Big Deal Media

K-12 Technology

Jun 01, 2021 2021-06-01

Mobile Learning

Simulation of the Spread of a Virtual Pathogen

Operation Outbreak is an innovative platform for STEM education on infectious diseases and outbreak preparedness created by Sarasota Military Academy Prep School and the Sabeti Lab at The Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT. The platform integrates an academic unit covering relevant science and humanities subjects with a culminating “outbreak simulation” experiential learning activity. The activity replicates a real-world outbreak scenario and guides students on how to respond through a coordinated effort and use of technology, teaching them biology and public health in the process. Operation Outbreak’s mobile app lets users customize a virtual virus: how infectious and virulent it will be and whether it will spread asymptomatically. On-screen emojis differentiate the healthy, the sick, and the deceased. Participants can earn digital “masks” by taking in-app quizzes on topics such as epidemiology, historical pandemics, and the role of the World Health Organization. The Outbreak team has crafted standards-aligned lesson plans in two broad categories—science and governance—that can be tailored to different levels of complexity. The team has also partnered with Fathom Information Design to create a dashboard that displays time-lapse renderings of the simulation: participants are shown as numbered dots, color-coded according to infection status, which move in and out of contact with one another, spreading the virtual virus, getting sick, and then recovering (or not). A simulation visualization is posted on YouTube. The app is free for iOS and Android users.

STEM • STEAM • STREAM Science Humanities Educational Technology

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