1. Jessica Allen
  2. Academic Coordinator
  3. Cellular Construction Workshop
  4. http://sep.ucsf.edu/ccw/
  5. University of California San Francisco
  1. Rebecca Smith
  2. Co-Director
  3. Cellular Construction Workshop
  4. http://sep.ucsf.edu/ccw/
  5. University of California San Francisco
Public Discussion
  • Icon for: George Hein

    George Hein

    Facilitator
    May 14, 2018 | 07:20 a.m.

    A lovely program! But analogies are often complicated.  How long do the student-teacher teams spend on this?  It looks as if much of the time is spent on developing and building the robot.  Do they also have time to discuss/absorb the analogy of robot to cell? And how do you make that connection?

     
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    Sarah Hampton
  • Icon for: Rebecca Smith

    Rebecca Smith

    Co-Presenter
    May 14, 2018 | 12:46 p.m.

    Hi George -

    I agree that analogies can be complicated and its important that learners understand the limitations of the analogy, and continually revisit it as their understanding develops.

    We dedicate a fair amount of time to building the analogy of cells as robots. The workshop begins with an interactive lesson where learners (teachers and students in our workshop) discuss a variety of objects and think about how they are like and unlike cells. They then have time to complete a free-write where they think about - based on their current understanding - how a cell is like a robot and importantly, how it is different from a robot. After having time to think through their own thoughts about this topic there is a whole group discussion to set the stage for the week. Later, after scaffolding an introduction to programming the robots, we extend the analogy further, by introducing the idea that DNA is the programming language of the cell. We make connections between how cells receive inputs from the external environment and that can trigger certain programs to run, much like in a cell, signaling events will initiate certain DNA programs and result in gene expression. We also discuss how understanding the programming language of the cell allows us to develop/manipulate DNA programs - harnessing the cell's machinery to solve important problems. Here is a link to one of the activities in the unit that has students thinking further about this relationship: https://ucsf.box.com/v/RobotQuickStartGuide (words in the word bank on page two of the pdf are printed on index cards and relate to the analogy map on the last page of the pdf).

    I'm happy to answer any further questions.

    Best,

    Rebecca

     
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    Sarah Hampton
  • Icon for: Jessica Allen

    Jessica Allen

    Lead Presenter
    May 14, 2018 | 01:28 p.m.

    The above link to the DNA to Programming Analogy worksheet is incorrect.  Try this one instead: https://ucsf.box.com/v/Cell-to-RobotWordPuzzle.... Vocab words for the worksheet can be found here: https://ucsf.box.com/v/Cell-to-RobotVocab and instructions on how to run the lesson can be found here: https://ucsf.box.com/v/Robot-to-CellLessonDescrpt

    -Jessica

  • Icon for: Sarah Hampton

    Sarah Hampton

    Facilitator
    May 14, 2018 | 01:40 p.m.

    Hi Jessica! It looks like you have to be a part of UCSF to access the link. Can you make the settings public by chance? Thanks!

  • Icon for: Jessica Allen

    Jessica Allen

    Lead Presenter
    May 14, 2018 | 01:48 p.m.

    Hi Sarah,

    All links should be publicly accessible now.  Sorry about that.

     
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    Sarah Hampton
  • Icon for: Sarah Hampton

    Sarah Hampton

    Facilitator
    May 14, 2018 | 02:48 p.m.

     I love the idea of involving both teachers and students in the workshop. It allows participants with different levels of prior knowledge to make sense of the task together. Did you find that it helped students relate more easily to their teachers as they became a type of student themselves?

     

    I'm also wondering if you allowed time for participants to discuss the ethical questions surrounding cellular engineering. It seems as if drawing the analogy between cells and robots was ultimately important to you because of the future implications for genetic engineering.

     

    Lastly, how did you measure the effectiveness of your project?

     

    Thank you for sharing. I'm interested in hearing more!

  • Icon for: Rebecca Smith

    Rebecca Smith

    Co-Presenter
    May 14, 2018 | 03:43 p.m.

    Hi Sarah-

    Talking about ethics is very important in the context of a new discipline (Cellular Engineering) that proposes modify cells to solve engineering problems. While ethics topics came up informally at several points in the Workshop, we devoted an afternoon in the second week to a more in-depth formal discussion. We launched the discussion using the NIH Curriculum Supplement "Exploring Ethics" (https://science.education.nih.gov/HighSchool/ExploringBioethics) lesson module 1 (Bioethics Concepts and Skills - activities 1 and 2). This ensured that everyone was on equal footing to have a more in depth conversation about ethics of Cellular Engineering.

    Several teachers expressed interest in participating in the workshop specifically because they would be there with their students and, through, our evaluator, we identified valued added for both teachers and students through working with one another in this context. Below are some quotes from teachers and students about how they each benefitted from the interaction:

    Students:

    • I feel like it definitely helped carry classroom discussions to another level, especially for the students. It would seem that the teachers would bring whole new ideas that students have never really thought about or explored, thus invoking them to think critically too. Working in our small groups to complete little projects too was also fun when combining the two together. Everyone had their own ideas and past experiences to bring to the table, and it brought a whole new dynamic to the learning process. (Student)
    • One of my favorite parts of this programs was being able to interact with teachers. Because the program was outside of school and had teachers from different schools, it was easy to see them not as teachers but as regular people who just happen to be older than me. This made it easier to interact with them and made the whole experience a lot more comfortable. (Student)
    • I thought it was really cool, in that, students usually look to teachers as teachers, and not as active learners with you. In school, a relationship to a teacher usually isn't one of a friendship, but usually it is one of respect so you can learn. However, when working with other teachers, I was able to build a friendly connection with them which really takes away some of the previous thoughts about teachers. We can see that the teachers are just like us, willing to learn and to ask questions. (Student)
    • I like the fact that I was able to work with teachers because it boosted my confidence to see a teacher, someone who knows "everything" have the same struggles as me a student. (Student)

    Teachers:

    • I liked it because it demonstrated to me how a student thinks through the problems. (Teacher)
    • I think it was really great to have both teachers and students participate together because it gave opportunities [for me] to make facilitator moves to help my group move forward with the task, but more importantly, it gave me opportunities to struggle and to fail in front of my students. I hope I was able to model for them that mistakes are expected in science and how we learn from them is the important take away. (Teacher)
    • I think having students work alongside of teachers is a great idea. I learned so much about technology from the students I worked with. (Teacher)

    We measured effectiveness of the project in a few ways. First, there were authentic assessments built in throughout the project. Teams presented their solutions to the design challenges (e.g. programming a robot that could detect and report out when a "toxin" was at a particular concentration (modeling a biosensor)). All members of the team were required to be a part of the presentation, and teams were responsible for sharing information about the biology (why is this an important challenge?, how can we use engineered cells to help solve this problem?), the approach they took with their robots physical design, their code, and any challenges they encountered/iterative improvements they made to their code along the way (and why they made these changes). Participants documented their own learning in journals as well. Lastly, our external evaluator documented measures of program quality, reported impact of the program on students' interest in STEM careers, change in  participants' (both teachers and students) thinking about cells, and what teachers intended to take back to their classrooms. Notably, the majority of participating teachers incorporated aspects of the program into their teaching  - including several classrooms, like the one highlighted in the video, where teachers integrated using the robots into their biology classrooms. 

    I hope this is helpful! Let us know if you have additional questions.

    Best,

    Rebecca

     
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    Sarah Hampton
  • Icon for: Rachel Shefner

    Rachel Shefner

    Facilitator
    May 14, 2018 | 03:17 p.m.

     Very cool video! So many layers to this project that I would like to know more about. The component about teachers and students learning together is interesting. I really liked the teacher who so recognized the value of the mixed teams, as he recognized the strength of the student in programming skills. It makes me wonder what the participant teams look like throughout the project: Is the idea of teachers bringing students with them to the workshop that development of mutual recognition for each others' strengths? Is it to provide teachers with a space to "pilot" new instructional strategies and approaches? What is the trajectory of the participant groups over the life of the project? 

    I am also interested in what you are measuring in this study. Are you looking at the engagement with biology content as the students do the engineering pieces? The connection between signaling in stimulus/response pathways in cells and the robots makes sense to me. Did you measure changes in student understanding as a result of engaging in this experience?

    I am also interested in the reference in the video to broadening participation in STEM. Are there other ways the project is trying to get at this besides teachers flagging students that have "a spark" to join the program? What are you seeing with regard to the participant pool with respect to students underrepresented in STEM?

    And just FYI, I would love to look at the activity you discuss in your comment above, but the link is only to the startup guide for the system. Could you re-post the link?

  • Icon for: Rebecca Smith

    Rebecca Smith

    Co-Presenter
    May 14, 2018 | 04:09 p.m.

    Hi Rachel-

    I think I may have addressed some of your questions in the response to Sarah, above. I'll try to answer the others, below, but let me know if I miss anything or if you have additional questions: 

    Incorrect Link: I apologize for the error. See Jessica's response to my first post, above. She corrected the links there. 

    Teams: We went back and forth on team structure when planning for the summer - and will likely modify it a bit in this summer's iteration of the workshop.  Participants had a "home" team for their programming/robot design challenges. Each team was composed of one to two teachers and two to three students. The logic behind this was that students would be more comfortable with technology than many teachers while the teachers would have a strong grasp of the biology - thus their knowledge would complement one another and they could support each others' learning. It also had the benefit of giving teachers the opportunity of observing how students work through problems and learn in a context that is very different from when they are in front of the classroom and teachers reported that they gained valuable insights from this that will affect how they teach in their own classrooms. Students also really valued having the chance to see teachers in a situation where they weren't the "experts" and had to at times struggle and as one teacher put it "fail." In this sense the structure provided students with role models for intellectual risk taking and persistence through challenges. 

    With respect to the trajectory of teams - participants worked with their "home" teams for the programming/design challenges. However, we would regularly have time scheduled for rotations - where teams exchanged members and discussed how they were approaching the challenge, problems they encountered, and solutions they discovered to their problems. This provided a scaffolded time for teams to share expertise and accelerate their development of programming. As a concrete example, one team figured out how to utilize arrays to store and later look up values obtained by a sensor. Through this exchange they were able to jump start others' learning about this strategy. 

    We would mix up teams when we were working on a wet lab, biology, module during the workshop. This provided time for teachers and students to get to know and learn from others in the group (and a break from the intensity of working so closely with one set of people). 

    Broadening Participation: 

    We use a nomination/application process for our summer programs. We request that teachers nominate students as we have found that they are partners in helping us find talented teens who might not yet think of themselves as "science people" or feel that they are competitive for an internship at UCSF. One of our most important criteria for acceptance into our summer programs is that participation make a critical difference in the lives of our students. What this critical difference is can vary for every student but we find that it helps us to identify amazing, talented students who have had limited other opportunities to explore science. A significant percentage of our participants our have the potential to be first generation college students, many are from low income backgrounds. In addition we think it is critically important that participation in our programs are reflective of the diversity of the San Francisco Bay Area population. 

    Let me know if I can explain anything further. 

    Best,

    Rebecca

  • Icon for: Rachel Shefner

    Rachel Shefner

    Facilitator
    May 14, 2018 | 04:23 p.m.

    Thanks! The only thing I am still wondering about is the biology content understanding? Are you seeing any changes or is that not one of the things you are measuring?

  • Icon for: Jessica Allen

    Jessica Allen

    Lead Presenter
    May 14, 2018 | 04:49 p.m.

    Hi Rachel,

     

    We plan to take a closer look at that at the workshop this year. Our outcome measure last year were self-reported measures that asked students if they believed the workshop improved the knowledge about particular concepts (biology included, ie: "I have a better, deeper understanding of what a cell is and how it is structure."). We had a majority of our students (90%) agree or strongly agree.

     

    This year we plan to ask content questions before and after the workshop to get a better gauge on effective the material is in teaching biology content. Hope that answers your question.

    -Jessica

  • Icon for: Rebecca Smith

    Rebecca Smith

    Co-Presenter
    May 15, 2018 | 12:28 p.m.

    Hi Rachel-

    I also wanted to follow-up. In the first year of the workshop we used primarily authentic assessments - presentations about their design challenge solutions that included an explanation of the biological significance of the behavior teams were modeling - to assess biology content understanding. What we found though was that the teachers presented most of the biology content and the students presented the explanation of the code and design of their robot. To help ensure that the students gain a deeper understanding of the biology content, this year we are changing the structure a little bit. Teachers requested some break out time for planning how to translate the workshop to their classrooms, and during the time the teachers are out of the room this summer, we will have the students engage in a webquest on the challenge topic. This will increase the accountability for student learning around biology as student teams will have to present the significance of the biology to the group as a whole. 

    Best,

    Rebecca

  • Icon for: Rachel Shefner

    Rachel Shefner

    Facilitator
    May 16, 2018 | 08:51 p.m.

    Thank you!

     

  • Small default profile

    Sara Fuhrman

    Undergraduate Student
    May 16, 2018 | 07:47 p.m.

    I really enjoyed watching this video. I am a college student at Millersville University, studying education with a minor in STEM. I feel like this is great way to overlap cells and engineering! It also gives the students a more hands-on and engaging experience, that they are more likely to remember. When I was in high school, I was just told to memorize the parts of a cell and their function. Looking back, I didn't retain much information by doing that. This program is a much more effective way of teaching cells. 

  • Icon for: Rebecca Smith

    Rebecca Smith

    Co-Presenter
    May 16, 2018 | 07:57 p.m.

    Thanks for taking the time to learn about our project and post a comment, Sara!

    I agree - so much of what we teach in biology is abstract and is memorized for tests and then forgotten. I hope (we still need to measure this) that these types of experience will help students both better understand and remember the big ideas in biology. 

    I'm passionate about biology and believe that thinking about how dynamic cells are, all of the interesting and complex behaviors that cells engage in, and realizing that cells make "decisions" and integrate information from their environment will make learning about them much more interesting (thus benefitting learning). 

    Rebecca

  • Further posting is closed as the showcase has ended.