Monday, March 21, 2016

Epistemic Games, John Skinner

One epistemic form that I thought would work with with ADI activities is a form and function analysis. This type of model asks students to determine a goal, and then analyze biological properties, behaviors, features, and functions that can enable or constrain said outcome. This model lends itself particularly well to analyzing trophic levels in biological ecosystems, which is required by Tennessee state standards. Students should be able to analyze how changes in behaviors, resources, and populations at various trophic levels can effect the rest of a food web; thus, a form and function analysis could be a useful tool for helping students think critically about a multitude of causes and effects that influence a food web at various levels. An ADI question could be something along the lines of researching a sample food web (i.e. crickets, frogs, and snakes). If an environment becomes increasingly too arid for local frogs to survive, how does this affect the food web?

Resources: Students would first be given hand-picked internet and journal articles about arid environments and frog/snake behavior in that climate. Based on the research, students would have a better understanding of the underlying biological behaviors and conditions that affect their food web. From this research, students could create an agent-based model in StarLogo Nova and use their model to answer the ADI driving question.

I also believe that cause and effect analyses, which asks students to consider a sequence of events and the causes/effects of said events, could be an intriguing application of epistemic games in a biology classroom. This could be useful with respect to topics that have medical applications, since many diseases are results of a gradual chain of events over time. An ADI question could go something along the lines of: “A 52-year-old man complains of stiffness in his arms and legs and occasional shakiness in his jaw and cheekbones. He has noticed recently that his speech occasionally slurs, and he feels like he suddenly has less control over his handwriting. He generally tries to live an active lifestyle, and he used to run three miles every morning before work. However, due to recent movement and balance problems, he has had to stop exercising. He is diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Based on research, how do you think the Parkinson’s disease mechanism works?”

Resources: To prevent kids from simply Googling answers, they will be provided with a scholarly article about how protein misfolding can lead to PD, an article describing possible genes involved in PD, and an interactive computational model that allows students to manipulate protein folding in different permutations/environments. Since they will have already studied DNA replication, transcription, and translation before this activity, students will use their prior knowledge and the resources given to hypothesize how small events in the process of protein synthesis can potentially contribute to Parkinson’s disease.

While there are benefits to each of these epistemic games, I believe that certain games lend themselves toward ADI activities more effectively than others. For example, structural analyses may have initial utility, as they can help students decompose certain phenomena or behaviors into underlying characteristics. From this decomposition, students will gain an appreciation for the assumptions that lay the foundation for certain biological events; however, they seem to do little towards actually solving an ADI question. Thus, while structural analyses may be a useful first step when solving a problem, I think that functional and causal analyses will help students more actively explore not only what elements of a problem they need to address, but also how they should address them.

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