Ed-Tech Policy

Software to Mimic Evolution Being Developed for Classroom

By Bess Keller — September 24, 2004 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

What if you could fast-forward evolution?

That’s the idea behind a computer program now being developed as a teaching tool at Michigan State University.

Robert T. Pennock, a professor of the philosophy of science, is starting with existing software that uses digital “organisms” to mimic living ones. The digital creatures have their own code—the equivalent of the genetic material DNA—and can replicate themselves according to its dictates. Like DNA, the code mutates unpredictably, producing individuals that vary, in this case, according to the tasks they can do. The variations make some of the individuals more successful than others. Eventually, the mock evolution weeds out the less successful ones while the more successful ones carry on their “genetic” lines.

Students running the program would not only see natural-like selection take place, but they could also design their own experiments, according to Mr. Pennock, a member of the education committee of the Society for the Study of Evolution. The group aims to give biology teachers ways to help students understand the scientific evidence for evolution.

“It will let students observe the Darwinian mechanism in action and figure out for themselves why it works,” Mr. Pennock wrote in an e-mail.

Initially, the materials, including model lesson plans, will be for college undergraduates. But Mr. Pennock and his team expect to adapt them later for high school students.

The college-level program is to be tested and evaluated in biology classes at Michigan State, in East Lansing, before being disseminated nationally about two years from now. A $250,000 grant from the National Science Foundation supports the work.

Events

School Climate & Safety K-12 Essentials Forum Strengthen Students’ Connections to School
Join this free event to learn how schools are creating the space for students to form strong bonds with each other and trusted adults.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
IT Infrastructure & Management Webinar
Future-Proofing Your School's Tech Ecosystem: Strategies for Asset Tracking, Sustainability, and Budget Optimization
Gain actionable insights into effective asset management, budget optimization, and sustainable IT practices.
Content provided by Follett Learning
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Budget & Finance Webinar
Innovative Funding Models: A Deep Dive into Public-Private Partnerships
Discover how innovative funding models drive educational projects forward. Join us for insights into effective PPP implementation.
Content provided by Follett Learning

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Ed-Tech Policy One School Leader Banned Cellphones, the Other Embraced Them. What Worked?
Two principals describe their dramatically different policies on cellphones and how they are working.
7 min read
An illustration of a wallpaper of mobile phones, some off, some turned over with stickers on the back covers and some missing with just an outline where they once were.
iStock/Getty
Ed-Tech Policy 6 Ways Schools Are Managing Students’ Cellphone Use
Students' cellphone use has been a major source of headaches for teachers and principals.
5 min read
A cell phone sits on a student's desk during a 9th grade honors English class at Bel Air High School in Bel Air, Md., on Jan. 25, 2024.
A cellphone sits on a student's desk during a 9th grade honors English class at Bel Air High School in Bel Air, Md., on Jan. 25, 2024. The policies that districts and schools use to manage the use of cellphones during the school day vary widely.
Jaclyn Borowski/Education Week
Ed-Tech Policy Biden Signs TikTok Ban Into Law. What That Means for Schools
Restricting the platform probably won't alleviate schools’ social media woes.
6 min read
The TikTok app logo appears in Tokyo, on Sept. 28, 2020.
The TikTok app logo appears in Tokyo, on Sept. 28, 2020.
Kiichiro Sato/AP
Ed-Tech Policy How Teachers' Unions Are Involved in the Fight Against Cellphones in Class
Could cellphone bans be the next big issue at the bargaining table?
7 min read
Tight cropped photo of someone typing on their cellphone with a notepad and pencil on the desk in front of them.
iStock/Getty