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Teaching biology in the XXIst century - video games, active learning, and digital lab books

Fri 30 Nov 09:30 AM - 12:00 PM @ CRI

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Teaching biology in the XXIst century - video games, active learning, and digital lab books

Life is complex. Its complexity arose from the very mechanism of evolution itself - simplicity is not a key criterion in natural selection. Its diversification, huge networks of interactions, and sheer amount of components, actors, and phenomena can be intimidating for new learners. This makes biology a challenging topic to learn and teach. More than a decade ago, the CRI started its endeavor in pedagogical innovation in biology. Is there a better place to discover the trends in biological education?

This seminar intends on presenting you different paths of research in teaching biology coming from the CRI and elsewhere: using video games, using active pedagogies, and using digital lab books.

Breakfast at 9:30 am, then from 10:00 to 12:00 am:

  • Raphael Goujet: seminar introduction
  • Melanie Stegman: using games to introduce abstract concepts in molecular science.
  • Antoine Taly: on active learning in biology at CRI
  • Patricia Marzin-Janvier: on how to help teachers and students to create experiments in higher education: the LabNbook project

Raphael Goujet (Université Paris Descartes)

is defending his PhD. in the afternoon:

"Hero.coli: a video game empowering stealth learning of synthetic biology, a continuous analytics-driven game design approach"

Hero.Coli is a biology-themed adventure game being developed at the CRI. It is designed to help discover and learn about synthetic biology. In the game, the player controls a bacterium, explores, uses DNA sequences to modify the abilities of the bacterium, and even crafts new sequences with new features by recombining standardized subparts called BioBricks™. A free, online version is available below.

This game is the basis of Raphael Goujet’s PhD. project. In order to fuel research on game-based learning, game data are anonymously gathered through an open-source, open data, CRI-developed analytics service called RedMetrics.

Hero.Coli has been developed in the CRI because the different fields it encompasses – education, synthetic biology and digital technologies – are at the core of the CRI’s missions. Besides, it has been an emblematic project of the CRI as many of the CRI’s actors have been involved: AIV Masters and FIRE PhD students, students’ clubs, Gamelab developers and staff.

More about Raphael Goujet's project


Melanie Stegman (Molecular Jig Games & Harrisburg University)

"Using games to introduce abstract concepts in molecular science"

What does a scientist need to create a video game about science? Dr. Stegman will discuss her experience as a scientist attempting to develop educational video games. Dr. Stegman left the biochemistry lab in 2008 and since then has learned education research, video game design, iterative development and project management and programming. The practical aspects of video game development are complex.

What are the best tools we have for teaching? Dr. Stegman will present a summary of the state of molecular biology education and compare it to what we know about molecules. It seems what scientists know and what our students see in their textbooks is very different and our nifty new computers do not always do any better than the books.

How do we know games are a good teaching tool? Games have a way of making complicated things fun and computers can now make abstract things easy to interact with. This means that molecular science education can be delivered to a younger, more general audience. How should we do this? What details are overwhelming and which are key to a deeper understanding? If we present key concepts as part of a video game, are player overwhelmed or are they encouraged by the science?

More about Melanie Stegman


Antoine Taly (Université Paris Diderot)

Active learning in biology

This presentation is built around an interdisciplinary week proposed at Paris Descartes University and that involves active learning. We will first discuss the ‘Rigole’ week organised around the origin of life (slides). Some of its activities will be presented, in particular:

  • • games like Pangu, in which students build nucleic acids bases, and consider their interactions.
  • • a poster session (see preprint).

More about Antoine Taly


Patricia Marzin-Janvier (Université de Bretagne Occidentale)

How to help teachers and students to create experiments in higher education: the LabNbook project

Our project lead us to create several intelligent tutoring systems (EIAH in French : "environnement informatique pour l'apprentissage humain). They embed results and theorical workframes from didactic methods in computer science and sciences (among which praxeology and T4TEL, an adaptation for tutoring systems). We will present an innovation developped by Grenoble Alpes University for teachers and students, funded by one of Idex projects.

More about Patricia Marzin-Janvier