Genetic Science Learning Center is a joint project of the University of Utah Eccles Institute of Human Genetics, the University of Utah School of Medicine, and the Utah Museum of Natural History. It has resources on genetics for the general public, teachers, students and teens, and parents and families. It is an extensive site that covers basic genetics, genetic disorders, genetics in society, and genetic thematic units. While the primary focus of the site is controversial issues in human genetics, these issues are used to teach many basic concepts in genetics and molecular biology. This large site has eight different themes: "The Basics and Beyond", "Genetic Disorder Corner", "Biotechniques Laboratory", "Do Try This at Home", "Gene Therapy: Molecular Bandage", "Cloning in Focus", "Stem Cells in the Spotlight", and "Features". Each theme is organized into several lessons comprised of text, colorful graphics, interactive flash animations, questions and worksheets, and links to outside web resources. The text explanations are clear and simple and assume no prior knowledge except for what can be found in the site, with appropriate links to the needed background material on the site. While the majority of the student activities are colorful web animations such as the "Space Doctor" where students design the appropriate gene therapy for an alien patient, or "Gel Electrophoresis" where students analyze DNA by pouring and running a gel, there are also paper and pencil exercises, thought provoking essay or discussion questions, and directions for simple wet labs - many of which are designed for limited budgets and equipment, such as a DNA extraction laboratory that uses the household reagents of detergent,
meat tenderizer, and rubbing alcohol to extract DNA. There is one advanced lesson which is very different from the other lessons on this site, "Bringing RNA into View", which is 190 pages long and is more appropriate for advanced students. There is also a Teachers page with labs, online and hands-on activities, group activities, integrated genetics activities, reading authentic research, and news, events, workshops & courses.
Type of Material:
Text, figures, tutorials, and interactive animations.
llustrative material best used as a supplement to lecture or as background material for a laboratory experiment.
Identify Major Learning Goals:
Understanding of basic human genetics, especially those aspects relevant to current controversial issues in human genetics.
Target Student Population:
The site contains activities for ages 10 through adults.
Each section is well documented and written for the specific target group of people.
All activities have extensive teacher resources, lists of materials, background information and links to national standards.
Has topical coverage of controversial human genetics issues
A large amount of instructional material covering many different genetic topics
"Bringing RNA into View" is very well designed and uses a good mix of paper and pencil exercises, modeling with simple materials such as pipe cleaners, and experimental labs using molecular reagents
The entire site is also available in Spanish
Some of the lessons are now a little out of date, for instance, "Conservation Genetics" focuses on starch gel electrophoresis and makes no mention of current PCR based methodologies, while "Bringing RNA into View" makes no mention of siRNA
The site has little coverage of PCR and DNA fingerprinting for paternity, forensics or genetic screening, topics that would normally be covered in the same courses that would use the other material at this site.
Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool
Most lessons have inquiry and discovery activities.
The activities are presented for teachers, students, and parents effectively
The activities can be conducted in class, independently and at home.
Many of the activities provide some feedback
Very few of the lessons require any significant effort from the student
Not enough assessment included in most of the activites
Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty
Site is well organized
Different sections and lessons are well labeled making it easy to find the appropriate material
"Bringing RNA into View" is appropriate for a more advanced audience than the rest of the site but is hidden in "The Basics and Beyond" section where it could easily be missed
The "Introduction to Heredity" section can only be found in the classroom activites list and could easily be missed.
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