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Avida-ED is a good option for an online lab

Exercises from our Lab Book provide actual experiments (as opposed to simulations) for on-line labs. Please visit our Curriculum page. Videos from our Active LENS Train-the-Trainers Workshop have been added to help professors / instructors / teachers get up to speed.

Avida-ED wins ISAL Award

Avida-ED was the 2017 winner of the International Society for Artificial Life (ISAL) Education and Outreach Award. The award was announced at the Artificial Life conference, which was held September 4-8 in Lyon, France. Congratulations to everyone who has worked on the Avida-ED project over the years!Avida-ED 2017 Award

News and Events

• 2020 July 1 & 2: The ninth national Avida-ED Active LENS Workshop for faculty was held online.

• 2020 May 26.  The Active LENS WAVES workshop has started with about a dozen undergraduate and early-career participants.  They will be learning about the software development side of Active LENS and their programming projects will help provide infrastructure for what will eventually become Avida-ED 5.

• 2020 May 26. Our Active LENS summer in-person workshop is cancelled but we will have a virtual workshop instead. This workshop will train instructors in the use of the Avida-ED software package, developed to help students learn about evolution and the nature of science, so that workshop participants can both implement classroom interventions using this software and also train other educators. Participants will learn to use Avida-ED and how to best incorporate it into courses that they teach. – Applications are Closed

• 2020 May 1: Louise Mead and Cory Kohn gave an invited virtual walk-through of Avida-ED and some tips about using it for on-line instruction for the QUBES quantitative biology collaborative.

• 2020 May.  Active LENS WAVES experiential learning workshop.  A 10-week virtual experiential learning workshop will take place from May 26 and July 31.  Participants (upper-level undergraduates or other early-career computer scientists) will use C++ and/or JavaScript to develop code and tools for a future version of Avida-ED. The workshop will be a full time, mentored experience and participants will be paid a $6000 stipend.  Any US citizens/permanent residents with coding experience (ideally in C++ or JavaScript) are welcome to apply. We especially want to encourage participation by people from groups normally underrepresented in computer science.  If you are interested or know someone who might be, full information can be found at https://mmore500.com/waves/ Applications are due by Monday (May 4th) and decisions will be made by the following Monday (May 11th).

• 2020 February NEW PUBLICATION: Delbert S. Abi Abdallah, Christopher W. Fonner, Neil C. Lax, Matthew R. Babeji, Fatimata A. Palé. Evaluating the Use of Avida-ED Digital Organisms to Teach Evolution & Natural Selection. The American Biology Teacher, Vol. 82, No. 2, pp. 114–119

• 2019 November 15: Robert T. Pennock gave an invited talk “Avdia-ED: Learning Evolution and the Nature of Science using Evolving Digital Organisms” at the Department of Botany at University of Wisconsin, Madison WI.

• 2019 August: The eight national Avida-ED Active LENS Workshop for faculty was held at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan.group photo in BEACON seminar room at MSU

• 2019 August 2: Mike Wiser gave a 2 hour Avida-ED workshop at the International Society for Artificial Life meeting in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK

• 2019 July 14–18: Jim Smith ran a 2 hour workshop session on Avida-ED for teaching faculty at the BioQUEST/QUBES Summer Workshop, held at the College of William and Mary.

• 2019 July 8: Louise Mead gave a presentation about Avida-ED to the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) Teacher Ambassadors Workshop.

• 2019 June: William Beachly presented a poster on Avida-ED at a session during the AP biology reading in Kansas City and at the Association for Biology Laboratory Education in Ottawa, CA (pictured). The abstract will be published as:
Beachly W. 2020. Is mutation a creative or destructive force in evolution? Article 58 In: McMahon K, editor. Advances in biology laboratory education. Volume 41. Publication of the 41st Conference of the Association for Biology Laboratory Education (ABLE). http://www.ableweb.org/volumes/ (once volume 41 is posted)

• 2019 June 24: Diane Blackwood, Matthew Rupp, Charles Ofria, Robert T. Pennock. “Avida-ED 4.0: Ecology” Poster Presentation at Evolution 2019. Providence, RI

• 2019 June 24: Mike Wiser, Jim Smith, Louise Mead, Robert T. Pennock “Students reason similarly about bacteria and birds: A case study” Poster Presentation at Evolution 2019. Providence, RI

• 2019 June: The seventh national Avida-ED Active LENS Workshop for faculty was held at the University of Texas campus in Austin, Texas.group of participants and instructors under oak tree at UT Austin

• 2019 May 30-31: Jim Smith traveled to Leesburg, Virginia for Loudoun County High School’s Research Day , where he gave two talks to students about MSU, LBC, and Avida-ED and was a judge for upwards of 30 student teams presenting their Avida-ED research posters.

• 2019 May: The Avida-ED team gave an invited workshop at the University of Buenos Aires at the invitation of Ignacio Sanchez and Diego Ferreiro under a CELFI grant they received. Over twenty faculty members from half a dozen Central and South American countries came to learn about how to incorporate Avida-ED into their courses.A mural in Buenos Aires with DNA double Helix showing nucleotide pairs, native animals and people
workshop participant from all over latin America.
Group photo of participants, instructors and organizers in front of the building hosting the workshop at the University of Buenos Aires

• 2019 April 23: Anna Bowling, Michael Wiser, Louise S. Mead, James J. Smith, Robert T. Pennock “Avida-ED and Undergraduate Student Performance on the Conceptual Inventory of Natural Selection (CINS) Bacteria Versus Finch Questions.” Poster presentation at 13th Annual Lyman Briggs Research Symposium. Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI.

• 2019 April 18: Reid Blanchett, Mike Wiser, Louise S. Mead, James J. Smith, Robert T. Pennock “Evaluation of the understanding of the scientific process in students using Avida-ED via scientific process flowchart assessments” Poster presentation at SUTL Symposium. Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI.

• 2019 February: Richard Lenski gave an invited seminar at Kenyon College for Darwin Day focusing on experimental evolution including the use of Avida as a model system.

• 2019 January: Avida-ED is discussed in the feature article “Using Digital Organism Evolutionary Software in the Classroom” by Luke Appleton and Joshua Mackie in American Biology Teacher (Vol. 81 No. 1, pp. 11-16).

• 2018 October 8. Active LENS participant Sami Raut taught an Avida-ED workshop in India, increasing Avida-ED’s use internationally. (2018) Sami Raut, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Biology

• 2018 August: The sixth national Avida-ED Active LENS Workshop for faculty was held at the Michigan State University campus in East Lansing.
NC A&T Active LENS group

• 2018 June: The fifth national Avida-ED Active LENS Workshop for faculty was held at the North Carolina A&T campus in Greensboro.
NC A&T Active LENS group

• 2018 June 28 NEW PUBLICATION. Cory Kohn, Robert T. Pennock, Jim Smith, Michael J Wiser, and Louise S Mead. A Digital Technology-based Introductory Biology Course Designed for Engineering and Other Non-life Science STEM Majors Computer Applications in Engineering Education.  (2018 25(5):1-12. DOI: 10.1002/cae.21986)

• 2018 April 6. NEW PUBLICATION: Amy Lark, Gail Richmond, Louise S. Mead, James J. Smith and Robert T. Pennock. 2018. Exploring the Relationship between Experiences with Digital Evolution and Students’ Scientific Understanding and Acceptance of Evolution.  The American Biology Teacher 80(2): 74-86

• 2018: Whitley Lehto, Mayra Vidal, Gabby Gurule-Small, and Dale Broder taught an introduction to Avida-ED digital evolution software (developed at BEACON) at a regional conference, The 2018 Front Range Ecology Symposium, in Fort Collins CO. Many of the attendees have ideas for how to include Avida-ED activities in their classes.Dale Broder, Whitley Lehto, Mayra Vidal, Gabby Gurule-Small with Avida-ED lab manual

• 2018 February. PUBLICATION: Wendy R. Johnson and Amy Lark. 2018. Evolution in Action in the Classroom: Engaging Students in Science Practices to Investigate and Explain Evolution by Natural Selection.  The American Biology Teacher 80(2): 92-99 DOI: 10.1525/abt.2018.80.2.92

The following representative comments are taken from interviews with instructors
in a national study of classroom use of Avida-ED.

– “I want students to be engaged in something that is their own. [Avida-ED gives them] the opportunity to go in and interact with the process. … We can play out fairly complex relationships in a short amount of time. … The flexibility allows the students to have a much richer experience than some of the other kinds of labs that you see people doing.” – Small University Professor

– “We have run real-time evolution experiments with microbes, however, there is no other system that allows students to focus on the most important aspects of experimental science (hypothesis generation, experiment design/implementation/re-design/analysis, etc.) than Avida-ED.  Avida-ED allows the students to concentrate on the “thinking” parts of experimental science as opposed to the “doing” parts.” – Research University Professor

– “Avida-ED is the only tool out there students can use to explore the dynamics of evolution. It allows them to see an active model of evolution and understand what a mechanism is.” – HBCU Professor

– “I liked the idea of [Avida-ED] being more open ended, so I could say I want you to define a question and see if you can explore it in this environment. That was different from a lot of the other computer-based [educational software] that were geared to teaching a particular fact about the model or microevolution or whatever.” – Research University Professor, upper division course

– “For me it was having the students work with something hands-on rather than giving them a case study that we were telling them about. They could do something with it.” – Lab Instructor in Residential College

– “Avida-ED makes me think that people are capable of understanding [evolution]. I have rejected what most people say, that most people aren’t going to get this, the general population can’t get this, it’s too hard. And [I say], no, the general population isn’t getting this because we’re not giving them experiences like Avida-ED.” – High School AP Biology Teacher

Avida-ED picture in Science World Globe Avida-ED Excellence Award in Interdisciplinary Scholarship 2012
Avida-ED is discussed in the 10 Feb. 2006 issue of Science. Avida-ED has been used in biology classes in universities and colleges such as Arizona State, Cornell, Grinnel, Harvard, North Carolina A&T, Univ. of Texas, Univ. of Washington, Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison and many more. Avida-ED won the 2012 Excellence Award in Interdisciplinary Scholarship given by the MSU Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society.
Page updated 2020 September 14
© Robert T. Pennock

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