Perhaps the most interesting part of the entire workshop was a short lesson that Tracy gave at the end of the second day. She took a very large (and messy) input data file from one of the students in the class, parsed it appropriately, pulled out all the necessary information, stored it in a dictionary in a Python script, and then demonstrated how easily it can be accessed via a dictionary. This lesson acted as a way to tie together all of the concepts we covered throughout the workshop, and also to show how useful and powerful programming can be for a biologist.
Another way we tried to promote student synthesis of information was with a 15-minute variation of a concept map task. We created a “standard workflow” worksheet that labeled the steps that a scientist might usually follow in a lab. We then asked the students to work with their partner and fill in the different tools and commands and techniques they learned in the appropriate sections. I’m not sure how I felt about this mini-activity in the end. I don’t think it promoted synthesis as much as we wanted to, but I also can’t think of a different way to have students interactively review the topics we covered and see how they all fit together in the big picture. Below are links to the blank worksheet that we gave students and a list of topics that we covered (as ideas for what to put in the workflow chart).
Finally, we administered a post-survey, which was similar to a pre-survey we gave on the first day. When we have some results from the post-survey, I’ll post them.