An experiment in collaborative spreadsheets and Hardy-Weinberg

Last spring, at KATS KAMP, I introduced the idea of using student generated spreadsheet models to explore Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium and as a substitute for the H-W simulations described in the AP-Biology lab manual. This fall at KABT’s meeting, I presented a bit about collaborative documents. I propose that we combine the two to create unique collabortive opportunity to explore the application of spreadsheets in biology.

I have created a blank collaborative spreadsheet at that is ready for collaborative work. I sent a message to the AP-Bio list inviting collaborators and we have two, Kim Foglia and Davida LaCosse. Paula Donham has said she’ll participate as well. Together we will recreate the spreadsheet that I have described earlier and take it further to develop a multi-generational model that can explore how drift, selection, mutation and migration affect populations. I’d really like to have a couple more KABT folks involved so let me know if you’d like to participate (Eric, Jeff and others). Thanks in advance to everyone involved in this experiment.

Below, you’ll find the embedded “work-in -progress” spreadsheet. You can return to this post to see how things are progressing.

Video on sinking disks for the Floating Leaf Disk Lab

Last night, on the AP-Bio listserv a teacher asked about trouble with sinking leaf disks for the Floating Leaf Disk lab. Her class had difficulty getting the spinach leaf disks to sink. I offered some possible solutions and I also promised to post a video of the procedure in case the students were missing something in the written protocol. Here’s the quick video that I made this morning.

Google video seems to be down this morning (Sept. 30). If this continues I’ll upload the video to a different service–stay tuned.


Evolution for Everyone: How Darwin’s Theory Can Change the Way We Think About Our Lives

A talk by David Sloan Wilson
Monday Oct 6, 2008, 7:00 pm

Spooner Hall, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS
(right across from the Natural History Museum)

The most disturbing fact about public awareness of evolution is not that roughly 50% of Americans don’t believe it, but that nearly 100% don’t connect it to matters of importance in their lives. For most of the 20th century, evolutionary theory was restricted to the biological sciences and avoided for most human-related subjects. That is now rapidly changing, as virtually every human-related subject is being approached from an evolutionary perspective. As soon as evolution is perceived as unthreatening, explanatory, and useful for understanding the human condition and improving human welfare, it can become not just acceptable but irresistible.

Reception and book signing to follow

David Sloan Wilson is an evolutionary biologist, distinguished professor at Binghamton University. He is a prominent proponent of the concept of group selection (aka multi-level selection) in evolution. Wilson’s book, Darwin’s Cathedral proposes that religion is a multi-level adaptation, a product of cultural evolution developed through a process of multi-level selection. His latest book, Evolution for Everyone: How Darwin’s Theory Can Change the Way We Think About Our Lives attempts to give an introduction to evolution for a broad audience, detailing the various ways in which evolution can be applied to everyday affairs. Wilson started the Evolutionary Studies (EvoS) program at Binghamton University to provide a program that unifies diverse disciplines under the theory of evolution. Students in the program take evolution-themed courses in a variety of disciplines including biology, anthropology, psychology, bioengineering, and philosophy.

Monday Oct 6, 2008, 7:00 pm The Commons,  Free and open to the public.

Inside Cancer from the Dolan DNA Learning Ctr

This post is meant to inform those unable to attend the Dolan DNA Learning Center workshop Inside Cancer at the Stowers Institute today, which unfortunately I can now count myself among since I woke up under the weather the morning of the workshop and didn’t attend.  So, if there is anything that needs to be added to this post, those in attendance feel free to make extensive comments.

Through brief communications with Larry Hare, I learned that besides learning about the Inside Cancer website, they were introduced to the Inside Cancer Teacher Center, where, after registration and login, a teacher can build a classroom presentation selecting from the multitude of resources contained at the Inside Cancer website, develop and share lesson plans that one has developed in association with teaching about cancer with a broad community, and digitally align the lessons that one has developed with national standards.

Inside Cancer Website

Inside Cancer Teacher Center

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Tagging Monarchs Tomorrow?

Tagged Monarch

Tagged Monarch from the Monarch Watch Site

The Monarch Watch and Jayhawk Audobon are tagging monarchs at the Baker Wetlands in Lawrence, tomorrow morning. Here’s more info. Why not join in on the fun–there’s no charge and it is a lot of fun. Should be a bunch of monarchs to tag based on what I’m seeing out my office window this afternoon.

This just in:

Hi Brad!
For those of us farther west…they are also tagging monarchs at
Quivera Natl. Wildlife Refuge tomorrow.
Just FYI,

Julie Tipton
LHS Science Department Head


Genes to Cognition at the Dolan DNA Learning Ctr

This post is meant to inform those unable to attend the Dolan DNA Learning Center workshop at the Stowers Institute on Genes to Cognition.  This is a site that you will want to delve into when you have a bit of time on your hands.  Well, that is if you are interested in learning and teaching about the connect between genes, cognitive behaviors, and their related brain disorders. 

The student-friendly essential question that this site helps students and teachers to explore is, “What good is a brain?” 

In all honesty, the site reminds me of Thomas Huxley’s book The Crayfish through which he demonstrates that the subject of zoology could be taught via a single model organism. 

In a similar manner, Genes to Cognition facilitates the teaching of biology at all levels of complexity, from the molecular communication networks of our cells to the behaviors that emerge from their collective actions.  At the same time, students will realize that there are numerous unanswered scientific questions awaiting research.

Having had little time to digest the material presented, I currently don’t know where I will integrate Genes to Cognition into my courses but “What good is a brain?” it is quite an appropriate question for students to ask and begin to explore.  The site is presented from a perspective that, on one hand acknowledges the importance of the reductionist approach, while fostering the burgeoning systems based perspective.

Genes to Cognition Website

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Google Docs

Several folks found the idea of using collaborative documents very promising at the recent KABT fall meeting. Bill Welch and Noah Bush have already been trying to get all their students up and running. They apparently ran into a limit on the number of gmail accounts they could create. I did some looking and you can actually create a google account (for documents and such) separately from gmail…. didn’t know that. At any rate here’s a resource that I found that outlines some possible techniques for using collaborative documents in the classroom including establishing new google accounts for a batch of students at once. From google.