Meet a Collaborator: Q&A with a high school teacher

Carly Stevens/ November 30, 2018

It’s the time of year to be thankful, and we certainly have a lot to be thankful about here at LabXchange, especially when it comes to our collaborators.

Developing a new edtech product requires various beta testing, and user feedback. LabXchange, however, has taken the unique opportunity to work side-by-side with our end user group in every step of the development process. Thus, allowing LabXchange to truly be a platform that solves existing problems, and can be used by everyone.

What does a collaborator do? To shed some light on what it means to be a LabXchange collaborator, we decided to sit down with Mary Liu, who is a LabXchange Master Teacher assisting in the development of simulations and teaching videos on biotechnology techniques, including micropipetting and bacterial transformation. Mary is a teacher at Weston High School, where she has taught anatomy, AP biology, biotechnology, and chemistry. She earned her B.A. in biological science from Harvard University and her Ed.M. in learning and teaching, as well as her teaching certification, from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Mary Liu

Mary Liu

Q: Can you describe your role at LabXchange?

A: I have been working with the LabXchange program as a Master Teacher for the past year.  This means I’ve been able to collaborate with teachers and others to create content that will be hosted on the platform, refine and develop curriculum, so that it can be interpreted by a wide audience, and give feedback on what components of the platform teachers value.


Q: What aspects of your work with LabXchange have you found to be particularly rewarding?

A:I particularly have enjoyed the opportunities to collaborate on the project, both with other teachers who use the ABE (Amgen Biotechnology Experience) curriculum and who are interested in developing resources, but also with those interested in technology, instructional design, and those in a university setting looking to build the next level.  It has really stretched my thinking about educational solutions to problems teachers at all levels face.

August 2018 Summer Workshop

Q: Has your perception of online learning platforms changed since you began working with LabXchange? If so, how?

A: I have a greater appreciation for the power of an online platform, functioning as more than just content delivery. Often the components of an online learning platform are not flexible, and so are incomplete, or easily fall out fashion and no longer supported. LabXchange has gave me more hope for online platforms and the ability for me to use it with all students.

I also used to be skeptical about the social element of online platforms. After conversations about the variety of contributors to the platform, I think students will get a lot from interacting with university students, researchers, professors, and industry.

Mary teaching ABE labs to instructional designers

Q: How does the involvement of teachers as co-designers of the platform resources make LabXchange unique?

A: For most educational products, designers don’t ask teachers what would be most useful. So often these other platforms miss the mark in some element, or another. As a result, teachers are using parts of the different platforms, jerry-rigging platforms, and stringing together resources to make something that fits our classroom needs.

The opportunity to design the LabXchange platform was rare and golden, because I feel like now we will have a product that will be useful and easier to use. Also, it allows designers to see the components we value, so that the product created is something that will help teachers meet the needs of students in their classroom.

Q: Can you elaborate on the different projects that you’ve collaborated with other teachers on during the LabXchange summer workshops?

A: Some of the different projects we’ve worked on include creating content resources. For example, we worked to create videos that better explains column chromatography, or how the AraC protein regulates the expression of the rfp. This involved not only identifying the content components that would be appropriate, but also involved figuring out how to creatively depict the invisible molecular processes. It helped us think about common student misconceptions and the best way to address them in a visual way.

We also worked this summer on helping convert the ABE lab curriculum into content that could be built out as simulations. We spent time thinking about what we wanted students to experience virtually and what elements of the experience were important to replicate.

We also mapped out pathways of content and resources that would be useful for teachers to access in order to provide students with ABE online experiences, or experiences that support their classroom time. This was with the goal of compartmentalizing the ABE lab curriculum, so that it could be developed and assessed in chunks that could be more flexible and adapted for all kinds of learners.

The filming of “Bacterial Transformation”

Q: When LabXchange launches next year, are there particular aspects of the platform that you are excited to share with your students?  

A: I’m excited to share the flexibility of the platform. One of the biggest challenges in class is finding ways to differentiate for students. I’m hoping the platform will allow me to create both opportunities for exploration and opportunities for extra support for my students.

I’m also excited about the assessment element so that I can track student progress and see where they go through these learning experiences. This will help me determine if they’ve met different learning objectives, and allow me to be more adaptable within the platform and within the classroom.

And lastly, I think It will be great for students to see university students and people in industry and the research they are conducting. It will give my students a chance to see people of all backgrounds, and young people like themselves doing science.