University-level practical activities in bioinformatics benefit voluntary groups of pupils in the last 2 years of school
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Background Bioinformatics—the use of computers in biology—is of major and increasing importance to biological sciences and medicine. We conducted a preliminary investigation of the value of bringing practical, university-level bioinformatics education to the school level. We conducted voluntary activities for pupils at two schools in Scotland (years S5 and S6; pupils aged 15–17). We used material originally developed for an optional final-year undergraduate module and now incorporated into 4273π, a resource for teaching and learning bioinformatics on the low-cost Raspberry Pi computer. Results Pupils’ feedback forms suggested our activities were beneficial. During the course of the activity, they provide strong evidence of increase in the following: pupils’ perception of the value of computers within biology; their knowledge of the Linux operating system and the Raspberry Pi; their willingness to use computers rather than phones or tablets; their ability to program a computer and their ability to analyse DNA sequences with a computer. We found no strong evidence of negative effects. Conclusions Our preliminary study supports the feasibility of bringing university-level, practical bioinformatics activities to school pupils.
Barker , D , Alderson , R G , McDonagh , J L , Plaisier , H , Comrie , M M , Duncan , L , Muirhead , G T P & Sweeney , S D 2015 , ' University-level practical activities in bioinformatics benefit voluntary groups of pupils in the last 2 years of school ' International Journal of STEM Education , vol 2 , 17 . DOI: 10.1186/s40594-015-0030-z
International Journal of STEM Education
© 2015 Barker et al. Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.
This work was supported in part by the Science and Technology Facilities Council under grant ST/M000435/1 to Daniel Barker.