University-level practical activities in bioinformatics benefit voluntary groups of pupils in the last 2 years of school

Daniel Barker, Rosanna G Alderson, James L McDonagh, Heleen Plaisier, Muriel H Comrie, Leigh Duncan, Gavin TP Muirhead, Stuart D Sweeney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

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.
Original languageEnglish
Article number17
JournalInternational journal of STEM education
Volume2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 28 Oct 2015

Keywords

  • bioinformatics
  • computational biology
  • secondary school
  • Raspberry Pi
  • Open access teaching material
  • case study

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