This resource is a topic (Stickleback Evolution) from the popular Learn Genetics website hosted by University of Utah. The topic of stickleback evolution is clearly depicted through narration, animation, text, and links to the (Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Holiday lecture series on the topic of evolution. Students are presented with a modern-day evolutionary timeline showing how an advantageous trait quickly became established in a stickleback population.
Type of Material:
Narrated animation, presentation, tutorial.
In-class lecture and lab supplement
Web browser. Some plugins (Flash) may be needed for the animation.
Identify Major Learning Goals:
None stated. The general goal of the site is not to present stickleback evolution, but to provide an example of ongoing evolution.
Target Student Population:
High School, College General Ed, College Lower Division, College Upper Division.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:
Basic vocabulary related to evolutionary biology.
Evaluation and Observation
The information is accurate and simplified enough for most students
Links are provided to more detailed information
The key point (evolution occurs today) is made explicitly
The link to a list of references enhances the quality of the learning experience
The key point (evolution occurs today) is not discussed
Calling the stickleback study a "rare" example of evolution may give students the impression that evolution is rare today rather than what I assume is the intended meaning (that good simple easy to understand examples are rare)
No explanation of the Ectodysplasin gene is given, and to introduce a technical term in a highly simplified lesson like this, is disconcerting
Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool
For students who do not understand basic evolution, this resource will be highly effective in presenting a real life example
The links to the HHMI lectures and the Bell lab website allow more advanced students to go further
The "real time" graph below the animation helps make sense of the topic
The material is partly interactive and hence, keeps users actively involved with the learning experience
Material builds upon knowledge in multiple ways depending on how users navigate through the site
The animation is engaging, but it is not clear exactly what is going on with the fish shown in the animation; are the different sizes different life stages or different forms of the same species?
The page may be a bit oversimplified insofar as it has no discussion connecting the rise of an advantageous trait (low armor) with natural selection), but rather describes this as an example of evolution; students might wonder how we know this is selection rather than genetic drift
Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty
The animation and links worked as intended on Mac (Firefox, Safari) and PC (Firefox)
The animation has labels on all the buttons explaining what they do, so even the most computer averse student could use this resource successfully
Information on permission to use this material is provided
The animation is ADA compliant in that it can be viewed with captions for deaf people or listened to with narration for the blind