Chapter 2
Hands on petri dish

Chapter 3
test tubes

Chapter 4
Petri dishes with samples of plants

Chapter 5
hand sorting pills

Language and Life Sciences
A Forum Electronic Journal

Published online by the Office of English Language Programs, U.S. Department of State, 2003

William P. Ancker

Internet Editor
Rick Rosenberg

Language and Life Sciences: A Forum Electronic Journal


Introduction: Advances in Biotechnology

About the Authors

The Advances in Biotechnology volume has been created to provide language teachers with resources about breakthroughs in biotechnology. The volume does not require teachers and their students to have extensive prior knowledge or expertise in this field. Instead, the materials give teachers and their students just enough background in the topic to understand the implications this scientific field has for their lives and society's future. They also serve as a springboard for meaningful discussion about issues that confront all of us as this technology evolves.

The chapters provide teachers with resources they can exploit to create content-based lessons related to biotechnology. Each chapter of the volume highlights one aspect of research in the field of DNA and genetics along with its applications to and implications for society.

The chapters feature relevant background information on each topic, interactive and communicative classroom activities, and a list of related print and Internet resources that will allow teachers to expand the lesson further.

Biotechnology Topics as Meaningful Content

Biotechnology is perhaps the most rapidly advancing area in science today. Articles about developments and controversies in this field appear virtually every day in print and electronic media. Given this explosion in knowledge and the impact it has on our daily lives, the topic is one that all individuals need to be informed about.

For this volume, we have chosen to focus on both the promises and controversies surrounding research on DNA and genetics. Although there are many other aspects of biotechnology that are deserving of coverage, the area of DNA research is the foundation of all work in biotechnology. Thus a solid background in DNA advances is essential for understanding all other research in this field.

In addition to explaining what DNA is and how it was discovered, the chapters in this volume examine how this knowledge is being broadly applied in fields ranging from medicine to criminal justice to agriculture. Each chapter takes a two-part approach to the topic, examining both the scientific mechanisms behind each scientific advance and the ethical dilemmas the new discovery raises.

Topics in Biotechnology Chosen for This Volume

Because advances in biotechnology overlap with most other scientific fields and impact many aspects of our lives, the topics that teachers can explore with their students are quite far-reaching. For this volume, we have singled out the following topics:

Mapping the Human Genome
Controversial Issues in Gene Research
Biotechnology and Crop Engineering
Drugs of the Future

These particular topics have been selected due to: (1) their timeliness; (2) their foundational nature in helping to explicate this rapidly-expanding field; (3) their relevance to the lives of individuals living in all parts of the world; and (4) their controversial nature and the ethical issues surrounding them.

Each chapter contains the following components:

  • Introduction to the Topic and Background Information
  • Classroom Applications
  • Preliminary Lesson Planning
  • Warm Up Activity and Transition
  • Activity 1
  • Activity 2
  • Activity 3
  • Cool Down Activity
  • Possible Extensions
  • Internet Resources
  • References and Endnotes
  • Appendices (includes Glossary and Classroom Materials)

Each chapter is conceived as a self-contained unit. We have sequenced the chapters according to our own perceptions of their difficulty level, but teachers may opt to use the materials in a different sequence or to use only those chapters that they consider most relevant for their classes.

When planning their lessons, teachers are encouraged to consult the lesson plan section of the chapter and to follow the procedures as we have outlined them. In such instances, all necessary instructions for using the materials are contained in the chapters and the teaching materials themselves are available in the Appendix section. However, since teachers are the best judges of their own students' needs and interests, we have also built flexibility into each lesson and have outlined alternatives in the Possible Extensions section. Additional valuable teaching resources are listed in the Internet Resources section. We certainly encourage teachers to explore these additional resources and to innovate and alter the lessons as needed to better fit their own teaching contexts.

We envision the chapters as having various uses depending on the teaching/learning context in which they are used. Some teachers may wish to use the materials selectively to stimulate class discussion on an occasional basis; others may wish to work systematically through the chapters, using the biotechnology content as core materials in their curriculum to promote English language proficiency.

The content-based approach to language development used in these chapters is predicated on the belief that through the use of challenging and interesting content, students will both be engaged and be pushed in their language development. We believe that the end result of using these materials will be increased command of English along with the added benefit of their improved understanding of how genetic advances are destined to change all our lives.

About the Authors

Donna M. Brinton currently serves as a Lecturer in Applied Linguistics and as Academic Coordinator of ESL Service Courses at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). She has held these positions since 1979. As Academic Coordinator, she oversees ESL courses for matriculated university students. As a Lecturer, she teaches M.A. and Ph.D. students in Applied Linguistics and undergraduate students in Teaching ESL/EFL. Her interests in language education include TESOL methods, English for Specific Purposes (ESP), Content Based Instruction (CBI), teacher development, teaching pronunciation, teaching literature, and instructional media. She has co-authored several teacher reference texts in pronunciation teaching, ESP, and CBI. She is also co-editor of The CATESOL Journal (published by California TESOL). Finally, she is quite active in short-term international teacher training. As a consultant, she has visited Canada, Mexico, Thailand, South Korea, Vietnam, Taiwan, Israel, South Africa, Mozambique, Madagascar, Mauritius, Argentina, and Brazil.

Christine Holten has been a lecturer in UCLA's Department of Applied Linguistics and TESL since 1988. She teaches advanced ESL writing courses to undergraduate and graduate students and courses in the M.A. program. She has presented papers and published articles on writing conferences, grammar and language in writing instruction, composition tutoring, portfolio assessment, literature in content-based instruction, and other topics related to writing and content-based instruction. She is co-author of an ESL content-based textbook series and an ESL composition textbook, both for advanced ESL students. She began her career teaching EFL in Cameroon.

Jodi L. Nooyen is currently a full-time ESL instructor for the English Language Programme at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City. Since 1992, she has taught languages and trained EFL/ESL teachers in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Japan. In 2000-2001, she served as a U.S Department of State English Language Fellow in Venezuela. A 2000 graduate of the M.A. Program in Applied Linguistics and TESOL at UCLA, her professional interests include computer-accessed language learning, content-based instruction, curriculum design, and materials development. She frequently presents on the use of computers and the Internet in the ESL/EFL classroom and has recently contributed to several publications including Recipes for Wired Teachers, and an on-line newsletter for Japanese EFL students.

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