University-level practical activities in bioinformatics benefit voluntary groups of pupils in the last 2 years of school

Daniel Barker, Rosanna Grace Alderson, James L. McDonagh, Heleen Plaisier, Muriel Margaret Comrie, Leigh Duncan, Gavin T.P. Muirhead, Stuart D. Sweeney

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Bioinformatics—the use of computers in biology—is of major and increasing importance to biological sciences and medicine. We conducted a preliminary investigation of the value of bringing practical, university-level bioinformatics education to the school level. We conducted voluntary activities for pupils at two schools in Scotland (years S5 and S6; pupils aged 15–17). We used material originally developed for an optional final-year undergraduate module and now incorporated into 4273π, a resource for teaching and learning bioinformatics on the low-cost Raspberry Pi computer.

Pupils’ feedback forms suggested our activities were beneficial. During the course of the activity, they provide strong evidence of increase in the following: pupils’ perception of the value of computers within biology; their knowledge of the Linux operating system and the Raspberry Pi; their willingness to use computers rather than phones or tablets; their ability to program a computer and their ability to analyse DNA sequences with a computer. We found no strong evidence of negative effects.

Our preliminary study supports the feasibility of bringing university-level, practical bioinformatics activities to school pupils.
Original languageEnglish
Article number17
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of STEM Education
Publication statusPublished - 28 Oct 2015


  • Bioinformatics
  • Computational biology
  • Secondary school
  • Raspberry Pi
  • Open access teaching material
  • Case study


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