Friday, January 10, 2014

A DNA evolution game for university students?

Some of the articles that are published in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education (BAMBED) are a little bit difficult to understand. Here's one from the latest issue....
Laura Miralles, Paloma Moran, Eduardo Dopico and Eva Garcia-Vazquez (2013) DNA Re-EvolutioN: A game for learning molecular genetics and evolution. BAMBED 41:396-401 [doi: 10.1002/bmb.20734]
The abstract explains that the goal is to teach evolution.
Evolution is a main concept in biology, but not many students understand how it works. In this article we introduce the game DNA Re-EvolutioN as an active learning tool that uses genetic concepts (DNA structure, transcription and translation, mutations, natural selection, etc.) as playing rules. Students will learn about molecular evolution while playing a game that mixes up theory and entertainment. The game can be easily adapted to different educational levels. The main goal of this play is to arrive at the end of the game with the longest protein. Students play with pawns and dices, a board containing hypothetical events (mutations, selection) that happen to molecules, “Evolution cards” with indications for DNA mutations, prototypes of a DNA and a mRNA chain with colored “nucleotides” (plasticine balls), and small pieces simulating t-RNA with aminoacids that will serve to construct a “protein” based on the DNA chain. Students will understand how changes in DNA affect the final protein product and may be subjected to positive or negative selection, using a didactic tool funnier than classical theory lectures and easier than molecular laboratory experiments: a flexible and feasible game to learn and enjoy molecular evolution at no-cost. The game was tested by majors and non-majors in genetics from 13 different countries and evaluated with pre- and post-tests obtaining very positive results.
I would be embarrassed to present this game to students at the University of Toronto. It seems more suitable for adolescents who are just learning about evolution in high school.

What do you think? Is this a suitable class experience for students at your university?