Technology Trends

Technology Trends: Augmented Game-based Gesture Learning Analytics

Although my title may suggest an inability to make concrete decisions, to me it reflects my imagination. While reading/listening to the Horizon Report 2011, I imagined things I currently do or thought about how to expand on activities I’ve done with students. Now what I would like to create is a game that is augmented by being in a biotechnology lab environment, game-based because it involves solving a murder mystery, gesture-based because it involves three dimensional pieces of equipment students can manipulate in a 3 dimensional space, and analytical because the students will do labs that generate data that can be pulled from databases and used to determine whose DNA is at the crime scene. I’ve already done much of this in the classroom, but it was with real lab equipment and I gave them copies of data and made up scenarios for them to calculate genotype frequencies with hypothetical situations.

The outreach person at CEPRAP, Barbara Emberson, created an augmented game several years ago that I’ve used with students.

Image of virtual DNA fingerprinting lab "game"

Image from the DNA fingerprinting software game. I used it to introduce students to the idea of what we’d be doing in the lab before we did it. It helped some students understand what we were doing with the micropipettors and why we were doing the labs we were doing, however in some ways because it was completely virtual with students not actually using equipment, it was somewhat a waste of class time. If given a choice between having students do a virtual lab and having them do a real lab where they are working with real lab equipment, my vote is for the real lab.

Not every school can afford the real biotechnology equipment and now that science education companies are getting into the biotech scene, much of what is made is a bunch of junk.  It would be more economical for a company to design a micropipettor that can be hooked up to a computer system so the user can get immediate feedback on their technique.  They’d have to dial the numbers correctly to micropipette the correct amounts of liquids, run the gels, stain them, photograph them, and gather their results with the three dimensional and computer equipment. Although I was not able to use the software with my students, computers now map the location of bands and do all of the calculations necessary for the sizes that are in each lane. Although I used the electrophoresis method to teach students how to draw a graph using a linear regression curve, I don’t know that they have to know how to do that by hand anymore. One of my former students who is now getting a PhD in microbiology laughs at me when I talk about the sequencing gels I ran when I was in grad school. She does not do any of her own sequencing. She sends her sample to a sequencing service on campus and several hours later she gets her results. We can simulate this for high school students by using the various technologies mentioned in the horizon report. Below is an image of student working with a micropipetter. In this picture you can also see the carbonless copy lab notebooks we used.

picture of high school student using micropipettor

picture of high school student using micropipettor

Electronic books- Imagine lab manuals that can call off the instructions to the student and they automatically get checked off as the student physically does that step in the protocol.  I don’t know if I want lab notebooks to be virtual, but my student also informs me that the carbonless notebooks that I have students use in the biotech class are now being replaced by typing in results in the computer. I can only imagine equipment becoming sophisticated enough that it automatically logs into a data sheet what the human did during the lab. In my simulated biotechnology lab game, if the student micropipettes 42.6 uL of liquid, then it could automatically be written into an electronic lab notebook.

Augmented reality- the student could view their manual actions taking place in a virtual biotechnology lab. Their gestures get recorded as they use plastic equipment that mimics real laboratory equipment. The difference is that the student will virtually make a gel and pour it. They wear gloves in the lab anyway, so why not have them wear gloves that keep track of where they are moving their hands. They can make the agarose, heat it up, let it cool down, and pour it. We’d write the game so that if they poured it too soon, the gel would be brittle and have lots of unnecessary bubbles. Imagine being able to measure the gestures so well that in the virtual lab, students would have to demonstrate the same techniques they’d have to really do in the lab.

Game-based- to make the lab game based, all we have to do is immerse it in a context. Frank Stephenson wrote much of the BABEC lab stories that when I had the time to embed the labs in a story, I did. Link to  BABEC curriculum: BioRad has also submerged many of their labs in a context. For example, I used to use the BioRad primers to test foods for evidence of genetically modified organisms (GMO) with my students. Link to BioRad GMO investigator kit: Although BABEC also provided primers, I liked the BioRad ones because they made the purpose of the primers much more obvious. Imagine doing a lab like the GMO lab with classrooms all over the US instead of just with the few samples done with my students. This particular lab does not have to  be a virtual one; I’m just brainstorming about how I could have expanded the GMO lab to include data that went beyond our local grocery store and our few results. All it would take is a little imagination to turn the GMO-PCR lab into one that either stayed hands-on with real equipment and foods, or became virtual where our samples being tested were already ones sitting in a database.  If done hands-on, then I would love to see the lab expanded to a global context. The could even collect data outside the US as genetically modified foods become more global.

Gesture- based- If we turned the biotech labs into virtual settings with “real” equipment analogous to the models used in Wii games, then we could have gestured-based learning. With this type of biotech equipment, there would  be nothing to wash at the end of the period. I would not have to have multiple sets of equipment that would have to stay “in use” by one section while another section did a multi-day lab. The $200 micropipettor would hopefully be replaced by a less expensive plastic one that was connected to a computer so its physical use could be monitored. Imagine being able to have eight sets of lab equipment for what it used to cost to have one or two sets.

photo of students working in a high school biotechnology lab class

Students collaborating in a high school biotechnology lab class.

Learning Analytics- one thing I detest about most of what is available for high school students in the biotech classroom is imaginary lab settings that can not be directly connected to what is done in a real forensic or research lab. For example, I even had a graduate student come in and want to do a simulated crime scene lab with me where the students used restriction enzymes to discern the human DNA found at a imaginary crime scene. While restriction enzymes (RE) have their purpose in the lab, mainly for cloning pieces of DNA into a vector, they have not been used for human identification for years. You need too much DNA to do a RE digest. The grad student seemed so offended that I shot down his idea of wasting my students’ time by doing a lab that had no basis in reality anymore. I was appalled that he had the nerve to suggest I waste time doing something with my kids that was antiquated and now a part of the history of forensic science instead of being a current trend. When you watch a tv show that suggests using RFLP analysis, you know the show is dated because that is now a waste of time, money, and human energy. Plus, it requires too much DNA for it to be practical. Using the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) is now done to categorize DNA and its patterns. Last year I tried to create a scenario where my students used genotype frequency data to determine the likelihood someone’s DNA occurs in the population. I was basing the data on a list of specific allele frequencies that have been identified in a population. Finding this data was not easy, nor was it easy to show my students how to use it. Link to article with data I used with the class: Two of my students demonstrated how ineffective the exercise was when for their final project they decided to use data that resembled what one gets by doing RE digests of DNA.  I was furious when I saw that this is how they wasted their time and ours, but unfortunately since it was the end of the year I did not get to express to the class how what we just did was completely inaccurate and demonstrated how not to use DNA to find answers to questions. Now if I had access to a database where students could have used software to easily do the math that shows how multiple allele frequencies need to be used to show the rarity of a specific genotype, then I would have been less likely to have students who chose the easy way out for their assignment.  Since the entire class would have been able to follow the math involved with the allele and genotypes easier by having a computer program that let them play with the numbers, the entire class would have seen the students’ final project was a bunch of junk and it would not have had to fall on the teacher to be the only one who understood what was going on. I would like there to be an online database of allele frequency data so that biology and/or biotechnology teachers could use the data and have students calculate or figure out whose DNA was found at a crime scene. Is that too much to ask for?

Other images of students doing work in a biotech lab:  Imagine what could be done in a virtualized setting…

image of students using pH meters
Image of pH equipment- hand held meter and more expensive ones in background
student cutting a leaf for plant tissue culture
Imagine being able to teach plant tissue culture techniques that could be monitored

About Melissa

I am a former high school science teacher and recently completed a MET degree at Boise State

Posted on July 4, 2011, in 1.1 Instructional Systems Design, 1.1.1 Analying, 1.1.5 Evaluating, assessment, 1.3 Instructional Strategies, 1.4 Learner characteristics, 2.2 Audiovisual Technologies, 2.3 Computer-Based Technologies, 2.4 Integrated Technologies, 3.1 Media Utilization, 3.3 Implementation and Institutionalization, 4.2 Resource Management, 4.3 Delivery System Management, 4.4 Information Management, 5.3 Formative and Summative Evaluation, 5.4 Long-Range Planning, AECT Standards, ED TECH 501 assignments, Standard 1: DESIGN, Standard 2: DEVELOPMENT, Standard 3: UTILIZATION, Standard 4: MANAGEMENT, Standard 5: Evaluation, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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