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Will Stewart
-

Teaching with Technology


4/12
/2010


Authentic Instruction Activity


Overview


The goal of this activity is for student to learn about genetically modified organisms

(GMOs)
, especially foods, by engaging them in an authentic activity. The activity is a WebQuest
that asks students to write a letter to a Senator explaining their stance on genetically modified
foods. The original WebQuest can be found at
http://questgarden.com/89/71/6/091117171157/
.
The WebQuest has been modified for this assignment; the modified version can be found here:
http://people.virgini
a.edu/~wfs2y/webquest/index.htm
.

This activity is applied t
o the Virginia
Standards of Learning, including “use, limitations, and misuse of genetic information and
exploration of the impact of DNA technologies” (BIO.6 h,i).
1


Advantage of using technology



This activity takes advantage of the vast amount of
information, scientific literature, and
opinion statements that the Internet has to offer. However, the activity is also structured to ensure
that students make full use of these tools, instead of spending too much time evaluating sources
that may be of po
or quality or little

scientific

merit.


The first resource that students are directed to is a 2000 article that will provide a good
background for students to learn the basics.

The second link is also for background research
purposes and infuses a great de
al of authenticity into the WebQuest. It directs students to a
database of Food and Drug Administration testimonies before Congress. Although the fact that
these were actually read before Congress provides a great deal of authenticity, the text is also at
a
fairly difficult reading level.


The next few resources take more advantage of the Internet’s power for multimedia
presentation. There is a video that shows the differences between classical breeding and direct
genetic manipulation.

Next is a video abo
ut Monsanto, a large agricultural biotechnology firm, and their
genetically modified “Bt” corn. This video dives deeper into the controversy in this issue.
Specifically, it covers an example of government regulation, which is what students are meant to
be
developing opinions about. Also, this video documents authentic examples of genetic
engineering, its potential consequences, and government regulation, reinforcing authenticity.


The next resource takes advantage of the interactivity available on the web,
since it is a
game. Although it is very structured and guided, it allows students to see how actual
professionals in the field would go about genetically modifying
a crop.


The next link also provides a lot of wordy argument. It had originally been an onli
ne poll
about GMOs. This would have been a great authentic resource, showing the opinions of actual
readers. However, someone tampered with the results, so they are unfortunately no longer
available. This is a good example of the importance of web security
.


The next is a video about GM salmon, providing another authentic example.




1

http://www.doe.virginia.gov/testing/sol/standards_docs/science/courses/stds_biology.pdf

Will Stewart
-

Teaching with Technology


4/12
/2010


Authentic Instruction Activity


The final link goes to the same site

as the online poll

(for a NOVA/Frontline special
report entitled “Harvest of Fear”), but provides a better format for finding and evaluating
concrete and authentic opinions of political, business, and consumer
-
advocacy leaders.


Aside from scientific resources, the Process page also directs
to an example of a
persuasive letter to a politician.


Materials

Computers with Internet access (one for

every two students)

Procedure


Direct students to work choose partners and to navigate to the Introduction page of the
WebQuest (
http://people.virgini
a.edu/~wfs2y/webquest/index.htm). Tell them not to go to any of
the other pages yet.


As a class, go over the overview on the Introduction page. Next, have each partnership go
to the Task page. Read the
instructions as a class. This is especially important, as students
should have a clear idea of what it is that they are trying to accompli
sh.


Next, students may work independently, investigating the resources on the
Process page.
It is important to give them enough time to look at all the resources, but not so much time that
they become disengaged. If students spend about 5 minutes on each
link, it will take about 40
minutes total, which is reasonable. Every 10 minutes or so, make an announcement about much
time is left and how many links they should have covered, so that students maintain a good pace.
For the more difficult texts, such as t
he FDA website, assist students by directing them to pick
out the main ideas from the testimonies.


After research is finished, I would provide a substantial amount of time for drafting the
letters. As a class, read over the instructions at the bottom of t
he Process page so that students are
reminded of
what
their final product should be. Student partnerships should collaborate in
writing their letters. Direct students to the Evaluation page to show them

how they will be
assessed.


I envision this WebQuest taking place over three class periods, using about 30 minutes
each time. On the first day, introduce the WebQuest and have student begin research. On the
second day, allow students to complete their investigations. Devote the third

day to writing the
evidence
-
based letters. Allowing time in between the parts of the assignment is especially
important for authentic instruction. It allows students to talk to each other and to their parents or
other adults about such issues that are cur
rently relevant in society.


Assessment


The assessment for this assignment will be an evaluation of the students’ letters and their
notes on the resources provided. This is an authentic assessment since letters to politicians are
actual ways to express opinions on current issues.

The original W
ebQuest had asked students to write in response to a bill banning all GM
foods
. However,

I felt this was a bit too simple of an assignment. Instead, I have asked students
Will Stewart
-

Teaching with Technology


4/12
/2010


Authentic Instruction Activity


to come up with suggestions for regulatory reform. I have modified the assessment rub
ric

on the
Evaluation page

accordingly.
I have also provided point values for each category, so that the
evaluation is appropriately weighted.

Specifically, more weight is given to suggestions (main
ideas), evidence, and citations, and less weight is given

to the form and tone of the letter. This is
because these things are more important for students’ learning. However, form and tone are
definitely very important in an authentic setting like letter
-
writing, so they still carry significant
weight.


Resource
s



The original WebQuest was found at QuestGarden:
http://questgarden.com/search/
.

More
information about
WebQuests and the pedagogy behind them can be found at
h
ttp://webquest.org/index.php
. Basically, they are web
-
based, inquiry
-
oriented lesson formats
that often engage students with authentic issues and resources.