The ASM Education Department offers professional development institutes that aim to improve science teaching. I first heard about these “Bioinformatics Institutes” for educators at the ASMCUE 2008 meeting. The official tag line for this conference for undergraduate educators was “Celebrating 15 years of Teaching Excellence,” however, the subtext that emerged for me was the sorry state of teaching bioinformatics at the university/college level. There are some bright spots, but across the board, educators are struggling with how to get bioinformatics into their curricula. Thus, the need for these workshops that offer just in time training for instructors.
The Summer Bioinformatics Institute, Enhancing the Undergraduate Curriculum through Bioinformatics, aims to meet the need for more undergraduate faculty in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) disciplines to understand, interpret, and use molecular sequence information to solve problems. The program features the analysis of microbial genomes, molecular sequences, and structural data, providing a framework for developing classroom activities and research projects for undergraduate students.
Check out facultyprograms.org for more information.
Programs like this one offer great opportunities but have limited spots available. A complementary solution would be for a small groups of faculty to come together and develop portable training programs that deal with bioinformatics content as well as how to teach bioinformatics that could be offered locally at multiple institutions.
A common set of guiding principals about “What to teach?” could be very useful for this kind of “train the trainers” type of endeavor. I’ll be following the outcomes of this Workshop on Computational Education for Scientists with much interest as it deals with that very question.