November 2015 | Editorial
Bringing Technology into the Chemistry Classroom
By Emily Bones
Regardless of your scope and sequence in a first-year chemistry class, by now your students are well-versed in the periodic table and able to explain real-life phenomena with more scientific knowledge than they could three months ago. In such a short time, they’ve become more chemically proficient than they were when they first walked into the lab. And it’s all because of your hard work, passion, and patience. At AACT, we like to keep that in mind, so we bring you another issue full of ideas that are ready to implement in your classroom.
Read about how to ignite a competitive spirit in your students by using games to teach concepts, lower the barrier to collaboration among your students with Google Docs and other cloud-based products, use a data-packed periodic table website, and bring chemistry to life by making videos with some quick tips from an expert. As more states adopt the Next Generation Science Standards, teachers are faced with rethinking some lessons and assessments—and you can read one teacher’s reflection of how she and her colleagues responded. With the help of some students, another teacher suggests an alternative method to a traditional limiting reactant lab that requires students to show their understanding of a variety of topics. And, as always, we’ve included a story of how one teacher fell in love with teaching chemistry.
I’ve written about this before, but I think it bears repeating: technology is a chemistry teacher’s greatest tool. The alternative lab method involves data collaboration using the cloud and various Google products, which are free and user-friendly. Making videos to help bring ideas to life also requires technology, and without a computer and Internet, using ptable.com isn’t possible.
Recently, to teach the concepts of atomic and ionic radii as well as ionization energy, I created a WebQuest for students. They had to collect data from various sources on the Internet, including ptable.com, and draw their own conclusions about these trends. Many of my students told me that because they were responsible for collecting the data themselves, making sense of the trends seemed less confusing than a traditional lecture would have. My takeaway from the activity was that by having students find the data on their own, they were more engaged in the topic and found the trends more meaningful.
Along the lines of bring gaming and technology into the classroom, and as a way to formatively assess students, I’ve discovered Kahoot! I’ve used it to review basic concepts students should know at the beginning of a unit, to review before an assessment, and as a tool to find out the range of understanding within a class. Even though I stop and explain the answer at the end of each question, students really enjoy the competition and take ownership of their knowledge. The leaderboard is public, so they know which students are doing well, and the faster they answer, the more points they earn. At the end of the game, the teacher can download a detailed report that breaks down results question by question. When I first learned of the program, I figured students would find it cheesy, but they regularly ask me, “Are we going to Kahoot! today?” I make my own quizzes, but you can search through the website and find premade activities to use with your classes.
Since our September issue, a big event in the world of chemistry has happened—Mole Day, on October 23 at 6:02 AM, in honor of Avogadro’s number, 6.02x1023. The last time I celebrated Mole Day was in 2010. I usually introduce the mole by using socks and egg cartons to emphasize the idea that a word can represent a number, and then I drop the bomb of 6.02x1023 on students. I then go through some molar mass calculations with compounds like salt, sugar, and baking soda. And when I announce that I’ve made students a mole of cookies with these ingredients—talk about formative assessment! Some kids exclaim, “No way, that’s so cool!” and the kids who really understand say, “No way, that’s impossible!”
This year, inspired by the AACT #molympics webinar presented by Doug Ragan and Kristin Gregory, I added some new activities to the celebration. I didn’t officially enter my students in the competition, but I used the tally mark, the metal measurement, and mole tower activities from the competition with my students. These activities don’t require technology, but the fact that 16 schools from around the country competed against one another certainly does!
As always, I encourage you to collaborate with the community. As you read articles, incorporate lessons from the library in your curriculum, or use multimedia with your classes, leave a comment and let other AACT members know what worked, or what you tweaked. And if you have a unique way of doing something with your class, write an article for Chemistry Solutions. Either myself or managing editor Jenn Parsons will be happy to help you develop an idea into an article.
Chemistry Solutions editor