static HTML web pages. In 2004, a digital database and scripts were developed to facilitate database management and user requests. Queries are made first by group of hosts (vegetables, fruits, cereals, etc) and then by selecting a host under the group. Fact sheets contain information on: disease name, causal agent, importance, pathogen description, symptoms, control measures, references and images of disease symptoms. A glossary of terms, stored in the database, is dynamically embedded every time a page is requested, and a definition is shown in a window whenever the cursor rolls over a highlighted term. Through a web interface, editors are allowed to edit information on a specific group of hosts or single host, according to their specialization. This ensures that the content is edited only by qualified specialists.

Project 3
Crop Protection Photo Gallery
Established in the year 2003, this project aims to organize an image database of pest- and disease-related problems or activities. Digital images are taken by students enrolled in the departmental courses and by staff at the plant clinic. Anyone who wants to contribute to the gallery can upload his/her own images and input related information by completing an online form. The uploaded information is checked by an editor via a web interface. Each image presents information on name the of the disease/problem, causal agent, geographical location, description, author, and date. The webpage shows menus for selecting images by host or causal agent. There is also a search function for textual information.

Project 4
Plant Pathology Herbarium on the Web
Established in 2003, this project aimed to digitalize all information on plant disease specimens held at the José Porfírio da Costa Neto Herbarium. So far, 6969 records have been stored in the database and are available on the web. Inquires to the Herbarium can be made by selecting host name (common or scientific), pathogen name, disease name and collector. A search by the timeframe that specimens were collected is also available.

Project 5
Online Quizzes
This project, designed to test tools for delivering online quizzes, is in the experimental stage. The quizzes available were made with HotpotatoesTM, a suite that includes six applications that enables creation of interactive multiple-choice, short-answer, jumbled-sentence, crossword, matching/ordering and gap-fill exercises for the web.

Discussion and Future Directions

After five years, we feel that the projects described above have been well accepted by colleagues and students in Brazil and other Portuguese-speaking countries, as an alternative to printed materials. Most projects are the only resources of their kind available in this language. Although there are remarkable databases worldwide, students, instructors and even institutions can not afford to buy several copies or licenses of books, CDs or online subscriptions that are available. Language is also a barrier for most Brazilian students and some instructors.

Our projects started as pilot experiments motivated by our personal involvement and excitement with the potential exploration of the medium. A minimal budget has been available for hours of dedicated, course-related, or fellowship-based work by students. So far, due to the academic nature of these projects it remains a challenge to get funding from sources external to the University, because available funds are still limited for such non-research related projects in Brazil. Although the web is an excellent environment for collaborative work, and the projects are designed for such, it has been difficult to improve collaborations with colleagues, which is crucial for the expansion of specific projects. Some are reluctant to voluntarily share information or images that will be freely distributed on the web. Therefore, content growth rate is slower than we expect and a lot of information is yet to be collected, worked on and stored.

We believe that the construction of on-line databases adds an interesting teaching component to plant pathology courses. We and other colleagues have been advising students on the development of fact-sheets and image collections. Most students feel excited when they know their work (and authoring) will be available on line and not stored in a file cabinet, especially those who envision a future career in plant pathology. Future work will focus on the regular use of new technologies to improve the structure and usability of the websites. A unique database and modular design framework is desirable to link some projects, avoiding redundant work. We are also evaluating the generation of content for CD-ROM because of the low bandwidth and limited access to the Internet in some regions in Brazil.

Date: 29th May, 2006

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Image by Veronica Edmonds
2001 Instructional Technology Symposium Archive
ISPP Teaching Committee
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