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In the spring of 2012, the authors of this paper organized a symposium entitled Mobile Devices, Augmented Reality, and the Mobile Classroom at the National Meeting of the American Chemical Society in Philadelphia, PA. This symposium was held under the auspices of the Committee on Computers in Chemical Education. There was strong interest in this topic as evidenced by the number of abstracts submitted as well as the attendance at both of the sessions. At the conclusion of the presentations, Tony Williams suggested that we should seek ways to maintain the momentum from this event, by encouraging information exchange and cooperative efforts involving the symposium presenters as well as other interested parties from the broader chemical community. This paper represents a first step towards that goal.
The purposes of this paper are to:
Make more chemistry faculty aware of instructional applications of mobile devices
Describe some current mobile projects and create avenues for possible future cooperation
Be the first step towards creating a network of chemistry faculty who will share their success (and failures) in using mobile phones and tablets to teach Chemistry.
In the spring of 2012, the authors of this paper organized a symposium entitled Mobile Devices, Augmented Reality, and the Mobile Classroom at the National Meeting of the American Chemical Society in Philadelphia, PA. This symposium was held under the auspices of the Committee on Computers in Chemical Education. There was strong interest in this topic as evidenced by the number of abstracts submitted as well as the attendance at both of the sessions. At the conclusion of the presentations, Antony Williams suggested that we should seek ways to maintain the momentum from this event, by encouraging information exchange and cooperative efforts involving the symposium presenters as well as other interested parties from the broader chemical community. Most of the participants in the symposium agreed to participate in an online discussion of their papers to move towards this goal. This paper includes a brief summary of these presentations.
It is hoped that the online participants will join with the original presenters to explore how mobile devices, both smartphones and tablet computers, might be used for teaching chemistry. The participants in the online discussion might ask questions about how the various projects were implemented, suggest a next step beyond the applications mentioned, propose specific instructional areas where mobile devices might be effective tools, propose cooperative projects involving one or more of the presenters, or describe how they are using mobile devices for chemistry. The long-term goal is to create a continuing dialogue among those who are interested in using mobile devices. The following sections are limited to the presentations from the original symposium based on the availability of the presenter for this online discussion. In each case only the primary author is listed, based on who indicated they would be available for the discussion.
Harry E. Pence (SUNY Oneonta) introduced the symposium by discussing Mobile devices and the future of chemical education. Pence argued that more than half of the students in most chemistry classrooms now own smartphones and/or tablet computers, and that percentage is growing rapidly. Use of mobile devices is now at the place where electronic calculators were a little more than a decade ago; many instructors are focused more on potential abuse of the devices than on the ways they will change the learning process. Since most students always carry their smartphones, these devices provide continuous access to web pages, podcasts, videos, and other instructional materials, including during lecture. Mobile devices are also a powerful vehicle for using QR codes, markered and markerless augmented reality applications to create situated learning experiences. He asked whether chemistry teachers are going to respond to these changes or wait to be dragged into the future by our students.
IM-Chem: The use of instant messaging to improve student performance and personalize large lecture general chemistry courses was the title of a presentation by Derek A Behmke from Bradley University. Behmke noted that previous research has linked poor student performance with the depersonalized feeling of large lecture courses. At the University of Georgia they have attempted to enhance communication by handing out 26 instant messaging (IM) devices to selected students in a large (1500 student) general chemistry course. Teaching assistants monitored the messages from the devices and informed the instructor when there were a lot of questions on a particular topic. They found that IM-Chem participants had a mean course grade that was 0.14 GPA units higher than non-participants, probably due to the active learning environment created by the IM devices. Additionally, an overwhelming majority of participants stated that IM-Chem personalized the large lecture setting by providing them with an unintimidating way to ask questions and individualized answers to those questions.
Cynthia B Powell from Abilene Christian University talked about a Case study in mobile device usage: Mobile enhanced inquiry-based learning (MEIBL), a collaboration that involved Faculty members at three different institutions. Mobile devices were used to deliver podcasts covering laboratory techniques and conceptual information that provided vital modeling and scaffolding for students working in chemistry and biology laboratories taught with an inquiry-based curriculum. The results indicate that the electronic resources allow students to work more independently and writing samples that were evaluated indicate an improvement in depth of learning across a semester. Students responded positively to the mobile platform, and ~70% reported that the electronic resources enhanced their academic experience.
Autumn L. Sutherlin, also from Abilene Christian University, discussed her work on Blended biochemistry: Using technology outside of class to better reach students in class. Sutherlin pointed out that Biochemistry is difficult because it requires not only the memorization, but also the interpretation and evaluation of large amounts of material. She said that technology helped her to introduce constructivist techniques into her Biochemistry I course.
Students did assigned reading followed by Just-in-Time Teaching, including warm-up questions which they responded to online before class. The warm-up questions along with responses to clicker questions followed by Peer Instruction were used to guide class discussion. This helped the instructor identify the areas of content where the students were struggling and to focus in on areas that require higher order thinking skills. In conclusion, she observed that students not only liked peer instruction and just-in-time teaching, but that it also allowed them to perform better on examinations.
Mobile learning in organic chemistry: Discussion of the student's role in the 21st century classroom was the title of a paper given by Mai Yin Tsoi from Georgia Gwinnett College. Acknowledging that today's students are very different from those of previous generations, she and her colleagues created a student-centered, mobile learning environment in Organic Chemistry with a suite of electronic course materials which include videos, apps, and a social network. This project has been underway for the past three years, and the findings thus far show that students bring a distinct set of needs and skills to the learning environment, which impact their use of the mobile learning materials. Some of these qualities, such as self-efficacy, attitude, and technology expertise, were found to significantly affect whether students use mobile devices for learning Organic Chemistry.
Antony J Williams of the Royal Society of Chemistry presented a paper entitled Putting chemistry into the hands of students - chemistry made mobile using resources from the Royal Society of Chemistry. The increasing prevalence of mobile devices offers the opportunity to provide chemistry students with easy access to a multitude of resources. As a publisher the RSC provides a myriad of content to chemists including an online database of over 286 million chemical compounds, tools for learning spectroscopy and access to scientific literature and other educational materials. This presentation provided a review of the efforts to make RSC content more mobile and therefore increasingly available to chemists. In particular it discussed their efforts to provide access to chemistry related data of high value to students in the laboratory and included an overview of spectroscopy tools for the review and analysis of various forms of spectroscopy data.
Alex M Clark (Molecular Materials Informatics of Canada) discussed the current state of the art for mobile apps for chemistry, and their use in an educational context in his paper entitled, Chemical structure diagrams, reactions, and data: Anytime, anywhere. The creation of chemistry-aware mobile apps presents a significant opportunity to enhance chemical education. Tablets and mobile phones introduce a level of convenience that makes them all but omnipresent. Access to chemistry-oriented learning material is of significant value, and taking it one step further involves providing content-creation capabilities. Being able to create, view, send and receive chemical data, and use it to interact with educational or reference services, makes these devices powerful interactive learning tools.
In her talk entitled, Engaging students in learning through the use of mobile webapps, Lisa B. Lewis of Albion College pointed out that our students are addicted to their mobile devices, and so are we. She suggested that there was a way to take the obsession that students have with mobile devices and harness it for education. Her talk described the efforts to create mobile web applications for the study of chemistry and English using HTML5 and Java. She described some examples of the webapps developed for the study of acids and bases, including the design, format, pedagogy, and coding challenges that were encountered. Students liked these apps because they allowed them to digitally study wherever they were, and felt that the value was equivalent to their online homework program.
Using HTML5 to build immersive teaching materials, was given by Kevin J Theisen from iChemLabs, LLC. Theisen said that mobile devices give students today access to a wealth of technology for interacting with digital information. It can be very enticing to take advantage of these platforms in classrooms. However, the ability to distribute information across the wide range of devices students may possess is a significant problem. This barrier restricts most instructors to distributing text and images, since they simply do not have the time to prepare and format coursework for all the existing devices. HTML5 standards present a simpler approach to distributing dynamic graphics and interactive data across all desktops.
Doris I. Lewis (Suffolk University) discussed The Demise of the Textbook and the Rise of ... Something Else. Lewis noted that textbook publication and authoring are seeing a rapid transition from a printed format to a variety of electronic platforms. The year 2012 has seen the release of the Apple iPad text platform, a lawsuit against a Boston open-source text company by three major textbook publishers, and the widespread adoption of Blackboard-based online learning systems in colleges and iPad texts in high schools. Science education content creators face an expanding variety of options, with no settled, universal platform yet on the horizon.
Lucille A Benedict from The University of Southern Maine gave a presentation entitled, Integrating student-created videos into research papers. She pointed out that students increasingly create personal videos and photos, use multimedia (videos and photos) to supplement study materials, disseminate these on social websites, and generate QR codes embedded with a URL linked to the content. For this project, students in instrumental analysis created research papers that included short videos focused on research methods developed during independent research performed in the course. Videos were uploaded to YouTube and accessed from research manuscripts using QR codes. Evaluation of articles and videos was analogous to journal article review; papers that were accepted for publication were incorporated into an online course journal. This project is an extension of published work that had students create videos that were then QR coded and posted to instruments and lab manuals. This project reinforced that having students create a publication increases their engagement and their investment in the finished product.
This was an exciting and well-attended symposium, followed by an active discussion of how this group might continue to cooperate on this topic and expand the dialogue beyond the current venue. The organizers thank all the speakers, as well as the Committee on Computers in Chemical Education for sponsoring the symposium and Cynthia B Powell for moderating one of the sessions.
The “flipped” classroom has received much attention recently among educators as an innovative method to improve instruction in order to make the classroom more student-centered (Bergman and Sams, 2009; Morgan, 2011; Overmeyer, 2010). In brief, the flipped classroom makes use of video/screen capturing technology to capture content rich lectures, making them student homework. As a result, formal lecture time in the classroom is drastically reduced, allowing for more laboratories, demonstrations, problem-based learning, etc. to be introduced without sacrificing precious instructional time to lecturing. The flipped classroom is not a specific prescriptive methodology to teaching; instead, flipping the classroom is focused on the learning activities that occur in the classroom beyond traditional lecture and can be utilized effectively both in the high school and college classroom. In designing purposeful experiences in a high school chemistry course that do not focus on lecture, opportunities arise to implement ideas often removed due to the need for covering content. In particular, the flipped classroom has allowed for a renewal in the mastery learning model. Such a model is currently being practiced in honors and regular high school chemistry classes. While the mastery model is ideal for smaller sections, the flipped classroom can also be implemented in large (N > 300) university lecture classes. The aim of this paper is to discuss best practices and challenges of implementing the “flipped” classroom in both high school and college environments and the authors will compare and contrast the roles of a high school teacher and college professor in the “flipped classroom.”
The flipped classroom is part of a new shift in education that emphasizes the need to re-examine the most common approach to teaching in our classrooms. For the most part, many of our student’s experiences have been with teaching methodologies that center on the educator transmitting knowledge to their learners. In a time that had limited access to knowledge, this method was an efficient way to disseminate knowledge to a group of interested learners. Although efficient, and often convenient, today’s learners have access to knowledge on a scale that is exciting and impressive. As a result, the flipped classroom focuses on using the accessibility provided by computers to re-purpose the face-to-face chemistry “lecture.” Building on work from the “pioneers” of the flipped classroom, below are two similar yet different approaches to incorporating flip techniques in the chemistry class.
High School Chemistry
Six years ago, I wondered what I had got myself into for the first four years of my teaching. Honestly, I was ready to pursue chemical research. Instead, I wrestled with the idea that I was a high school chemistry teacher who was teaching in very similar ways of how I was taught chemistry, and how I should change. Six-times a day, I put together demonstrations, lectures, laboratories, etc. for the entire school year hoping students would learn chemistry. In the end, many students did “learn” chemistry, yet I felt that something was missing from my class; that something was learning. My students were really good at “doing school,” but I’m not sure they were good learners, hence my decision to start flipping.
In examining what I was doing in class, the most mind-numbing experience that I was going through during the school year was lecturing. In examining how I could minimize the amount of lecturing time in class, I became aware of the notion of “vodcasting” (video podcasts). The idea of vodcasting then became the way to transform my room into doing something more than lecturing, doing worksheets, asking if there were any questions, and starting more lectures. Originally, the flipped approach became a way for me to spend more class time working more examples at the board, more demonstrations, and more lab experiences. I still kept the class on a uniform schedule for testing and content coverage and it was better, but not where I felt the class should be. Even with student reflection indicating success, I still felt I was not able to successfully get students ready to learn how to learn.
Still frustrated with students’ relentless focus on the grade they received and remembering just for the test, I began to explore mastery learning. If unfamiliar, mastery learning is an approach to learning that sets a particular standard (for my class it was 85%) that all assessments must meet. If a student does not meet the mastery standard, then intervention is provided by the instructor and the student is re-assessed until mastery is achieved. It has been the mastery approach that students have really succeeded in learning content and, anecdotally, in learning how to learn.
None of the success in flip or mastery could have been achieved without the assistance of a learning management system (LMS). For us, Moodle has provided plenty of resources and support (with a great tech staff) to administer an online learning environment for chemistry students that handles the daily routine of a mastery class. For instance, it is very common in my mastery class to have students watching/reviewing part of a lecture, taking a quiz (administered through Moodle), asking questions regarding traditional problems that I have assigned, and some teaching each other, all of which is accomplished in fifty minutes. It is in this situation that I have found more time interacting with students, sharing learning strategies, providing small group instruction, and challenging students to think beyond traditional textbook problems.
Ultimately, I am moving to provide more assessments and activities that ask students to examine conceptual or multi-step/multi-concept approaches to solving novel problems. As such, these types of problems are not readily available to an instructor and take time to develop and test. Even so, converting the purpose of class time from passive student engagement to involving students actively has redefined my role as a teacher and the purpose of the classroom for the better as I look forward to challenging my students on learning how to learn.
College professors have a tendency to be very stubborn. It is unlikely for a group of professors to unanimously agree on the best way to teach general chemistry, but we do agree on one thing: our students are not as prepared as we would like them to be coming out of high school. Maybe high school students are good at cramming for their exams or “doing school,” but my observations agree with Mr. Luker when I say the students I inherit coming out of high school are weak learners, and the skill they lack the most is critical thinking skills.
So how do we develop critical thinking skills? They certainly aren’t cultivated by lecturing to students, but they can be enhanced by having students problem solve in lecture. So the motivation to flip my classroom was to better develop problem solving and critical thinking skills in my students. A brief glimpse of my classroom can be found here:
I’ve already gone through several iterations of how I run my flipped classroom, but the one I settled on is run the following way: I have recorded all of my traditional lectures and posted them on-line. They can be accessed via my Word Press site www.drfus.com or on iTunes U (https://itunes.apple.com/us/course/id529130214). Students are assigned a list of videos to watch before lecture, which can be watched at their convenience and are available 24/7. These videos are also freely available to the public and as of November, 2012, just over 100,000 people have downloaded my course on their iPad. After watching the lecture videos, students complete a pre-lecture assignment on Mastering Chemistry consisting of tutorial problems. These problems guide students through each learning objective or topic with self-paced tutorials that give individualized coaching. Students can utilize hints and receive user specific feedback based on their individual responses. When necessary, math remediation is provided for mathematical based problems, which allows me to focus more on the chemistry concepts in class. In addition, I can quickly scan the gradebook to see which problems are giving the students the most trouble and we can address them in class. I find that students respond much better when I can give evidence they are struggling with a particular concept. In addition, with over 325 students in each class, I am not able to give each student individual attention. These tutorials, which are make up 5% of their grade, mimic the individualized office hour experience as the hints use the Socratic method to guide a student to the correct answer, rather than simply give them the correct answer.
When students arrive to class, they have already attempted tutorial problems based on the learning objectives I am scheduled to cover. Instead of lecturing at the students, I have them work in groups to perform problems in class. These problems are typically the “tricky” questions that are seen on exams and are designed to be thought provoking. After students work on these problems for a few minutes, they submit their answers with their cell phone or laptop through a program called polleverywhere (www.polleverywhere.com). Some instructors like to use these clicker type questions as a fancy way to take attendance, but I don’t want to merely reward students for showing up. I want to reward them for showing up prepared. Each lecture question a student answers correctly, they earn one lecture point. If they answer incorrectly or miss class they can earn the lecture question point by completing a similar problem with the same learning objective on Mastering Chemistry. Typically these problems are end of chapter problems from the back of the textbook. They will receive full credit if they complete these questions before the next lecture. This gets the students into the habit of attacking a handful of homework problems in small chunks rather than cramming for the exam. I also find that students don’t have the greatest self-awareness when it comes to evaluating their performance. If they are answering lecture questions incorrectly, it should be a clear indication that they need to do more homework problems. This cycle repeats itself for each lecture and more details of this method can be found here: http://drfus.com/sample-page.
With increasing popularity of the flipped classroom model, it encourages collaboration between high school teachers and college professors. This is very important, as college professors are content experts in their field, but may have poor pedagogical content knowledge background. In contrast, high school teachers may have a strong pedagogical background, but may not be as well versed in their content area as college professors. The more high school teachers and college professors collaborate and share materials openly on-line, the more we can effectively prepare high school students for college and the more effectively we can teach them when they arrive to a college classroom.
In this article the psychological basis of pupil’s interest and motivation to learn the subject of chemistry are discussed. An educational computer program was created using Flash as an environmental shell. Within the program there are several lessons based on scenarios in inorganic and organic chemistry. The didactic program illustrates connections among different subjects within chemistry. By using these interactive methods, the motivation created in pupils stays fixed and their attitude to this subject changes.
Interest, its formation and development, is a traditional problem in the psychological-pedagogical literature. In Webster’s explanatory dictionary interest is explained as the sense of curiosity. In Penguin’s psychological dictionary interest is explained as attention, curiosity, motivation, aim, direction, desire. According to the Essential English Dictionary, interest means that one desires to know more about something or somebody. One interest forms other. It is perceived as the desire to know more news and is considered in connection with curiosity. “Curiosity” can be considered as business-like aspiration to sciences, the desire to study.
A school student - can’t effectively study a subject, if s/he doesn’t have her/ his - own curiosity. S/he can study facts, prepare himself for examinations, but for s/he it has - no point. Creative work can be carried out only when a student has interest or motivation on the subject. Interest is connected with attention (J. Seli, 1916), and attention can be influenced by factors, such as new impressions. He had elaborated the regularities which describes the relation between in born and acquired interests. According to this regularities, each subject can become interesting, if we “bond” it with an other subject- that is initially interesting. The two subjects “grow together” and the uninteresting subject becomes interesting.
Experiments shows that under positive emotions the left cerebral hemisphere, which is connected with verbal and logical mentality, is activated (Fox, Davidson, 1984).
Computer-educational programs give unlimited opportunity to connect two different subject during one lesson. On their basis such principles of didactics can be realized as: visuality, scienticity and accessibility.
The chemistry course in Georgia schools ends with the questions on organic chemistry and bioorganic chemistry. In this sense this peculiar significance promotes the search of the optimal way to motivate a pupil, because unlike from low class, the interest to chemistry is sharply decreasing (generally the most of students are not considering chemistry as their future profession).
Such methods of pedagogical technologies as computer educational programs and integrated teaching, give possibility to teachers for finding the aforesaid key of the interest in pupils.
The application of new technologies makes it possible to show the dynamic nature of reactions. It is especially effective for illustrating processes such as organic reaction mechanisms which are traditionally illustrated with static figures. A dynamic illustration with the ability to stop and start the dynamics at any time, according to student’s wishes can provide a more effective demonstration. If the mechanism consists of discrete steps, the transfer from one step to another can be performed when student wishes (by clicking through with a mouse). If the process or mechanism that is illustrated is general, then it can be linked to other processes or mechanisms. The frames of the animated fragments are connected to each other by definite succession, though each frame is independent. Such animations should not be overloaded by text. Educational information offered in a visual context is fascinating, easily assimilated, and fixed in memory for a long time. The lesson acquires active form.
Using a computer to animate processes gives the opportunity to present vivid, eminent, and convincing illustrations about those events that are connected to various chemical transformations. The process is reflected in dynamics of the computer multimedia demonstration.
A narrative by the teacher is also attached to the process which helps create the mood of the multimedia environment, which, in turn, enhances student readiness for studying and learning the material.
We have created a computer teaching package in Organic chemistry, which is done in Adobe Flash and includes all types of animations to connect organic chemistry with other sciences.
I want to point out one circumstance. There are many free educational computer programs in chemistry (we have seen many of these on the internet or on CD), also internet-sources, but in these sources didactic principles are realized very poorly. The aim of this program is less text and a lot more dynamic illustrations and use of different methods to stimulate a pupil’s motivation.
I would like to offer a scenario consisting of several main themes, to illustrate the lessons that were carried out by us. We used a computer program in organic chemistry, where the protagonist is “the book of chemistry”, and serves as the guide for pupils’ journey. http://cvl.iliauni.edu.ge/start.html
F. Weller had written (Solomons. 2006), that organic chemistry reminds him of the dense forest, where only the courageous dare to enter. By using such provocative language to invite the student ‘into the forest’, the program tries to bring pupil in the world of organic chemistry (Fig. 1).
If s/he “dares” and pushes the green button, s/he will find himself on “magic” stage, where the elements which form organic compounds (C, H, O, N, P, S) are waltzing and showing the main organic compounds of which they are a part.
Afterwards, the main body of organic chemistry instruction begins. Dance is beautiful, but it is needed for setting a mood and bringing pupils to serious questions not by force, but by choice. By setting a lighter tone, will not be put off by serious questions that they might believe to be complicated and dull (the scientific principle of didactics).
Organic chemistry begins with the study of hydrocarbons; their homologous series, isomers, and determination of of their formulae. These topics will be very dull for pupils if they are not very interested to begin with. We try to enhance learning by presenting the material with 3-D animations. For example, ethylene (the representative of unsaturated hydrocarbon) in the air, promotes the ripening of fruits and vegetables. Thus, this gas is used in hothouses (greenhouses). If the pupil reads this fact in the book, or teacher tells them, they may remember it only one week, than they will forget it. But, when a Halloween pumpkin (which has grown up in front of you) smiles at you from the screen, it is difficult to forget ethylene (fig.2)
Similar pedagogical approaches have been used for studying greenhouse gases. The effect of greenhouse gases on the earth is discussed using the example of the automobile. As a consequence of standing in the sun, the car becomes hot (interior becomes hot). The energy of light is transformed into the energy of heat. Then we compare the car and the earth and explain the mechanism. To make this topic interesting, our programmer/designer used the latest model of BMW (we had learned that teenagers in Georgia dream about this model all the time) and using it as an example, the greenhouse effect is discussed.
We then turn to “ black gold” or oil. Pupils, on studying Georgian literature, cover the hagiographical story of “Abo Tbileli”. In this story, the Arab youth was tormented for his belief in Christianity and oil was poured onto his corpse which was then burned. It means that oil- as fuel- was known in Georgia from ancient times (by stories like this we try to connect chemistry with Georgian and foreign literature).
Asphalt, side by side with other products, is obtained from oil. Everybody knows asphalt, so it can’t be interesting, but the fact that in Caribbean Sea, on the island of Trinidad, there is a natural lake of “asphalt” is interesting news for pupils. Nobody waves off a chance to see clip about this.
The next theme is “alcohol”, which begins with traditional Georgian Mravaldjamiery (traditional folk song) and ties alcohol into Georgian folklore. On the screen wine-juice is fermented and alcohol is distilled. Although the homologous series of alcohols, establishment of their formulae, isomerism and properties must be studied, we try to underline one point. In this section, the toxic actions of alcohol on a person’s organs and especially on the youth are highlighted. Student’s knowledge from biology will help them in this section. They must recall, what cells and tissues are in order to understand that oxidation of alcohol occurs in the liver (children, be kind to your liver, it has so much work to do) by special enzymes. High doses of alcohol destroy the liver and cause mental degradation. So, teenagers, before you drink alcohol, thinking that is courage, think about it (fig.3).
When studying how to obtain alcohol, the pupil must use what they learned about enzymes and catalysts from courses in inorganic chemistry and biology. The teacher, for relaxation of the tension, can offer amusing animation about enzymes.
In 1941 (Rawn, J.D. 2007). the king of Denmark Kristian Xth had presented to the famous biochemist Lingerster-langu the highest scientific reward – the Ersted’s Gold Medal and asked him to explain in popular language the importance of enzymes. The scientist told a short story about a father and three brothers, who only had seventeen white camels. Before death father distributed the camels among the sons. To the eldest – half of the camels, to the middle- one third, to the youngest- one ninth. After the death of their father, the sons could not divide the camels-not by two, not by three and not by nine. Then a stranger passed the house and had one black camel with him. The brothers asked him to help. He presented them his camel and a miraculously eighteen camels were evenly divided by two. The oldest brother then took his nine camels. The middle brother took one third, or 6 camels, and the youngest brother his one ninth or 3 camels. The number of camels taken by the brothers was 17 and the 18th camel was superfluous. The stranger said to the brothers: “Give my camel back, he played his role, finished the process, which can’t be finished without him”. Enzymes are like the 18th black camel: useful in certain circumstances because without them a lot of chemical reactions cannot be accomplished. As soon as the enzyme finishes their work they return to the reaction medium in primary form—They remain unchanged and not spent.
When studying alcohols we must consider the representations of saturated polyhydroxy alcohols-ethylene glycol and glycerol. Studying this theme, pupils expressed a desire to prepare soap themselves (they are very proud for it). Most of the questions in this section are about nitroglycerol, which is widely use by two contrasting professionals- killers and doctors.
The next theme, “the book of chemistry” invites us at “mad’s tower”. You did not mishear. The“mad’s tower” is the name of the museum of pathology. Somebody can be confused, but this relates back to the harmful influence of alcohol. Now, potential parents can see, what kind of child a drug addict may have. They must learn from other people’s mistakes.
You may ask- how does “mad’s tower” connect with chemistry. They are connected by one detail. The specimens are kept in formalin. It is an aqueous solution of formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is the first member of the homologous series of aldehydes. The next themes of organic chemistry are aldehydes and ketones
Probably, everybody has been injected with a syringe when they were a child. Ants and bees also have a painful sting. Why are sorrel and spinach delicious and healthy? They contain carboxylic acids. The study of this homologous series, how they are obtained and their properties will be “just a bit” interesting, all the more if they are represented by jolly animations. The most interesting is that these acids are used in human metabolism to produce energy through a process called the Krebs’ cycle (after its discoverer).
In the next theme, “the book of chemistry” invites us to visit “aunt Ester” (Ester is woman’s name in Georgia and we have used it to cheer up the pupils, when they study esters).
Towards the end, there is a discussion on the molecules of life: proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. All pupils are interested in hemoglobin, which is known by all juveniles because they have had, at one time or another, a blood analysis.
The “book of chemistry” informs us that the amino acids can be correlated to musical notes and used to create music. So, each protein has its own sound, and you can listen to some of them.
In the next figure is a fragment from the inorganic chemistry section of the virtual program, “let us amuse our self.”(fig. 4)
A chemical reaction is animated with Georgian national dancing and Chemical Theater (fig.5).
With the introduction of new technology, pupils have become more interested in chemistry. After these lessons we receive a motivated pupil, who likes chemistry and is surprised, because s/he believed chemistry was a “terrible and dull” subject. Motivation does not fade. For every subsequent lesson, their motivation gets stronger.
The choice of profession is extremely difficult and a many-sided problem. A young person is influenced by many factors—such as family, school, friends, means of information, etc.—that influence their choice of profession. Sometimes accidental factors have a strong influence, forcing the person to choose definite professions. For example, somebody chooses a profession not according to his natural qualities, but rather for the ease of reaching their goal. This is an error, because the person can completely realize her/his potential, only when /she chooses their profession correctly.
Progress is dependent on the training of new personnel. “The lucky chance” doesn’t help the unprepared scientists; it helps only the trained brain. Apples had fallen on the heads of numerous men, but only Isaac Newton discovered the law of gravitation. Many scientific achievements were done at young age. Newton was about 25 years old, when he had discovered the law of gravitation. von Mayer, Joule and von Helmholz helped established the law of conservation of energy when they were but 28 years old.
Correctly constructed and thought-out lessons, exact information compel the pupils to be interested in a concrete profession. One aim of the program presented here is to simplify the choice of profession. It is possible that some pupils find a chemist in themselves. In this case, the work creating this program will be justified.
Seli J.(1916). Pedagogical psychology. Moscow.
Fox, A., Davidson, N. (1984). Emotion and personality. New-York, MA: Columbia University
Rawn, J.D. (2007). General and organic chemistry. Cambridge.
Solomons. (2006). Organic chemistry. Wiley-Interscience
The author would like to express her appreciation to Rustaveli National Science Fondation and Ilia State University for financial support for making educational program in organic chemistry.
The ChemWiki project is a collaborative approach toward chemistry education where an Open Access textbook environment is constantly being written and re-written partly by students and partly by faculty members resulting in a free Chemistry textbook to supplement conventional paper-based books. Success of the project will be gauged by the number of students who consult the ChemWiki and the number of Chemistry courses that eventually adopt the ChemWiki as the sole textbook for class needs. Anyone can view, although a freely available account is required to edit the site modules. The ChemWiki is the pilot STEMWiki developed to demonstrate efficacy of the Dynamic Textbook Project, which is a multi-institutional collaborative venture to develop the next generation of open-access textbooks to improve STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) at all levels of higher learning. The central aim of the Dynamic Textbook Project is to develop and disseminate free, virtual, customizable textbooks that will substitute for current, commercial paper texts in multiple courses at post-secondary institutions. The ChemWiki currently has a visitor traffic of 13.2 M visits with 17.6 M pageviews per year and an estimated 974 hours of reading/writing occurring daily. For comparison, MIT’s OpenCourseWare system had 17.5 M visits in 2010 for all fields of study.
Introduction: It is becoming ever clearer that new and innovative educational efforts are required to facilitate the greater creativity, flexibility, and increased learning capability desired in future post-secondary education. These innovations often lead to more personalized and technologically advanced approaches that have the potential to catalyze the pervasive changes needed to truly impact America's educational landscape, require broadly used dissemination platforms, and targets both faculty and students. One such platform is the course textbook, which has a potential opportunity given their ubiquity in classes. Unfortunately, limited control of textbook content by innovators (including faculty-instructors) and the rapidly growing textbook expenses hinder such development. Each semester, college students spend hundreds of dollars on textbooks they will use for only a few months. According to the Government Accountability Office, the average estimated cost of books and supplies was approximately $900 per year in 2001.1 The same study found that textbook prices nearly tripled from 1986 to 2004, at over twice the rate of annual inflation for the same period and that textbook prices account for 26% of tuition and fees at four-year public universities and nearly 75% of costs at community colleges. Rapidly rising undergraduate fees and textbook costs are factors impeding access to higher education for many students, and also have a defeating effect on many under-served, at-risk students.2-5 The national importance of acquiring inexpensive textbooks was recently demonstrated in 2009, when President Obama signed into law the Higher Education Opportunity Act6 that encourages institutions to help students to find the best textbook prices by providing pricing, ISBN numbers, and access to used textbooks at campus bookstores and by introducing information in course syllabi.
Efforts to control/minimize textbook costs are important at essentially every institution in the country including colleges and universities that educate economically-challenged students. This is even more relevant in the foreseeable future as tuition costs skyrocket due to reduced state support across the nation and as student loans become less stable options. At the University of California, Davis (UCD), the average annual textbook costs (including Study Guides and Solutions Manuals) per student enrolled in the General Chemistry and Organic Chemistry series is $365 and $320, respectively (assuming 50%/50% new and used textbooks). The average annual enrollment of 1,500 (General) and 1,050 (Organic) students generates an estimated ~$900,000/year in textbooks cost for these two series alone at UCD. When considering the largest 100 Universities in the U.S., the estimated total textbook cost is increased to over $90 M. To address this, we are constructing the ChemWiki resource, which is the pilot model for the greater Dynamic Textbook Project to develop the next generation of open-access textbooks for STEM education at all levels of higher learning.
Implementing a project of such scope with a small, centered team and limited financial resources requires a focused, efficient, stepwise development plan, which takes advantage of modern technology, and has many active participants operating in parallel on multiple fronts. The wiki architecture for collaborative database generation is used to construct, organize and present the textbook content. The ChemWiki is simultaneously co-written by multiple “student-authors” and “faculty-authors,” to ensure that the multi-level approach is developed logically, is responsive to student needs, and is ultimately vetted by faculty to provide scientifically accurate content in a flexible and fully reliable resource. The need for flexibility in open access textbooks was recently illustrated in a 2009 study by the Center for Studies in Higher Education at UC Berkeley,7 which reviewed faculty attitudes toward affordable and open access resources; they found that faculty need a greater diversity of open textbook choices than what currently exists to achieve widespread adoption.
Figure 1: ChemWiki screen shot (11/7/2010).
The ChemWiki is not a textbook; it is a "textbook environment" capable of supporting multiple textbooks by enabling their simultaneous construction and implementation within a central system. There are two key features of the ChemWiki that set it apart from conventional paper-based textbooks and other electronic textbooks: (1) the wiki itself, which contains all of the content, and (2) the capability of producing dynamically edited hypertextbooks that allow faculty to gather together the desired content into an organized unit for their students. The Wiki infrastructure allows for parallel development of content by many authors at many levels as well as thorough vetting by a panel of experts. The Wiki hypertextbooks are similar to other electronic texts, with important advantages over traditional linear presentations. A wiki is a content management system that consists of a collection of formalized procedures used to organize, manage and develop content in a collaborative environment within a computer-based environment. Wikis are highly scalable and significantly reduce 'diminishing returns' common with projects involving large numbers of participants. This is due to its rigid control of data access based on user roles (e.g., viewing, editing, vetting, deleting, etc.) with a centralized infrastructure that allows for content to be easily stored, searched, retrieved and updated. Wikis are formulated with reduced writing tools to ensure a standardization of presentation, while enabling easy and quick content construction. Furthermore, wikis facilitate communication between participants in a safe and easy way via email, comments or RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds. Wikis allow communal, collaborative creation of content that is intrinsically "intertwined" or "intermingled" to provide flexible, non-linear presentations that are enabled by advanced features like automatically constructed and dynamic "Table of Contents," index/search tools, stylesheets, editing/history tools, customized browser toolbars, security and user authentication, and sophisticated metadata (information set aside from the content) handling, e.g., a "Resource Description Framework." As an online resource, a wiki-based textbook infrastructure provides capabilities far beyond conventional textbooks, including hyperlinking, citation lookup (e.g., DOI and CITE), visualization tools (e.g., Jmol8,9) and other modern Java based applications (e.g., Physlets10).
The ChemWiki does not have the size restrains of a traditional textbooks. e.g., Organic chemistry textbooks sizes have steadily grown until in the last ten years and have leveled off at ~1200 pages. Because textbooks have this size limitation the authors have to select what information goes in them and sometimes important topics are left out to make room for newer ones. An online “hypertextbook,” is an organized online resource addressing a wide range of topics and is often structured similarly to conventional paper-based textbooks. Typically hypertextbooks are free, easy to use and viewable across multiple platforms, and are independent of computer brand or browser type. If a hypertextbook follows a modular approach (e.g., Wikipedia), content is separated into autonomous pages (or Modules) that can be independently constructed and edited, yet are still interconnected via hyperlinks. This modular approach is used in the ChemWiki and provides the flexibility for instructors to organize the class material to suit their unique teaching styles or to address established departmental curricula.
Content development of the ChemWiki (and other STEMWikis in the Dynamic Textbook Project) is done partly by students and partly by faculty to result in multiple non-linear chemistry hypertextbooks. Hence, it is multifaceted and adaptable to any level or course in chemistry, although initial construction focuses on General and Organic Chemistry courses. Each Module (page of information) is reviewed in a hierarchal approach involving both students and faculty. Using significant student input in developing the Modules is useful as students, who are digital natives, can be very effective at assisting not only in content development, but also in presentation and style.
UNIQUE ASPECTS: Student authorship of Wiki-based textbooks addresses many needs in contemporary education, including collaboration, critical thinking, and writing and publishing. As students become co-producers, they will move beyond being merely consumers of knowledge to students with deep content knowledge and understanding of the interconnectedness of the STEM fields. Traditional formal education focuses on a process by which learners acquire factual knowledge that is produced and authenticated by credentialed experts. Thanks to the rise of digital technologies, however, collaboratively negotiated knowledge construction is emerging as an alternative to the exclusive reliance on expert-generated knowledge. The central aim of the ChemWiki is to develop and disseminate free, virtual, and customizable Chemistry textbooks as affordable but quality substitutes for current, commercial paper texts in multiple courses at post-secondary institutions.
The ChemWiki has several distinct aspects including: (1) participatory learning opportunities for students through content construction, (2) flexible course content for use in multiple courses at multiple levels, (3) timely content as dynamic organization enables near instantaneous modification and editing of content for error correction and modernization, (4) multiple author construction approach enhances flexibility by incorporating a wide breadth of ideas and pedagogies further contributing to broader use, impact and adoption, and (5) inter-institutional development scheme provides the involvement and education of a broad spectrum of students, including both STEM majors and non-STEM majors.
IMPACT: The Dynamic Textbook Project is starting to have a noticeable impact and our dissemination efforts are increasing near exponentially. We currently have over 600 “likes” on facebook, over 70 “+1” on Google+ and several dozen entries. The Chemwiki has an estimated 2 M impressions daily in Google searches and currently ranks in the top ten for all sub-fields of chemistry (in America). The ChemWiki currently has a visitor traffic of 13.2 M visits with 17.6 M pageviews per year and an estimated 974 hours of reading/writing occurring daily. For comparison, MIT’s OpenCourseWare system had 17.5 M visits in 2010 for all fields of study. Earlier this year, our first report in J. Chem. Education was published describing the ChemWiki, which was recently publicized with a front page article in the Sacramento Bee (Dec. 6, 2010) and has had numerous blogs and smaller newspapers also comment or write reviews addressing it. Over the past four years, the ChemWiki’s traffic has doubled approximately every 8 months.
Figure 2: Left: Monthly visitor traffic development profiles for the ChemWiki (blue) and MIT’s OpenCourseWare (red) sites. Both projects are started at their respective time zero marks. Right: Monthly visitor traffic development profiles for the BioWiki over the past year and is comparable to the growth of the ChemWiki during the first year of development, indicating both STEMWikis will have similar impact once constructed.
THE CORE/WIKITEXT APPROACH: A well-functioning textbook (whether hyper- or conventional) is much more than just a series of reference topics found in encyclopedias or Wikipedia, but must address additional aspects: 1) An established flow between previously discussed, current and future content and 2) A complementary set of questions to aid student internalization of the text material. Key to the utility of the ChemWiki is its intrinsic flexibility necessary to suitably address these aspects. All Modules containing information are contained in the Core (Figure 3) and “Wikitexts” are individually constructed for specific classes by creating a hyperlinks structure to the Core Modules; this is qualitatively similar to the “Lens” concept used in Rice University’s Connexions.11 This provides a powerful flexibility in introducing and removing content without affecting other concurrently operating classes and provides the flexibility for instructors to construct Wikitexts that best suit their needs (e.g., ignoring non-integral topics). Each Module contains metadata that outlines the recommended Modules necessary for students to have read prior to the Module to receive a full understanding of the content contained therein. For example, an instructor can construct a Wikitext by generating a list of hyperlinks to Core Modules in the order that best fits the class flow or pedagogical approach. If existing Core Modules are insufficient for course goals, new ones can be easily generated from existing vetted ones via the ChemWiki's graphical editor. Existing Wikitexts are available for instructors to peruse, adapt, and adopt.
Figure 3: Illustration of how the Core/Wikitext enables the flexible design of a variety of hypertextbooks for courses at all levels of instruction and subfields. Course numbers are for UCD. Different Modules will coexist addressing the same topic, but at different levels allowing for addressing classes simultaneously.
CONSTRUCTION MECHANISMS: This inter-institutional development team provides the direct involvement of a broad spectrum of students. This breadth is absolutely essential if the ChemWiki is to successfully address the needs of students from very different backgrounds. Development of the ChemWiki content proceeds via three mechanisms that operate in parallel:
Mechanism 1: Student contribution via course effort (e.g., extra credit)
Mechanism 2: Student integration of existing content from faculty and experts
Mechanism 3: Faculty construction of raw content from scratch
Modules from all three mechanisms are processed through a sophisticated vetting structure, involving students and faculty (see below), to eventually guarantee reliable, fully-vetted content that is capable of substituting for that found in current paper-based textbooks. Content from the second mechanism typically supersedes content from the first, resulting in continual evolution of the ChemWiki content. Over 2,500 students have participated in ChemWiki construction over the past three and half years. To handle administrating greater Module and Wikitext development among students including topic selection, communication, role and responsibility assignment, assessment and monitoring, review, etc., we are testing out Edward Gehringer’s (North Carolina State U.) Expertiza12-14 software package (NSF 0536558) that provides an ideal infrastructure for large-scale student construction. The ChemWiki development team is very thankful for the many contributors to the ChemWiki over the past quarter (http://chemwiki.ucdavis.edu/Wikitexts/Development_Details/Contributors).
The second mechanism involves integrating existing content directly into the ChemWiki, also primarily via student effort (copying, editing, integrating, typesetting, etc.). The Internet has a significant number of openly available educational resources that are not as completely developed as the hypertextbooks outlined above. Unfortunately, much of this material is not organized in a way that is convenient for instructors or students to use in a cohesive long term manner. We request permission from content owners and integrating these online pieces (with noted bylines to avoid plagiarism) into the ChemWiki, which provides a simple way to organize them coherently within a single vetted environment. Significant effort is extended toward identifying and integrating established content already available on the Internet into the ChemWiki textbook application. To ensure consistency and accuracy, content generated from both mechanisms is subject to the same vetting protocols used in the student-constructed Modules.
Figure 4: Hierarchical development and vetting plan for the multiplexed and multi-campus generation of Modules by both faculty and students. Final vetting lies in the hands of the vetting panel. All student generated content is directed through the UCD University Writing Program before vetting.
THE STUDENT ABILITY RATING AND INQUIRY SYSTEM (under construction): Over the past decade, many online homework databases have been constructed often as commercial extensions of existing paper-based textbooks (e.g., Mastering Chemistry,15 OWL,16,17 WebAssign18 and QBank,19,20 ALEKS,21-23 ARIS24). The Student Ability Rating and Inquiry System (SARIS) is a separate application to the Core/Wikitext engine that addresses the need for homework with an extensive question database and when fully developed will generate valuable statistics tracking individual student performance. The SARIS shares aspects with other homework applications, but is augmented by extensive links between SARIS and ChemWiki Core and Wikitext components, which direct students toward relevant module content. Once developed, SARIS will provide immediate formative feedback so that students can learn problem-solving skills through repeated attempts without having to wait long periods of time for their assignments to be graded by instructors. Questions are presented in several different formats including multiple choice, true/false, checkbox, fill-in-the-blank, and numerical answers. Each quiz consists of questions drawn at random from a database containing many more questions. The long term goal of the SARIS is to present each student with referenced material and review questions that are tailored to that particular student’s course and skill level. This is possible since each question has multiple pieces of metadata associated with it, including: student performance (average and individual), difficulty, solutions, partial solutions and links to the ChemWiki module(s) that address the questions.
Although many other question databases have been built with sizable investments of time and money, they have not been integrated into a single integrated open-access textbook/system. The extent of development that has occurred with the publisher-based systems (including textbook, homework and online capabilities) is significant and largely driven by financial incentives. Not surprisingly, the ChemWiki and SARIS, as currently implemented, does not have near the same level of development due to the disparity in funding, support and time invested between the two approaches to date. However, the student traffic statistics presented in Figure 3 demonstrate that the ChemWiki approach has a significant potential to compete with publisher-based options once fully operational.
ESTABLISHING CREDIBILITY: VETTING: Once reviewed for content, approach, accuracy, etc., Modules will be “locked” allowing editing only by experts/faculty determined by the ChemWiki team (Table 2). Modules are color-coded by their level of construction and vetting (e.g., Modules at level 1 have a reddish hue in the background title). This ensures that readers and contributors are aware that this “code-red” content is not as vetted as “code-yellow” content, nor “code-green” content. Modules rated at the top two levels (“code-blue” and “code-grey”) are certified to represent vetted material that can be trusted. Each module is also marked with a rating icon that indicates the academic level that the module targets. The full utility of the ChemWiki is intended to encompass all branches and levels of Chemistry as broadly defined as possible. The enormity of constructing Modules capable of addressing the broad range of potential Wikitexts is staggering, especially given the requirement that the topics in many Modules will be duplicated to account for different levels of sophistication (e.g., Gibbs energy at the freshman, junior, and graduate levels). This effort is realistic due to the ChemWiki’s easy to use editor that removes the need for students and faculty to learn advanced computer skills to contribute.
PLAGIARISM AND COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT: Fastidious effort is dedicated to avoiding potential copyright infringement claims from textbook publishers and other parties with commercial or personal interest in the content. Since all works are considered copyrighted unless explicitly designated otherwise, proper attention to copyright issue is necessary before introducing pre-existing content into the ChemWiki. All content will be checked with multiple online plagiarism checking systems to identify identical content on the web. All uploaded images to the ChemWiki must have source files, source information (of public domain or Creative Commons licenses) and will be confirmed via the TinEye reverse image search engine25 to identify where figures originate. The origin of all authorized copyright content will be clearly indicated and permanently attached to all images and text, including authors or creators and most images introduced to the ChemWiki will be constructed in house to ensure no copyright infringement complaints.
The ChemWiki is an ambitious project that can lead to a large multi-faceted educational resource, but requires effort (financial and personal) to complete. Although, the encouraging ChemWiki statistics in Figure 1 resulted from only $8 k of internal UCD support, the ChemWiki will require (limited) resources to operate once sufficiently developed. Several modes of revenue will be evaluated to ensure the longer term sustainability of the project:
The UC Davis Center for Education and Evaluation Services (CEES) will provide independent evaluation services for formative and summative evaluation of the project’s educational quality component (see Letter of Commitment). As a full-service program evaluation center, CEES serves as an external evaluator for many large and small STEM education initiatives housed both on the UC Davis campus and throughout the state. CEES will develop and implement appropriate approaches to inform the project regarding the educational value to students and faculty participating in the ChemWiki. Formative evaluation, to inform program development, will include surveys of participating students and faculty. The questions to be addressed are:
ASSESSMENT PLANS: To objectively examine the quality of ChemWiki vs. conventional textbooks in the targeted Chemistry classes, CEES will develop a paired comparison design, matching course content and instructor and varying only the textbook material source (e.g., one course will use ChemWiki exclusively and a matched course will use the traditional text), as a summative evaluation measure. Programmed in each Module is a “hit counter” that provides detailed statistics on the number of students who view it, where and when. Combining this information with existing "assessment engines" using student registration, a direct correlation between ChemWiki usage and class performance can be constructed to provide direct feedback between study habits and student performance. The comparison of classes taught with conventional textbooks and homework problems will be used as control groups during studies of classes using the ChemWiki/SARIS database and since a common final is used in the UCD Chemistry Department, assessment of the ChemWiki’s utility between classes can be resolved. The ChemWiki was recently evaluated for addressing Universal learning objectives by Virtual Ability, Inc. with criteria drawn from the US accessibility legal requirement expressed in Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973,26 and international accessibility guidelines of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).27
INTERNATIONAL IMPACT: The DTP is also being used to address education outside America. Education in developing countries is often hindered by poor access to a consistently available source of textbook materials in adequate quantities and/or with sufficiently reduced costs for the students to use productively. This results in an inconsistent teaching structure with essentially no standardization in course material across classes, universities and countries. Adoption of the ChemWiki, as a freely available, high quality chemistry textbook, reduces textbooks costs, while increasing distribution and effectiveness of improving education in developing nations. The ChemWiki will be introduced with “The Global Text Project” to provide free electronic textbooks for students in developing countries.
CONCLUDING COMMENTS: Due to recent development of digital technologies, collaboratively negotiated knowledge construction is emerging as a viable alternative to the reliance on traditional expert-generated knowledge. The central aim of the ChemWiki is to develop and disseminate free, virtual, and customizable chemistry textbooks as affordable but quality substitutes for current, commercial paper texts in multiple courses at post-secondary institutions. If broadly implemented, the ChemWiki could provide a blueprint for other faculty at other institutions to either develop their own textbook (which broadly impacts ALL STEM disciplines), or faculty teaching General Chemistry may adopt this text (and perhaps become contributors to the ChemWiki).
Help us Grow. The success of the ChemWiki and Dynamic Textbook Project lies in hands of the faculty and students that develop and use this free resource. Please link to us, "Like" us on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ or perhaps directly contribute to our development. All effort, no matter how small, is appreciated. You do not need special knowledge to contribute - just a desire to change the status quo. Contact Delmar Larsen for details at email@example.com
(1) USGAO. College Textbooks: Enhanced Offerings Appear to Drive Recent Price Increases; Office, U. S. G. A., Ed., 2005; Vol. GAO-05-806.
(2) Kinzie, S. Swelling Textbook Costs Have College Students Saying ‘Pass.’. In Washington Post Washignton, DC, 2006; pp A01.
(3) Kahlenberg, R. Chronicle of Higher Education 2006, 55, 27.
(4) Koch, J. “An Economic Analysis of the Textbook Pricing and Textbook Markets,” 2006.
(5) Force, O. A. T. T. “Open Access Textbook Task Force,” Florida Distance Learning Consortium 2010.
(6) Congress, U. 122 STAT. 3078 PUBLIC LAW 110–315—AUG. 14, 2008 2008, http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=110_cong_public_laws&docid=f:publ315.110.pdf.
(7) Matkin, G. Open Learning: What Do Open Textbooks Tell Us About the Revolution in Education? In Threshold Magazine; Cable in the Classroom: http://cshe.berkeley.edu/publications/docs/ROPs-Matkin-OpenLearning-03-31-09.pdf, 2008; Vol. Spring.
(8) Willighagen, E. L. Internet Journal of Chemistry 2001, 4.
(9) Jmol. Jmol: an open-source Java viewer for chemical structures in 3D; http://www.jmol.org/, Ed., 2011.
(10) Christian, W.; Belloni, M. Physlets: Teaching Physics with Interactive Curricular Material; Benjamin Cummings, 2000.
(11) Hutchines. http://cnx.org/.
(12) Gehringer, E. Expertiza; http://expertiza.ncsu.edu/, Ed., 2011.
(13) Gehringer, E.; Ehresman, L.; Conger, S. G.; Wagle, P. Innovate: Journal of Online Education 2007, 3.
(14) Ramachandran, L.; Gehringer, E. F. “Automated assessment of review quality using latent semantic analysis”; 11th IEEE International Conference on Learning Technologies, 2011, Athens.
(15) Pearson. Mastering Chemistry. In http://masteringchemistry.com/, 2011.
(16) OWL. http://www.cengage.com/owl/.
(17) Evans, J. A. Journal of Chemical Education 2009, 86.
(18) WebAssign. http://www.webassign.net/.
(19) QBank. JCE QBank; http://www.jce.divched.org/JCEDLib/QBank/, Ed., 2011.
(20) Erica Harvey, T. J. Z. Journal of Chemical Education 2010, 87, 2.
(21) ALEKS. ALEKS; http://www.aleks.com/, Ed., 2011.
(22) Dowling, C. E. Journal of Mathematical Psychology 1993, 37.
(23) Cosyn, E., & Thiéry, N. Journal of Mathematical Psychology 2000, 44.
(24) McGraw-Hill. ARIS; http://www.mharis.com/, Ed., 2011.
(26) Section508. Electronic and Information Technology Accessibility Standards (Section 508). In http://www.access-board.gov/sec508/standards.htm; Congress, U., Ed., 1973.
(27) WCAG. Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2008.
Chembites is a blog that helps undergraduate students keep up with and understand current chemical literature. While comprehension of modern methods and recent findings is integral to a career in science, it can be very difficult for a young chemistry student to become comfortable reading scientific journals.
We make this process easier for students by providing brief, accessible summaries of articles from a variety of journals and chemical disciplines. Each blog post focuses on the importance of the research, the principle methods, and results. The summaries are written by graduate students in the field. The blog not only benefits the readers, but also provides an important opportunity for graduate students to practice their writing and communication skills. Chembites also features articles with career advice, historical information, commentary on science policy, and useful tools for the burgeoning chemist.
In 2011, I organized a group of chemistry graduate students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to create an online resource, Chembites (www.chembites.org), for chemistry undergraduates. Chembites helps students that are interested in careers in research navigate the transition to graduate school.
Figure 1. The Chembites homepage.
Our Main Goal
One of the hardest challenges in moving from undergraduate course work to research in graduate school is the ability to read and comprehend a journal article. Full length research papers are typically written for readers with an extensive vocabulary of specialized jargon, experience with advanced methods not typically encountered by undergraduates, and extensive background knowledge that is required to lend context to the new work. For undergraduates approaching literature without these assets, reading journal articles can be discouraging and frustrating. Chembites takes recent journal articles and boils them down to brief, jargon-free summaries that highlight key methods and results. In this way we hope to introduce undergraduates to cutting edge research in a more accessible way.
The Anatomy of a Chembite
Even the title of an article can be extremely confusing to someone outside of that specific subfield, therefore each Chembite starts with a simplified title. At the top of our posts we link to the original article and include an image that is helpful to the reader. The authors, affiliations, and journal publishing the article are also stated, so undergraduates become familiar with the wide range of journals and research groups in chemistry. The bulk of each article is a simplified explanation of the main conclusions from the paper and a description of the methods the authors employed to reach these conclusions. We also link any chemistry term undergraduates might not be familiar with to an article with information about this term. This way we are able to keep our posts fairly short and readable while making them comprehensible to any reader.
Figure 2. The anatomy of a Chembite.
The fields of chemistry are extremely diverse and we aim to make our Chembites posts represent that diversity. We have posted articles related to the familiar chemistry divisions: analytical, biological, inorganic, organic, physical, but we also like to discuss exciting interdisciplinary topics such as nanotechnology, materials, and food chemistry. Of course, many of the articles we discuss fit into more than one of these categories, illustrating the breadth and interconnectedness of our field.
In addition to the standard article summary posts we also discuss topics that are of general interest to chemistry students going to graduate school – graduate school applications, fellowship applications, Research Experience for Undergraduate programs, useful technological tools, and graduate life. We also have posted a few articles on interesting chemical history that many undergraduates would not get exposed to in their courses.
We conducted a survey of our audience to determine who we were reaching, how, and what they would like to see in the future. It is interesting to note that 56% of our readers are students, divided equally between undergraduate and graduate school.
Figure 3. The make up of the Chembites audience.
In general, most of our audience would like to see a mix of paper summaries and other more general interest articles including personal experiences, career advice, historical overviews, science policy, and neat tools for chemists.
We would like increase our readership, the number of comments from readers, and the number of authors. We would be happy to welcome students from other institutions as authors.
The promotion of young blood in science as well as improved education through a wide variety of methods and the possibilities offered by new media are the focus of the educational content offered by FIZ CHEMIE Berlin. Its freely accessible educational encyclopedia ChemgaPedia (www.chemgapedia.de) currently contains 1,800 learning units on chemistry and associated sciences. All of the content is created by specialist authors and is subject to editorial approval before publication. In addition to curriculum-based material, which is aimed primarily at students and college teachers, special areas are also offered on industrial fields of work and non-university research. With its wide scope, cross-linking and multimedia adaptations, ChemgaPedia is a unique facility in the German-speaking area. It is currently recording over 500,000 accesses per month; around 60 % of the users are regular visitors to the platform. Within the target groups, students make up the largest proportion, followed by school pupils and trainees. The encyclopedia is also used by teachers, lecturers, institutions and industry. While most of the content is in German, an increasing number of learning units is also available in English.
The multimedia platform ChemgaPedia is a unique facility for learning chemistry online. Its content is based on the former government-funded project “Vernetztes Studium – Chemie” (Networked Chemistry Studies) which intended to represent the learning content for bachelor chemistry students in Germany as an online resource and was realized in cooperation by 18 scientific research groups and FIZ CHEMIE Berlin. The original content was written from 1999 to 2004 by about 180 authors and covers all areas of chemistry (e. g. inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, physical chemistry, analytical chemistry etc.) as well as adjacent sciences (biochemistry, physics, mathematics and pharmacy). Since 2004 ChemgaPedia is maintained exclusively by FIZ CHEMIE Berlin. A scientific editorial staff takes care of the existing material, updates outdated subjects and creates – in cooperation with freelance authors – new content which also covers advanced topics beyond the bachelor curriculum.
Please note: We are currently working on a relaunch of the ChemgaPedia website due by the end of 2012. The pictured screenshots in this paper already show the new layout and navigational concept.
Figure 1: ChemgaPedia homepage; www.chemgapedia.de
ChemgaPedia – Structure and Content
ChemgaPedia is structured as an encyclopedia with the content divided into learning units: short chapters containing usually about five to ten pages covering a specific scientific subject, e. g. “Hydration of Alkenes” or “Platinum as a Catalyst”. The learning units are sorted by topic (e. g. “Oxidation Reactions”), subject area (e. g. “Organic Chemistry”) and science (e. g. “Chemistry”) and can be accessed by either ChemgaPedia’s hierarchic navigation menu, search function or cross-linking from other ChemgaPedia content. The latter is one of ChemgaPedia’s most important features: cross-linking is commonly used throughout the content to reference introductive and continuative learning units as well as explanatory glossary terms and scientist biographies. In total ChemgaPedia contains approximately 18,000 pages in more than 1,700 learning units and about 4,400 glossary and bibliographical entries. In addition, the learning units contain extensive metadata and supplementary information for the user, e. g. level of difficulty and required time. Though most of the content is written in German, FIZ CHEMIE Berlin is currently promoting the translation of the content to English: more than 100 learning units are already available in English, mostly covering organic chemistry topics but also content from other scientific areas including inorganic chemistry and biochemistry.
Figure 2: Structure and topical arrangement of learning units in ChemgaPedia
Another prominent feature of ChemgaPedia is the use of multimedia content. Approximately 25,000 media elements are contained within the content, including about 19,000 figures, schemes and pictures as well as 3,000 animations, 1,600 3D molecules and 600 videos. Not only do the multimedia items help to illustrate and visualize the content, they also often have an element of interactivity to further the understanding by the user. This concept of interactivity is also an integral part of the 900 exercises within ChemgaPedia which help the user to evaluate his learning progress.
Example 1: The learning unit “Chirality” gives an introduction to chirality as a basic principle in stereochemistry and covers topics including chirality elements and nomenclature of chiral compounds. In addition to illustrations it uses videos, animations and 3D molecule representations to explain chirality.
Figure 3: Samples from the learning unit “Chirality” with illustrations, videos and exercises
Example 2: The centerpiece of the learning unit “Multispectroscopy Exercises” is a comprehensive flash animation which allows the user to train structure eludication of organic substances by means of combined spectroscopic data (NMR, MS, IR). It offers extensive help and feedback functionality and provides a detailed analysis of the user’s solution.
Figure 4: Overview “Multispectroscopy Exercises”
Example 3: The learning unit “Cell Structure and Cell Organelles” describes the structure of cells. It uses interactive animations, videos and 3D molecules to visualize the provided information.
Figure 5: Samples from the learning unit “Cell Structure and Cell Organelles” with animations, videos and exercises
Projects and Collaborative Work:
Together with partners, new facilities are created and use scenarios developed. With the support of the ChemgaPedia team, industrial partners produce learning material on their fields of work, thus providing a practical insight into possible job profiles for scientists. Analogously, current work by non-university research teams is also shown. At the same time, the working group is supporting scientists in their task of bringing current research results and developments to the right target groups of the public.
Together with schools in the field of general education and professional development facilities, provisions are developed to meet the needs of school lessons and vocational training. Further collaboration with colleges includes, among other things, the use of materials in the preparation for study as well as study supervision for those taking subsidiary subjects. One learning scenario that is increasingly coming to the fore is that of serious games. Together with a renowned software agency, a chemistry-based game concept has been developed and implemented.
Research is currently conducted for the further development of products and services on the subject of semantic access to content, recommender systems and monitoring of the learning process.
Securing the demand for science specialists, which is considered highly necessary, can only succeed if interest in the sciences and technology is sparked early on in young people. What is indispensable here is a modern approach that focuses on addressing target groups.
The learning portal provides content of very high scientific quality and which extends far beyond the opportunities provided by standard learning materials, due to its multimedia adaptations and interactive facilities. The increasing transfer of research and learning processes to the Internet makes serious, supportive facilities provided by experts absolutely imperative, particularly in view of the information overload.
In addition to further developments in the content and technology of the platform, the focus of the ChemgaPedia team’s activities in recent years has been on creating a broad user base and networks with various stakeholders in scientific education. In the meantime, ChemgaPedia has achieved a degree of awareness and distribution across target groups and scientific communities which opens up great opportunities for future work.
For some time this column has mainly been concerned with choosing the web search engine that would respond to a string of words from a user to produce the most useful set of results for a Chemist. Despite the continuing efforts of Microsoft, Google seems to have a lock on this choice. But what if there were a different way to search than just using a string of words? Recently, Google has announced a new type of search called Knowledge Graph, which may represent a significant step ahead in search technology. How does this work, and is it likely to be useful to Chemists?
The competition between Google and Bing for the title of most popular search engine continues to grind along with little significant change. According to a July report, 66.8 % of all search queries still go to Google, and Bing receives only 15.7% of the queries. Considering the amount of advertising that Microsft has done, the results are underwhelming. Bing is slowly gaining share but mainly at the expense of the Yahoo! Search engine. The latest effort by Microsoft to increase the number of Bing users is a web page that allows a viewer to do a blind comparison of Google vs. Bing (http://tinyurl.com/c2awybl). Microsoft claims that those who took the test favor Bing two to one. I tried five chemical search terms and preferred Google on three and thought that two were a draw. Experienced searchers who take the test seem to agree that Google still gives better results, perhaps because Bing is optimized for more popular searches, like find the best pizza shop or getting the show time for a local theater. Although this may seem to indicate that there is little change that is of interest to Chemists, there are also indications that we are entering a new stage of finding information on the web.
Google’s Knowledge Graph
Ignoring all practical concerns, what would the ideal search engine look like? First, and probably most important, it should recognize that searches are not just strings of words, but a particular concept which is logically linked to other concepts. If a search engine could display these links, a user could better see how a given search is related to other ideas and be better able to create knowledge. According to Google’s official blog (http://tinyurl.com/cptcaxu), this would allow a search engine to understand the nuances in meaning and make it “think” more like the user. Google points out that for a traditional search engine the words Taj Mahal are just two isolated words, while to the human searcher the phrase may have a variety of specific meanings. It could refer to an Indian monument, a musician, an Atlantic City Casino, or even your local Indian restaurant. In partial response to this potential confusion, Google announced the addition of Knowledge Graph in 2012, “. . . an intelligent model—in geek-speak, a ‘graph’—that understands real-world entities and their relationships to one another: things, not strings.”
A Knowledge Graph is designed to help in several different ways. The results from a search for the phrase Taj Mahal are accompanied by a sidebar that suggests several different meanings for this phrase. The searcher can then limit the results page to the specific set of sites that are relevant. The sidebar may also provide summary information. For example, the sidebar accompanying a search for Linus Pauling includes a brief biography, suggested books about the individual, and some individuals, like Francis Crick, James D. Watson, and Rosalind Franklin, who are related to Pauling’s work. This appears to be a very useful addition for people doing searches on general topics.
Google started this new initiative in 2010, when it purchased a company called Metaweb Technologies. Metaweb was developing Freebase (www.freebase.com), a massive public database semantically structured to link together useful information. Metaweb started with the contents of several public databases, like Wikipedia, MusicBrainz, and the CIA World Factbook, and then invited users to make connections between data items by creating metatags. Freebase creates data structures as a set of nodes connected by links that define the relationships between the nodes. By the time it was purchased, Metaweb had already identified millions of “entities” and how they are related to each other. Google now claims that the database contains over 500 million entities or objects which are connected by over 3.5 billion links and it continues to expand. Tim O’Reilly has written (http://tinyurl.com/9msk4u4) that, “Freebase is the bridge between the bottom up vision of Web 2.0 collective intelligence and the more structured world of the semantic web.”
As O’Rielly points out, Freebase appears to be a step towards what is called the Semantic Web. This term was first used by Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, in a 2001 article in Scientific American. He said that The Semantic Web was a system that would enable machines to "understand" and respond to complex human requests based on their meaning. Since that time, the idea has been widely discussed, often by experts who have claimed that it is an unreachable ideal. According to a recent article on Search Engine Watch (http://tinyurl.com/8b4tyjd), content is most likely to be visible to searchers if it is in a structured format, where each piece of content is connected by means of microdata to the totality of other available data. Google plans to support microdata connections for objects such as reviews, people, products, businesses and organizations, recipes, events, music, and video. Google has chosen not to call their new product a semantic web, probably since this idea has been hyped for so long that for many potential users it has become a turnoff. Whatever one chooses to call it, Google’s Knowledge Graph is a step towards the goal that Berners-Lee outlined.
In the short term, this may not mean much for chemists. It appears that the Knowledge Graph for most chemical compounds is just the first few lines for that compound from Wikipedia. This is nice, but hardly earth shaking. Many chemical terms do not display a Knowledge Graph yet. Some of the Graphs that are provided do appear to be very useful. For example, the knowledge graph accompanying the search results for Robert Woodward allows one to immediately see that there are two different well-known persons named Robert Woodward, the organic chemist and the investigative reporter of Deep Throat fame. A single click narrows the search to the desired results. The knowledge graph for Woodward also suggests that Roald Hoffmann, Elias James "E.J." Corey, and William von Eggers Doering are individuals related to the Woodward being searched for. The advantages in this case are obvious.
If one goes to the Freebase home page (www.freebase.com) it is immediately apparent why the Knowledge Graphs for Chemistry need improvement. Clicking on the Science & Technology link shows how many people are involved in creating links in each scientific field. Freebase lists how many links have been created recently and how many individuals are working on each topic. Currently, the number of chemists involved (28) is somewhat less that the number of physicists and much less than the number of biologists. The usability of this new feature for chemists will be determined by how many chemists are willing to invest their time to create links. In part, the small number of Chemists involved may be due to lack of knowledge about this project. The Freebase interface is designed to allow non-programmers to create metadata of general information that connects data in semantic ways. Originally, only invited participants could contribute links to Freebase, but more recently this has been expanded to open registration. (Note: there is a signup box in the lower left hand corner of the home page.) Judging from the success of Wikipedia, it would appear that as this ability becomes more widely known, there will be a number of chemists who wish to participate.
One obvious source of linkages that has not yet been tapped would be the ChemSpider database for chemical compounds. As I was writing this article I contacted Antony Williams to ask if there were plans to work on this, and he responded that one of his associates is exploring this possibility. The Merck Index is another resource that might be used as a model for linked chemical information. Merck is one of my favorite general references because it is a quick source of useful information like methods of synthesis, solubility, commercial uses, and sometimes even a toxicity measure. Although it is not open access it does offer one vision for the kind of chemical information that might be provided in a sidebar.
For example, I received a call late one evening from a reporter on the local newspaper who asked, “What is phenols?” The form of the question immediately alerted me that this was not a question that could be answered as I would to an organic chemist. I told him I would call back in ten minutes. I quickly checked my Merck, then called him and said, “Phenols are a type of compound used in the production of plastics and also in low concentrations as an antiseptic. They are somewhat toxic and ingestion of relatively small amounts may cause nausea, vomiting, and at higher exposures may cause more serious problems.” All of this was quoted more or less directly from Merck. Notice I resisted the temptation to give the chemical formula, structure, etc. which would have been essential information for a chemist. The reporter, however, was delighted; it was just what he wanted because this was what his nonscientific readers would understand. At the close of the call he commented that he had called several officials in the State Environmental Protection Agency and none of them seemed to know what phenols were. I’m sure that all these people did really know about phenols, but they couldn’t answer at a level appropriate for the audience. It would be wonderful for both chemists and non-chemists if this kind of information were available as a sidebar on Google searches.
As might be expected, Microsoft has quickly responded to this latest Google initiative. According to a report dated June 7, 2012 (http://tinyurl.com/btph7un), Microsoft has contracted with the Britannica Online Encyclopedia to provide supplementary information for Bing web searches. If a topic is not covered in the Britannica, the information will be obtained from Wikipedia, Freebase, or Qwicki. Matt McGee suggests several differences between the Google Knowledge Graph and the Bing approach. He notes that the extra Google results are in a sidebar on the right at the top of the page, whereas Bing adds these into the body of the search results at the point where a Britannica result would normally be found. This can probably be explained by the fact that the sidebar is currently used for placement of purchased ads, but means that the extra information is not obvious.
The most fundamental difference is that Bing depends mainly on the Encyclopedia and seems to access linked information, like that in Freebase, much less often than Google does. Thus, Bing doesn’t appear to be moving towards semantic search. On a simple basis, this makes it harder to separate two people or locations with similar names, like the Robert Woodward example quoted above. In the long run, it is not just about providing links in a sidebar, but about recognizing the ways that knowledge is actually linked. Perhaps with passing time Microsoft will choose to access Freebase more often or even create its own database of connections. The latter approach would probably be most valuable, since having several independent information graphs available will provide more opportunities for the graphs to intersect. This will create a richer information environment and be more comprehensive than the results from a single graph. For the time being, it would appear that Google has a clear lead in this new type of search.
I believe Google Knowledge Graph is a significant new development in web search, which Chemists may find to be useful. In the long run, it may represent a first step towards the Semantic Web, and, if so, it could be extremely important. The success of Google Knowledge Graphs for Chemistry will be determined by having Chemists learn about this new search function and be willing to participate in improving it. This short article is intended to contribute towards the first part of that requirement.
Each Fall the CCCE posts OnLine articles in our Newsletter which members discuss over the internet. Please join us. To participate in the discussion you need to subscribe to the ConfChem list. Contact Bob Belford if you have any problems.
The following links take you both to the paper, and a downloadable PDF version which may be easier to read.
Paper 1: Is this the Next Big Step in Web Search
Paper 2: ChemgaPedia-a Multimedia Learning Platform for Chemistry
Paper 3: Keeping Up With the Current Chemical Literature
Paper 4: The Dynamic Open-Access ChemWiki HyperTextbook: Realizing the Next Stage in Textbook Evolution
Paper 5: The 'Flipped Classroom'
Paper 6: Using a Computer Program to Illustrate the Lessons of Chemistry: The Result-Motivated Pupil
Paper 7: The Mobile Chemistry Classroom Cooperative (MCCC)
In this session we are going to try something new, and present material from different countries on their IYC 2011 projects and initiatives. Our objectives are to try and discuss these national projects on a global basis and so the discussions will be appended as comments to this page, and not the individual nation's page. Please look through these presentations and share your thoughts. Also, please feel free to discuss your own countries projects and initiatives as we are seeking an open ended discussion on ways we can promote global chemical education and sustain IYC 2011 initiatives into the future.
India 2: Chand Seth, firstname.lastname@example.org
Hindu College, University of Delhi
Symposium on Innovative Projects for Learning Science
Jamaica: Robert Lancashire, email@example.com
University of the West Indies at Mona
Highlights of the Activities: International Year of Chemistry
IYC 2011 Activity Bulletin Board: During IYC 2011 IUPAC maintained an open Bulletin Board where people could post activities they did during IYC. Although these are not necessarily related to national activities, there are over 1800 entries which might be of interest. Please note this site can be indexed by activity or country.
IYC 2011 National Toolkits: During IYC 2011 IUPAC created a site where different countries could post material on activities they they planned to use during National Chemistry Days and Weeks. These have been posted to the IUPAC site: Toolkits for National Chemistry Weeks