1. Orkan Telhan
  2. http://orkantelhan.com
  3. Associate Professor
  4. Biomakerlab
  5. http://www.yasminkafai.com/projects-test/
  6. University of Pennsylvania
  1. Sheri Hanna
  2. Head, STEM Majors
  3. Biomakerlab
  4. http://www.yasminkafai.com/projects-test/
  5. Philadelphia Performing Arts: A String Theory Charter...
  1. Karen Hogan
  2. Instructional Lab Coordinator
  3. Biomakerlab
  4. http://www.yasminkafai.com/projects-test/
  5. University of Pennsylvania
  1. Yasmin Kafai
  2. http://www.yasminkafai.com
  3. Professor
  4. Biomakerlab
  5. http://www.yasminkafai.com/projects-test/
  6. University of Pennsylvania
  1. Justice Walker
  2. http://www.justicewalker.com
  3. Research Assistant
  4. Biomakerlab
  5. http://www.yasminkafai.com/projects-test/
  6. University of Pennsylvania
Public Discussion
  • Icon for: Justice Walker

    Justice Walker

    Co-Presenter
    May 13, 2018 | 07:40 p.m.

    The biodesign workshops we carry out reflect first attempts to understand how synthetic biology can exist in traditional K-12 science learning environments.  To learn more about the curriculum activities, you can visit our website. We also research how students interact with hands-on synthetic-biology materials that involve microbes they genetically modify and then use in a real life application.  We pay attention to how students engage in scientific inquiry when participating in biodesign activities.  

     

    Our work places special focus on ways to situate learners as active producers of science and knowledge as opposed to passive consumers of content.  We would love to hear your thoughts about the potential this type of learning has in STEAM fields. In other words, what are the advantages of making production an important part of learning experiences???

  • Icon for: Sarah Hampton

    Sarah Hampton

    Facilitator
    May 15, 2018 | 11:37 p.m.

    Have you checked out what ITEEA has to say about that last question? They promote an integrative approach to STEM using technology and engineering.

     
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    Justice Walker
  • Icon for: Justice Walker

    Justice Walker

    Co-Presenter
    May 16, 2018 | 08:49 a.m.

    Sarah, thanks for your reference here. The ITEEA was filled with so many rich resources related to our work.  I found their This We Believe statement to be especially relevant to our question above and the one you reference about the advantages of production and learning.  To paraphrase, the ITEEA asserts that using real-world materials and processes provides an important base from which students can derive meaning and understand abstract ideas.  This idea resonates fundamentally with our efforts as we think actively about creating activities that are not only hands-on, but that have practical use and it is there that we can begin discourse about what makes synthetic biology possible (e.g., genetic engineering principles, etc). Thanks again for your post here. 

  • Icon for: Justice Walker

    Justice Walker

    Co-Presenter
    May 13, 2018 | 07:47 p.m.

    Synthetic biology is an emerging technology that is making a significant impact on many areas of production.  Of course, these technologies bring about many ethical issues regarding the impact of genetically modified microbes on humans, the environment and ecosystem.  Because of this, we also study student attitudes toward these type of biotechnologies and their associated ethical issues.  

     

    We would especially appreciate your perspectives on why it is important to consider synthetic biology ethical matters and the potential such an approach could have on student learning?

  • Icon for: George Hein

    George Hein

    Facilitator
    May 14, 2018 | 10:30 a.m.

    An interesting program.  Can you tell us a little more about what equipment is needed to caray out the laboratory work in an ordinary high school classroom. Are there particular requirements to avoid contamination of cultures or is that part of the learning experience?

     
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    Justice Walker
  • Icon for: Orkan Telhan

    Orkan Telhan

    Lead Presenter
    May 14, 2018 | 10:41 a.m.

    We are designing a low-cost portable biolab with open source components. Towards the end of the research, we will make the information available so high schools and download the information and reproduce them on their own.

    The culturing happens in standard single use plastic syringes. Each experiment is contained in one syringe, so there is less risk for contamination. We also provide extensive information about safety and sterility measures as part of the learning experience.

     
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    Justice Walker
  • May 14, 2018 | 01:54 p.m.

    So fascinating. I especially appreciated what the teacher said near the beginning about how students are usually the tail-end users of new technology, but here they are prototyping a curriculum in the early stages. 

    The video mentioned issues of dogma, beliefs, ethics, and of course science and technology. Where have you found the richest areas for discussion?

     
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    Sarah Hampton
    Justice Walker
  • Icon for: Justice Walker

    Justice Walker

    Co-Presenter
    May 14, 2018 | 04:07 p.m.

    Great question here.  As you can imagine there are so many opportunities for students to discuss myriad topics related to biotechnologies and their impact and influence on society.  We find that students have complex and often different approaches to negotiating their attitudes toward biodesign and synthetic biology applications.  This emerges when we ask students—after having baked a cake using yeast they genetically modified—what they think about other applications of this technology. 

     

    It's fascinating to watch students debate and negotiate between where the technology requires more information or data before qualifying it as permissible. This is especially important given many of these biotechnologies have been around for decades and impact our lives on a daily basis.  Watching students form and articulate their attitudes is incredible because they have a chance not only to read about these technologies, but also participate in using them.  This experience provides an important context as the technology is something they have realized in physical form. 

     

    And so, many rich discussions emerge when asking students to articulate both their attitudes and qualify them after having observing the vast potentials and impacts biotechnologies could have on the environment, society and whole ecosystems. 

     
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    Sarah Hampton
    Deborah Fields
  • May 14, 2018 | 04:51 p.m.

    That's so great. I think we often miss opportunities to engage students in the ethical and societal aspects of science when we get so caught up on particular concepts. 

    Glad your project is exploring this territory!

     
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    Justice Walker
    Sarah Hampton
  • Icon for: Sheri Hanna

    Sheri Hanna

    Co-Presenter
    May 14, 2018 | 03:32 p.m.

    From my perspective this program was not just an interesting way to teach my students about how biology works and isn't that cool, but to look at how biological function/responses can be repurposed to perform entirely different functions. It opens opportunities for deeper learning and true integrated STEAM education.  

     
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    Sarah Hampton
    Justice Walker
  • Icon for: Anne Leak

    Anne Leak

    Researcher
    May 14, 2018 | 04:02 p.m.

    Most of my teaching and research has focused on physics and engineering where students have many opportunities to design and construct things that allow them to apply and share ideas, and constructivism is valued in these communities. I once participated in an Amgen workshop doing biotech labs and was impressed by the technology and real world applications, but it was really cookbook in how things were taught. Students participate in cutting edge real science, but not with the flexibility to take what they were learning in their own direction. How do you allow students to make decisions and create while still reflecting authentic practice?

     
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    Sarah Hampton
    Justice Walker
  • Icon for: Justice Walker

    Justice Walker

    Co-Presenter
    May 14, 2018 | 04:25 p.m.

    Anne, this is a really intuitive question.  As your question implies, there is a prescriptive aspect of handling microbes—especially when trying to increase efficiency and replicability. While efficiency and replicability are important, there is a lot of space for learning and opportunity for students to explore outcomes when deviating from the "cookbook" so to speak.  For instance, what happens to the rate of cell growth or "fabrication" when incubation temperatures are changed and under what circumstances are those parameters important for the unique constraints or outcomes one is trying to overcome or produce? Still, we've explored how to support more creativity beyond the lab portion of the curriculum we've piloted by having students design and produce structures with which the microbes will interface or interact.  For instance, in our bioCAKES unit, we ask students to design a silicone making mold that can be used to effectively produce a bake that represents their intended outcomes and that are suitable for the amount of yeast they were able to produce.  In this way, we've broaden the extent to which students can interact with and play around with materials.  The problem solving needed to overcome these design challenges involve evidence-based reasoning, hypothesis formation and argumentation to name a few.  Of course, we are still exploring ways to support even more—if you will—agency and authentic practice.  We'd absolutely be glad to learn more about your thoughts, experiences and ideas to further support these aims. 

     
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    Sarah Hampton
  • Icon for: David DeLiema

    David DeLiema

    Researcher
    May 15, 2018 | 01:44 p.m.

    This is such an inspiring project. Thanks so much for sharing. Justice and all, I would be curious to hear you unpack a bit more how you're seeing failure as the locus for learning and how you nudge students to embrace failure. Do students ever push back on these ideas? Are some failures more valuable than others in this unit? We'd love to learn from anything you've discovered around these questions.

     
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    Sarah Hampton
    Justice Walker
  • Icon for: Justice Walker

    Justice Walker

    Co-Presenter
    May 15, 2018 | 02:16 p.m.

    Hey, David, thanks for your message here. This is a great question—I'm glad you noticed this point in our video.  We don't call some of the challenges students face failure, but instead we support students in their attempt to produce something with their genetically modified microbes and overcoming unexpected outcomes.  When those events emerge, we offer students additional materials or ask them to think about why those outcomes may have come about. 

     

    We first saw this in the bioLOGO unit where students used a range or materials to design their logos, with some that worked better than others.  It occurred to us that the possibilities were of value for learning and so we are now designing opportunities for students to iterate: (1) their designs for microbe transformations, (2) cake molds and (3) cake recipes for example.  And so, I guess you can say that it is through this design that we "nudge" students forward. When we do this, we find students are afforded opportunities to problem solve much like engineers are engaged in engineering cycles.  I'm sure Sheri Hanna may have something to add here about how her students reacted to this approach.

     

    The Next Generation Science Standards (outlines by the NRC) and, in particular, their science and engineering practices provided a great lens through which to explore the possibilities for learning.  I'm not sure which failures we would consider more valuable than others, but I would imagine this depends largely on learning objectives and goals which tend to be context specific.  Still, you provide really important questions that have me thinking about how we could push our own research forward.  

     

    Thanks again for your note here. 

     
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    Sarah Hampton
  • Icon for: Sheri Hanna

    Sheri Hanna

    Co-Presenter
    May 15, 2018 | 04:10 p.m.

    David, since I am prototyping this curriculum within high school classes I have to include more specific assessments that are tied to a grade. That can be quite challenging when students are prototyping new curriculum, learning new techniques and exploring different ways of thinking about biology. As a result my assessments are less tied to outcome and more on reflection, problem solving and understanding. I care much less about whether they successfully transformed their bacteria and observed expression and much more on their process, identification/analysis of the problem and their plan to work out a solution. Depending on the unit, this is demonstrated through laboratory notebooks, project portfolios, etc.

    I have had the biggest challenges getting students to recognize and expect challenges as an interesting and enriching part of the process and that their best work is always the result of iteration. One reflection question that is always included in any project portfolio or group dialog is, "What challenges did you encounter and what steps did you take to overcome them?" Students wouldn't want to talk about what didn't work, they wanted to skip directly to the final successful outcome. Often they would say everything worked fine, when I know that wasn't the case. In most of their academic classes assessments are heavily weighted on whether the final answer is correct, not what was learned in the process of getting to that answer or result.

    It is a similar challenge when encouraging students to recognize and embrace the importance of iteration. They are used to turning in an assignment and moving on, regardless of whether they did well or not. The concept of finding the value in outcome assessment, modification of the process/protocol to hopefully improve results, then testing and possibly repeating is tough. It's the design process. We provided students with different structured alternatives to iterate, which made it a bit safer. If one didn't work there was another that did. I also recognized the students that were really pushing their understanding, even if their results were not stellar. This indirectly spoke volumes to the students that were taking the 'good enough' approach.

     
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    Justice Walker
    Sarah Hampton
  • Icon for: Justice Walker

    Justice Walker

    Co-Presenter
    May 15, 2018 | 02:18 p.m.

    One of the challenges I've faced in researching student engagement with biodesign activities is how to support deep discussion around socioscientific issues related to humans, society and the environment, for example.  It would be fantastic to hear from folks who may study student argumentation or attitude formation around these topics in other STEM subjects.  Any thoughts?

  • Icon for: Rachel Shefner

    Rachel Shefner

    Facilitator
    May 15, 2018 | 02:50 p.m.

    What a great opportunity to make connections between art and science, as well as the other real world connections the students are making through your curriculum. I am wondering if you know of Hunter Cole's work, as she explores similar topics. Your students might be inspired by her work. I agree with the above discussion about the cookbook pitfall for classroom science labs, and you make an interesting point, Justice, about the role of fabrication in design challenges, which requires some constraints on the system. I am wondering though if you utilize a phenomenon-based approach to the lab experiences in  your curriculum? The use of anchoring phenomena or driving questions to get students to deeply understand the why behind what they are learning about, or to tweak the way investigations are introduced to the students is another way to leave the cookbook behind.

     
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    Justice Walker
  • Icon for: Justice Walker

    Justice Walker

    Co-Presenter
    May 15, 2018 | 03:40 p.m.

    Rachel, thanks for taking a moment to explore our research video.  While I'm not familiar with Hunter Cole's research, the way she uses bioluminescence reminds me of our bioLOGO unit.  Thanks for sharing as I think this would be a terrific context within which to anchor our unit.  Also, it's a great example of how we could leverage or access phenomenon-based approaches.  While this area is new to me, its constructivist origins seem to resonate with the constructionism perspective that guides our own work. In fact, it seems that this approach would compliment our efforts as they seem congruent.  Thanks for sharing here.  If you have resources or research that I could use to begin thinking about this suggestion, please pass them along.  

    Thanks again for your insights here! 

     
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    Sarah Hampton
  • Icon for: Rachel Shefner

    Rachel Shefner

    Facilitator
    May 15, 2018 | 03:54 p.m.

    She is a colleague here at Loyola University Chicago. I will send her your video. Regarding anchoring phenomena, I was thinking of Brian Reiser's work-another Chicagoan (yay!)- and he has written extensively on this. Here is a video (since we are in that mode) and associated resources from Achieve to get you started.

     
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    Justice Walker
  • Icon for: Justice Walker

    Justice Walker

    Co-Presenter
    May 16, 2018 | 08:37 a.m.

    Thanks so much Rachel!  Thanks for the resources and connections here. The video link you shared is especially useful because we're actively thinking about how biodesign activities can exist in learning frameworks like NGSS.  It seems that the NRC uses phenomenon-based perspectives to make an argument about traditional science learning that parallels our own.  In other words, that traditional science learning is often occurs without a specific context on which to anchor instruction.  Thanks again for sharing here—this is incredible. 

  • Icon for: Sarah Hampton

    Sarah Hampton

    Facilitator
    May 15, 2018 | 11:31 p.m.

    Thank you for sharing! Your work reminded me a little bit of a project called Chemical Reactions and Engineering Design that I like to use for my middle school physical science class. My students love it! I hope you are seeing positive student reactions as well. I like how your work goes one step further by giving students real problems to think about rather than a hypothetical scenario.

    I also like (and am slightly intimidated by) how ambitious this is. You are taking on mindsets in learning, access to complex content for younger students, and a host of ethical questions. With your backgrounds and resources, it looks like you are navigating all of these components successfully. However, if your next step is to have other classrooms use the biomakerlab with open source instructions, how can you be sure that they are equipped to navigate them successfully as well?

    I'm interested to hear more and will be following the thread!

     

     

     
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    Justice Walker
  • Icon for: Justice Walker

    Justice Walker

    Co-Presenter
    May 16, 2018 | 09:13 a.m.

    Sarah, this is a fantastic question. Before joining Penn, I taught high school biology for nearly a decade.  Entering this work, I thought regularly about your very points.  You astutely point out that a major factor to consider is an issue of "mindsets." I think future steps for this work would be to explore how to effectively support educators in facilitating this type of learning experience. I am excited because of something I noticed with the bioSENSOR activity.  Karen Hogan, the biologist that developed the lab activity, hacked materials that were familiar to me from back in my days teaching biology.  She used: (1) GFP producing E. coli (which is commonly a part of transformation experiments in most biology courses) and (2) dialysis tubing (which is commonly a part of osmosis/diffusion experiments in most biology courses). I thought this was fascinating because it meant two things: first, that as a biology teacher, there was potential for me to use materials that already exist in the classroom and that were already familiar.  Second, it meant that I would still have opportunities to teach about genetic engineering and thermodynamics (i.e., potential energy).  Together, these put me at ease about the potential biodesign has to exist in traditional learning environments.  Of course, this is just a hunch.  We hope that others will also extend our work and explore what it will take to support teachers in shifting their mindset as exampled in my own experience.  

    In any event, thanks for your thoughtful post here.  

  • Icon for: Justice Walker

    Justice Walker

    Co-Presenter
    May 16, 2018 | 08:59 a.m.

     We developed three biodesign activities—bioLOGO, bioSENSOR and bioCAKES—that use the open source biomakerlab device developed by Orkan Telhan, Karen Hogan and Yasmin Kafai.  bioLOGO involves students making logos using microbes that produce one of four protein-based pigment colors.  This unit supports conversations about sustainable production. bioSENSOR involves students leveraging osmosis and diffusion principles, dialysis tubing and green florescent protein producing E. coli to build a biosensor. This unit supports conversations about pollution and the environment. BioCAKES involves students using yeast (S. cerevisiae) genetically modified to produce vitamin A intermediates to bake a cake food product.  This unit supports conversations about food security and health.  

    Feel free to explore the activities in more detail using the link above.  Which do you like the best?  Are there topics we could explore to advance this work?  We're excited to learn your thoughts/perspectives.

  • Further posting is closed as the showcase has ended.