Phylo-Genie: Teaching "Tree-Thinking" through Tabletop Interaction


Megan Strait, Bertrand Schneider, Laurence Muller, Sarah Elfenbein, Orit Shaer, Chia Shen



Project Brief:

This project is a collaborative effort between our HCI lab and the Scientist's Discovery Room Lab at Harvard University.

The goal for this project is to create a collaborative learning module that allows students to experience the process of creating and interpreting phylogenetic trees.

In discussions with instructors of college-level evolutionary biology, we discovered that the concepts behind tree-building can be difficult to grasp for students, and the ability to correctly interpret the information communicated through trees often does not come naturally. By implementing a collaborative activity that utilizes new ways of interacting with trees and tree-building, we hope to address some of these challenges.

We are implementing this computational learning module on the Microsoft Surface platform. This allows us to explore the use of interaction techniques that would not be possible with a traditional pen-and-paper exercise. Students can physically order and arrange character traits and explore different arrangements and representations for the taxa, transitioning from one visualization to another with ease.


© 2017 Wellesley College Human-Computer Interaction Laboratory.