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MITx, PennX, MITx_PennX: BioGraph: Teaching Biology Through Systems, Models, & Argumentation

This six-week interactive and collaborative course integrates systems thinking with computer models designed to ‘bring biology to life’. You will learn how to use online simulations to develop core biology content and practices, aligned with the NGSS.

6 weeks
5–7 hours per week
Instructor-led on a course schedule
This course is archived
Future dates to be announced

About this course

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This course integrates the power of systems thinking with computer models designed to ‘bring to life’ biology topics including evolution, ecology and the chemistry of life. Developed in collaboration with the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Scheller Teacher Education Program, this six-week interactive and collaborative professional development course draws on research in teaching and learning to develop the best experience for teachers.

In this discussion-based course, you will learn how to use online simulations which are aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards in order to develop core biology content and practices. The student facing materials consist of five modules designed for implementation over several class periods, serving as a replacement for an existing lab or activity. The online simulations include optional entry-level coding and the course provides support for learning to teach this with students. The materials include student and teacher guides with built in informal assessments. You will get a chance to work through these materials, watch teachers experienced with the materials teach the lessons, and then interact with experienced BioGraph teachers through online forums, webinars, and expert facilitation.

Important Information Regarding Verified Certificates:

The BioGraph Team will cover the cost of the Verified Certificate for participants who complete the course, including all surveys. In order to be eligible for this benefit please DO NOT register for the Verified Certificate. Upon completing the course, you will be issued a coupon which will allow you to receive the certificate free of charge. We cannot issue refunds or reimbursements for personally purchased certificates.

At a glance

  • Institutions: MITxPennX


  • Subject: Education & Teacher Training
  • Level: Introductory
  • Prerequisites:

    Experience with high school level biology content is helpful for navigating this course as it is not designed to teach content, but rather pedagogical tools that can support the content.

  • Language: English
  • Video Transcript: English
  • Associated skills: Ecology, Systems Thinking, Chemistry, Issuing Refunds, Biology, Teaching, Computer Simulation

What you'll learn

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Participants will be able to

  • Teach High School Biology content through a systems lens
  • Use online simulations that develop core ideas in biology
  • Modify simulations through basic blocks-based coding
  • Highlight the importance and usefulness of scientific models
  • Support students in computational modeling
  • Use scientific argumentation as a method for teaching and learning science content
  • Join a global community of teachers

It is suggested that you complete this course in 6-7 weeks.

There are three Synchronous Video Meet-ups scheduled throughout the course to help support you during your engagement. These Meet-ups will be scheduled to align with three suggested start dates and timelines for completing the course. You do not have to align your own progress with one of these timelines, but we highly suggest it for maximum support from the staff and facilitation team.

The three timelines are:

  • Track 1: May 12th – June 26th
  • Track 2: June 2nd – July 17th
  • Track 3: July 2nd – Aug 21st

Learner testimonials

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“The students were just so engaged in these lessons. It got them to relate content to the modules and just get a deeper understanding. I thought that was awesome. I'm excited to teach them again next year”

“A highlight for me was the gene regulation simulation. There's really nothing else out there like it. It's such an abstract concept, but one that I think it's so important for kids to understand. It's the one that I look forward to doing the most. I like all of the implementations, but that one was my personal favorite.”

Frequently Asked Questions

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Q: Can I still participate if I need to miss a week?
A: Yes. New modules will be released each week and we encourage participants to complete them the week they are released because the course is collaborative. However, modules will remain open through the end of the course so there is an opportunity to catch up if you need to miss a week.

Q: Can I receive graduate credit for participating?
A: We are not able to offer graduate credit at this time

Q: Can I receive Professional Development Points or Credits for participating?
A: If you teach in MA or PA, yes. If you teach in another state or country, we are happy to work with you to provide a letter of participation or other artifacts that you might need in order to apply for PDPs but we can’t guarantee that your state will accept them.

Q: How much prior experience with technology is needed?
A: As long as you are comfortable navigating a web browser, this course will teach you everything else you need to know.

Q: What technology capabilities do I need to run this program in my classroom?
A: Ideally you will need access to a classroom set of computers or laptops with access to the internet that allow students to work with the simulations in pairs or small groups. However, the simulations can also be used as a teacher-led demo activity if you only have access to a teacher computer. Additionally, the simulations and the pedagogical strategies that surround them present an opportunity for unique teacher learning. Even if the simulations are not used in implementation, the pedagogies presented in this course can be used independently in the classroom.

Who can take this course?

Unfortunately, learners residing in one or more of the following countries or regions will not be able to register for this course: Iran, Cuba and the Crimea region of Ukraine. While edX has sought licenses from the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to offer our courses to learners in these countries and regions, the licenses we have received are not broad enough to allow us to offer this course in all locations. edX truly regrets that U.S. sanctions prevent us from offering all of our courses to everyone, no matter where they live.

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