Monday, December 8, 2008

TIES 2008 Explore the World of Molecules on Your Computer

Penny Springer, chemistry instructor at Prior Lake High School demonstrated Atomsmith software for "classroom molecular exploration." Penny and I taught about 6 years ago at McGuire Middle School in Lakeville.

She gave an overview of the software, by starting with a gas lab model. The software has a model window on the left, and experiments, instructions, and formative worksheets on the right. The worksheets add a level of accountablility that she likes.

In the simulations, you can adjust gas type, model type, preasure, temperature and size of the space the molecules. She ran a simulation with water, and you could see the hydrogen bonds form as the temperature decreased.

She currently teaches general chemistry, and with the software she is able to help the students visualize molecular structure and modify it quickley to teach specific points. She pointed to research that showed

"students learn and retain more through the use of text, and
pictures/annimations, especiallywhen words and visuals are presented simultaneously" e-SchoolNews, March 26, 2008
Her favorite is the Lewis Structure Lab". The software in her words is "dummy proof" so that as they add data, if it it is too small or too big, the color changes to let the student know that they need to adjust their data. Using trial and error, students can get the right structure with electrons and bonds that would have been very dificult to understand just out of a textbook.

Here are the key takeaways, benefits for her students:

  • Can use as a lecture tool

  • Visual

  • Interactive

  • Enjoyable

  • Deeper Understanding

  • Using tools they are comfortable with

  • More one on one student/teacher time

  • Lectures are more effective/visual

  • Saves Teaching Time

  • Students are actively involved in the lectures

  • Gives the "why" right up front

  • Live at the molecular scale!

  • Reflective journaling

Assignment options:

9th grade: Students are assigned 4 elements and asked for comparison/contrast information.

Gas laws are now on the ACT test, so this gives students a visual.

This software is course specific, but provides a tool for teachers that can have a strong impact on acheivement!

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