The Cancer Gene We All Have

A few years ago, as I was becoming increasingly frustrated with teaching the mega-classes of introductory biology at Appalachian State, I began to reach out and explore how I could engage students in understanding the relevance of science to their lives.

As fortune would have it,  I was nominated to produce a  TedEd Animation with ZedeM Media  As part of that process, the TedEd team asked me to think about an innovative way that I was using to teach students about a difficult topic, and how I would approach that topic if I had the ability to present it as an animation.  Since my entire teaching career had, and still does, revolve around presenting complex scientific concepts to anyone who isn’t a scientist, I leaped at the opportunity.

But which topics to choose? I’ve always been convinced that students actually like science, but that they get lost in the details and lose track of the relevancy. So after spending some time thinking over the possibilities, I eventually settled on one of most popular topics on my RicochetScience website, the link between the genes that we carry and cancer. This topic has always grabbed the attention of students, since most of them have some connection to cancer, either through friends, family, and sometimes, themselves. And in most cases, they eager to learn more.

I won’t get into the details of the science, or the production process here, but would rather focus on the animation that we produced together.

And for the full TedEd lesson, click here:

This was an incredibly fun project to work on. Not only did I get to work with an extremely talented international animation team, but I was getting the opportunity to produce something that was basically an extension of my teaching style – telling a story to make the content relevant.

Every project I have worked on since then, from content supplements for my textbooks, to innovative new ways of relating content to students, and onto acting as a co-founder of a company that brings the inspiration of science to students across the globe, are all rooted in a series of events that link back to an animation about a cancer gene.