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Evolution 2.0. The Unexpected Learning Experience of Making a Digital Archive


Studies in the history of science and education have documented that the reception and understanding of evolutionary theory is highly contingent on local factors such as school systems, cultural traditions, religious beliefs, and language. This has important implications for teaching evolution in primary and secondary schools. No universal strategy can be applied in overcoming the barriers of learning that exist and that are part of the practical and daily life in classrooms all over the world. In light of this, a huge challenge is to make high standard teaching materials fit to specific target audiences readily available. As more and more schools require teachers to use low cost or free web-based materials, in the research community we need to take seriously how to facilitate that demand in communication strategies on evolution. This article addresses this challenge by presenting the learning experience of making a digital archive of Danish Darwin editions that marked the beginnings of a series of public engagement and teaching initiatives including, among other things, comprehensive new websites, exhibits, lecture series, television documentaries, and a computer game.

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  1. 1.

    The web address for Darwin in Denmark was Darwin in Denmark has evolved into the two websites and (see below).

  2. 2.

    The term 2.0 refers to websites developed in a user centred design that allow users to interact with, respond to, and contribute to the material as a virtual community. Web 2.0 does not, primarily, refer to new web technologies and technical specifications, but rather to changes in end-users’ and site developers’ application of the world wide web (Dalsgaard and Sørensen 2008). It is this understanding of Web 2.0 that originally underpinned the science communication project analysed in this article (see below).

  3. 3.

    Answers for Darwin was arranged by the most prominent creationist organisation in America, Answers in Genesis, and took place 6–7 February 2009 in California and 15–17 February 2009 in Virginia. Conference homepage: Accessed 26 January 2011. For reactions from some of the people who were tricked into participating in the documentary projects see (Scott 2008; Bowler et al. 2009).

  4. 4.

    In Denmark, evolutionary theory is part of the national curriculum in 5th and 6th grade ‘natural sciences/technology’ classes and in 7th to 9th grade biology classes in the ‘primary and lower secondary school’ (Folkeskole), and in advanced biology classes in ‘upper secondary school’ (Gymnasium) ( Accessed 15 February 2011).

  5. 5.

    While was the first university-based open educational resource on evolution in Danish, the United States host a number of university-sanctioned websites devoted to the teaching of evolution (Smith 2010, 559). One example is The Berkeley site contains a large collection of teaching resources. Although terrific for teachers it is not designed to accommodate school children’s needs and is difficult to navigate. The web design is not up-to-date which will further discourage younger users to stay on the site compared to, for instance, several other anti-evolution sites. Another kind of North-American non-profit site is This site is created and hosted by an individual researcher and functions mostly as a hub for information about evolution. In Europe, colleagues at Ghent University have launched to accommodate the need for a national Belgian site. None of these examples, however, have so far integrated knowledge and design in the way it was done for

  6. 6.

    Ministry of Education: Accessed 6 January 2011. For information about the educational system in Denmark, see the English-language Ministry of Education website Accessed 6 January 2011.

  7. 7. Accessed 26 January 2011.

  8. 8. Accessed 26 January 2011. Accessed 26 January 2011. Accessed 26 January 2011.

  9. 9. Accessed 26 January 2011.

  10. 10. Accessed 26 January 2011.

  11. 11. Accessed 26 January 2011.

  12. 12. Accessed 26 January 2011.


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Many people have been involved at various stages in the evolution from Darwin in Denmark to Interdisciplinary Evolutionary Studies at Aarhus University. We are grateful to everyone from student volunteers, teachers, IT-staff and colleagues. A few people have been of key importance to one or more of the projects over the years. John van Wyhe was a great inspiration for the initial website. His keen interest, dedication, collaboration and invitation to host the many original sources at The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online has made The Danish Darwin Archive available to a much larger audience. We have benefited a lot from our collaboration with Alison Pearn and colleagues at the Darwin Correspondence Project at the University of Cambridge. The interest and support from students and colleagues at the Leverhulme Centre for Human Evolutionary Studies, University of Cambridge, and St John’s College, Cambridge, is gratefully acknowledged. At the Natural History Museum, University of Copenhagen, Hanne Strager, Jens Astrup, Peter Gravlund and colleagues inspired us to bring our ideas to a larger audience. Thanks to all the contributors of, for sharing and communicating their knowledge and research, to Michael Jørgensen and the student volunteers Gry Vissing Jensen, Laura Søvsø Thomasen, Nanna K. Lüders Kaalund, Nicolai Cryer, and Helene Sloth Borgholm. Thanks also to Risskov Gymnasium, Aarhus, especially Bodil Hohwü Nielsen and Lisbeth Kusk Madsen for getting their students to provide systematic and valuable user-feedback on A special thanks to members of the editorial board and steering committee of, Bodil K. Ehlers, Jesper Givskov Sørensen, Ditte Demontis, Jørn Madsen, Volker Loeschcke, Henrik Balslev and Bo Holm Jacobsen, and to Ebbe Sloth Andersen for his magnificient illustrations. Thanks to the editor and anonymous reviewers for valuable suggestions. The projects have received financial support from the Danish National Science Foundation, Danske Bank, Villum Kann Rasmussen Fonden, and Aarhus Network for Science, Technology, Medicine and Climate Studies.

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Correspondence to Peter C. Kjærgaard.

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Andersen, C., Bek-Thomsen, J., Clasen, M. et al. Evolution 2.0. The Unexpected Learning Experience of Making a Digital Archive. Sci & Educ 22, 657–675 (2013).

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