Active LENS Train-the-trainers Workshop, 2020 Edition

Applications are Closed
The 6th annual Avida-ED Active LENS Workshop will be held July 1 – 2, 2020. This year, responding to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, we are holding an on-line workshop using Zoom. The purpose of the Active LENS workshop is to 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.

Avida is a digital evolution software platform used to study evolutionary processes, and harness evolution to solve engineering problems. Avida-ED is a free, browser-based, user-friendly version of Avida developed specifically for educational purposes, with a graphical user interface and visualizations that allow the user to observe evolution in action. (See for more information and to run the software in your web browser.) Organisms within this software (Avidians) are self-replicating computer programs, competing for computational resources supplied by the environment. Their replication is imperfect, resulting in mutations in some of their offspring, which may alter the ability of those organisms to make use of their environmental resources. Populations studied over the course of generations therefore display all of the elements necessary for evolution by natural selection: variation, inheritance, selection, and time. Avida-ED thus provides not a simulation of evolution, but an actual instance of it.

Avida-ED has been developed for undergraduates and advanced placement high school students to learn about the nature of science and evolution in particular. Users have significant control of the environment, and are able to change parameters such as the world size, the mutation rate, and what resources are available. Individual organisms can be saved in a virtual freezer, analyzed individually to watch how they perform tasks and replicate themselves, and used to start new evolutionary runs. Because digital organisms grow and divide much faster than even the fastest microbes, Avida-ED allows users to test evolutionary hypotheses over the course of hours or minutes. By generating hypotheses, collecting data, and analyzing results, users will gain experience not just with concepts in evolution, but with the nature and practice of science as a whole.

Workshop participants will join a growing community of educators using digital evolution to let their students directly observe evolutionary processes through inquiry-based exercises that advance reform-oriented active learning.

Tentative Schedule
All times are Eastern Standard Time

Wednesday, July 1, 2020
1:00 – Workshop Overview & Avida-ED 101 – Rob Pennock
2:00 – Exercise 1: The Introduction of Genetic Variation by Random Mutation – Mike Wiser
2:45 – Experimental Evolution – Rich Lenski
3:45 – BREAK
4:00 – Exercise 2: Exploring Random Mutation and Selection – Jim Smith
4:45 – Digital Evolution – Charles Ofria
5:45 – Day 1 wrap-up – Rob Pennock
6:00 – Adjourn

Thursday, July 2, 2020
1:00 – Exercise 3: Exploring Fitness and Population Change under Selection – Jim Smith
1:45 – Exercise 4: Exploring Population Change without Selection – Louise Mead
2:30 – Backwards Design: From Learning Goals to Implementation & Assessment – Jim Smith
3:30 – Previous participant experience – TBA
4:00 – BREAK
4:15 – Introduction to BIOME Institute – Louise Mead
4:30 – Student misconceptions study – Mike Wiser; Assessment study — Kenyon Cavender; Nature of science study — Eric Berling.
5:00 – Preview of Avida-ED 4.0 – Diane Blackwood, Rob Pennock
5:30 – Wrap-up
6:00 – Adjourn

Course registration fee: $50.  (Note: Participants who complete the full 2-day course will receive a refund of the registration fee.). You will pay the fee through EventBrite after filling out the required application form.
Applications are Closed