Ever since the time of Mendel, students and the general public have struggled with how to understand the interconnection of mathematics and genetics. Not because understanding Mendelian mathematics is a difficult subject, but rather because the application of mathematics has never been the strong suit for most people.
Reginald Punnett recognized this struggle when in 1909 he introduced the Punnett square - the cornerstone of genetics education in almost every classroom. In fact, for almost 100 years now, while the science of genetics has evolved by leaps and bounds, little has changed in the way that educators teach genetics.
I recently stumbled across a new website prepared by Nature Education - it is called Scitable, and it may possible be exactly what is needed in getting people to understand genetics. Scitable is a site for people to interact and learn more about genetics, biotechnology, and the interaction of the molecular sciences with society. It seems to be more than just an education site, however. Anyone with an interest in genetics can interact with the site... and it appears that it has the potential to link scientists to the general public.
What I especially find intriguing about this site is the ability of individuals to upload information on genetics for use by other members of the community.I have long been a proponent of community-based learning in the sciences. Studies have consistently shown that community-based learning is the more effective form of education.
The problem, especially for small, rural schools, has been to get enough people to form the community.Websites such as Scitable may be the first generation of the answer to this problem. By potentially linking people from around the globe, students can get a multi-cultural view of genetics and its relationship with society.
It remains to be seen how the public will respond to the site, but it is my opinion that we could very well be looking at the next generation of science education.