To incorporate computational thinking into a biology class for pre-service teachers, we created three interactive simulations that model the spread of disease. These simulations were developed using NetLogo, a programmable modeling environment for simulating natural and social phenomena. In each simulation, students can modify the parameters and the code to test different scenarios.
Public health officials use the Susceptible-Infected-Recovered (SIR) model to predict the risk of an epidemic. As a disease spreads, susceptible people become infected and then recover. Thus, the numbers of susceptible, infected, and recovered people change over time. We created a NetLogo simulation that demonstrates the SIR model as well as a hands-on activity in which students act out the spread of a disease.
We created a NetLogo simulation that demonstrates the spread of the mosquito-borne Zika virus. Users can manipulate various parameters in the simulation, such as the population size and the percentage initially infected. Accompanying the simulation is an exercise in which students modify the simulation’s code to include additional factors, such as transmission through sexual contact, changing the number of mosquitoes, and varying the chance that a mosquito bite results in infection.
We created a NetLogo simulation that demonstrates the spread of the West Nile virus (WNV). Robins and cardinals serve as hosts for WNV, and mosquitoes transmit the virus by biting an infected bird and then a human. Our simulation thus includes four agents – humans, mosquitoes, robins, and cardinals. Users can manipulate various parameters in the simulation, such as the population size and the percentage initially infected. Additionally, users can examine the simulation’s code and add their own refinements.