Four HudsonAlpha Educational Outreach team members authored paper

A study on the outcomes of Touching Triton®, a free online educational activity developed at the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, was published in January 2016 in American Biology Teacher. The paper outlines the demonstrated effectiveness of the instructional game. Four HudsonAlpha Educational Outreach team members are the authors.

“Research tells us students often have misconceptions about complex genetics concepts,” said Madelene Loftin, lead author for the paper and lead educator for the game. “So our goal was to provide educators with an engaging tool that allows students to interact with those concepts in ways that address those misconceptions.”

The web-based activity is available for anyone to play online as a guest, and Educational Outreach offers teacher training sessions for the activity as well. The game builds understanding of common complex disease risk, influenced by factors from family history, environment and genomic data. Students synthesize data from these sources to inform lifestyle choices and medical intervention strategies in the setting of a long-duration space flight mission.

“We didn’t want to just develop the activity,” said Kelly East, assistant project manager for Touching Triton. “We wanted to show it really works for students and teachers. So we set evaluation strategies in place when we began the project, and now we have really good data that Touching Triton helps improve student learning about genetics.”

Touching Triton includes multiplayer and single player modes. It is available to use on iPads, Android tablets or computers and is designed to fit within 90 minutes. The activity also includes an educator portal with real-time monitoring of student activity that allows teachers to see what students are doing and give immediate feedback on their progress.

“For us, it’s important to share what we’ve learned about Touching Triton and its utility in the classroom,” said Adam Hott, project manager for Touching Triton. “Publication in a national education journal is one way to meet that goal.”

The Touching Triton paper is a feature article in American Biology Teacher, which is a publication of the National Association of Biology Teachers. “We could provide Touching Triton training sessions every week for a couple of years and still not reach the same number of educators who will read this single publication,” said Neil Lamb, PhD, vice president for educational outreach at HudsonAlpha. “Being able to widely disseminate the details of this study is an excellent way to expand the project’s reach.”

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