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Using biotechnology to develop values discourse in school science

Biotechnology, broadly defined, is the manipulation of living organisms, or parts of living organisms or systems, for specific purposes of benefit to humankind. As such, it has been practiced for centuries—from early domestication of animals and the growing of crops, to the use of micro-organisms for fermentation. However, increasing understanding of living organisms, cells and genetic material has greatly extended the range of biotechnologies that are and will be possible. These more recent advances—frequently associated with genetic technologies—have potential to transform medicine, reduce world wide hunger, and positively alter humankind’s environmental footprint. However, many are values-laden and therefore controversial, and even divisive. For example, the creation of the world’s first human-pig embryos was “hailed as a significant first step towards generating human hearts, livers and kidneys from scratch” while at the same time “reignited ethical concerns that have threatened to overshadow the field’s clinical promise” (Devlin, 2017). The use of emerging production, engineering and analytical technologies in the development of pharmaceuticals and neutraceuticals from plants first discovered by indigenous communities was recently called ethnophytotechnology (see de la Parra & Quave, 2017). They raise important issues around ownership and profits, and several international conventions, such as the Nagoya Protocol, provide guidance on how to fairly share profits gleaned from the genetic resources of indigenous people. This chapter explores the potential for using learning about biotechnology to help school students develop their scientific literacy, technological literacy, and values discourse. These outcomes are consistent with the current emphasis on STEM education seen at the policy level across many educational jurisdictions, as well as the emphasis on so-called ‘21st century skills’, which often include competencies associated with cultural awareness and social responsibility. Importantly, the overlapping scientific, technological and social dimensions of contemporary biotechnological developments provide rich opportunities for diverse learning pathways to be pursued. Our experience, however, is that the openness resulting from different pathways can be challenging for some teachers, and that structured scaffolds can help provide useful support as they and their students embark on learning in biotechnological contexts.
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Buntting, C. M., & Jones, A. (2020). Using biotechnology to develop values discourse in school science. In D. Corrigan, C. M. Buntting, A. Fitzgerald, & A. Jones (Eds.), Values in science education: The shifting sands (pp. 105–117). Springer Nature Switzerland AG.
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This is a post-peer-review, pre-copyedit version of an article published in [insert journal title]. The final authenticated version is available online at: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-42172-4_1. © 2020 Springer Nature Switzerland AG