Undergraduate biology education is currently undergoing a radical transformation. There is active debate about what constitutes core biological knowledge and which skills should be emphasized to prepare students for future careers and biological literacy. Additionally, many faculty are exploring new teaching strategies that reflect our growing understanding of how people learn. One of the most promising approaches to reforming biology education involves engaging students in research activities.
In the Cyberlearning lab group we explore the ways that technology can be used to support students' engagement in realistic scientific research activities. There are three drivers of our work:
E-science - Rich data collections and analysis tools are available online and can be used to support student inquiry. Furthermore, there are interesting citizen science and crowd-sourced research that make it easier to participate in research.
Open Educational Resources - The movement to share resources with fewer copyright restrictions is supporting the growth of a "remix" culture in education. Free access to high quality learning materials is also changing how we organize classroom time.
Networked computing and communications technologies - Changes in information storage and access to online collaboration tools are changing the ways we work, play and learn.
My current work focuses in two broad areas:
Two representations of the same phylogenetic tree demonstrating the importance of focusing on the branching pattern over the order of the branch tips.
Tree-thinking - How do students come to understand the use of phylogentic diagrams in representing evolutionary knowledge and solving biological problems?
Using large research datasets - How can biology curricula and classroom instruction be structured to engage students in realistic scientific inquiry?