Teachers, like researchers, face enormous pressure to keep up with the rapid pace of scientific discovery. But they must also find compelling ways to communicate the latest findings to their students.
To help biology teachers find—and share—the best teaching tools, resources, and methods, PLoS Biology has today launched a new series of articles on education, under the guidance of Series Editor Cheryl Kerfeld and an advisory board of acclaimed researcher-educators.
Kerfeld, a structural biologist, adjunct professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and head of the Department of Energy/Joint Genome Institute’s Education and Structural Genomics Program, won the 2011 Award for Exemplary Contributions to Education from the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.
The Education Series combines open education—which freely shares teaching methods, initiatives, and materials—with open access publishing to present innovative approaches to teaching critical concepts, developments, and methods in biology. It covers fundamental areas of biology, from evolution and ecology to cell biology and biochemistry, and takes full advantage of Web-based open-access research and multimedia tools to create an interactive, dynamic resource to further understanding of fundamental questions in biology and of current methods to investigate them.
Articles feature initiatives that incorporate current life sciences research and allow students to use authentic research tools to investigate real-world problems and generate solid data—crucial elements for nurturing students’ interest in science. Toward this end, approaches that use genomics databases and bioinformatics tools, with their easy online access and mathematical expression of biological concepts, are particularly effective in the classroom. Alternately, taking students out in the field to test questions about relationships between species abundance and the presence of contaminants can provide a memorable lesson in environmental science.
In the first article, Louise Charkoudian , Jay Fitzgerald, Andrea Champlin, and Chaitan Khosla show that Streptomyces-derived natural products provide an untapped source of pigments, showing others how to explore the potential of biopigments in the classroom as well as in art and industry. The authors share their experiences in harnessing these biopigments to create paint and paintings and provide educators with the tools to replicate their experiments in the classroom.
By mining the promise of open education and harnessing the collective imagination and talent of PLoS Biology readers and contributors, the Education Series creates a virtual biology education library that is available through PLoS Biology Collections.