z Active LENS Train-the-trainers Workshop, 2018 Edition

Posted on by
Learning Evolution and the Nature of Science

Active LENS workshops are a 3-day, intensive residence workshop. The purpose of these workshop is to train instructors in the use of the Avida-ED software package, developed to help students learn about evolution and the nature of science, so that workshop participants can both implement classroom interventions using this software and also train other educators. Teams of two will learn to use Avida-ED and how to best incorporate it into courses that they teach. Expenses related to the workshop are covered for the workshop participants as part of an NSF-funded IUSE grant. In 2020 the summer in-person workshops have been cancelled. We will have a virtual workshop instead. Dates and details to come.

Avida is a digital evolution software platform used to study evolutionary processes, and harness evolution to solve engineering problems. Avida-ED is a free, browser-based, user-friendly version of Avida developed specifically for educational purposes, with a graphical user interface and visualizations that allow the user to observe evolution in action. (See http://avida-ed.msu.edu/ for more information and to run the software in your web browser.) Organisms within this software (Avidians) are self-replicating computer programs, competing for computational resources supplied by the environment. Their replication is imperfect, resulting in mutations in some of their offspring, which may alter the ability of those organisms to make use of their environmental resources. Populations studied over the course of generations therefore display all of the elements necessary for evolution by natural selection: variation, inheritance, selection, and time. Avida-ED thus provides not a simulation of evolution, but an actual instance of it.

Avida-ED has been developed for undergraduates and advanced placement high school students to learn about the nature of science and evolution in particular. Users have significant control of the environment, and are able to change parameters such as the world size, the mutation rate, and what resources are available. Individual organisms can be saved in a virtual freezer, analyzed individually to watch how they perform tasks and replicate themselves, and used to start new evolutionary runs. Because digital organisms grow and divide much faster than even the fastest microbes, Avida-ED allows users to test evolutionary hypotheses over the course of hours or minutes. By generating hypotheses, collecting data, and analyzing results, users will gain experience not just with concepts in evolution, but with the nature and practice of science as a whole.

Workshop participants will join a growing community of educators using digital evolution to let their students directly observe evolutionary processes through inquiry-based exercises that advance reform-oriented active learning. Participants will develop new lesson plans and will help collect assessment data from their classroom implementations. They will help disseminate materials and train other science educators; financial support is available for this.

Application Forms

Priority will be given to applicants who apply in teams of two. We ask that both members of the team – whether two instructors teaching parallel classes, two instructors teaching a joint class, an instructor and a teaching assistant, or two teachers in the same school district – submit their application jointly. Applicants may instead apply as individuals, but will have a lower priority for inclusion. If you submit an application as an individual and later find a partner to form a team, please contact Mike Wiser (mwiser@msu.edu) to let him know; he will provide you with instructions on how to update this information.

In addition to the information in the form below, applicants must each submit the following two supporting documents using the upload buttons at the end of their section of the application form.

1) A curriculum vitae/resume, limited to two pages.

2) An application letter (no more than three pages double-spaced) which includes:

  • A statement confirming you are available to participate in all aspects of the Active LENS Train-the-Trainers program including
    1. Active LENS Educator On-line Community
    2. Collection of assessment data from your classroom implementation
    3. A written report of your implementation, to be submitted after the appropriate term has completed.
    4. Presentation about your implementation to other educators. [Possible examples include institutional or local workshop or presentation at a science educator meeting to teach a new set of instructors how to implement educational interventions with Avida-ED.]
  • Description of the course(s) in which you would plan to use Avida-ED (course names, levels, numbers of students, etc.)
  • Description of your learning goals for your students and how you anticipate that Avida-ED will allow your students to accomplish these goals.
  • Description of your personal and/or professional goals for participating in this program.