Newsletter: Using Computers in Chemical Education Fall 2005

ACS Division of Chemical Education :--Committee on Computers in Chemical Education

Chair : Don Rosenthal Who we are and what we do.

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Brian Pankuch


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Donald Rosenthal


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Hank Derr


Online Editor

Scott Van Bramer



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We have a single Fall issue per year.


Tom in his inimitable style, brings us up to date with his research in using course management tools effectively and designing online animations, to keep students more actively involved.


Continuing to Teaching Chemistry Students, Still Using Blackboard and
Flash for "e-education"

Thomas G. Chasteen
Department of Chemistry
Sam Houston State University


A two course, teacher's e-meal is presented. The entrée is a discussion of the use of course management software as a means of just-in-time quizzing. Results from a (initial) 58 students class in spring 2005 are presented. The dessert is a description of how to create Flash animations with required interactive elements that limit passive animation snoozing.

Keeping Track of Media    

Brian Pankuch

Chemistry Department
Union County College
Cranford, NJ 07016

Dave describes a formidable undertaking in the development of an extensive online learning system, which attempts to match a learning ‘scaffolding’ with the learners ability.

David Brooks

Professor of Chemistry Education in the Center for
Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. "David W. Brooks" <>
In the 2003 issue of this Newsletter we described the development of a HyperCard-based system for delivering Web courses that emphasized automated practice and immediate feedback. The discussion held following that paper stressed ways to migrate the software from HyperCard (a Macintosh-only software that is now extinct) to more modern software.
This paper, much more brief than the first, will describe both a migration and subsequent evolution of the software.

Previously we described a HyperCard based system that served as a back-end for Web-delivered chemistry pedagogy courses that made extensive use of automated practice with immediate feedback. This paper describes the migration from HyperCard, a Macintosh-only software application, to Runtime Revolution, a software development application that runs in Macintosh (Systems 9 & X), Windows, and Linux. Shortly after this successful migration, enormous performance enhancements were achieved by using just the scripting language of RunRev (called Transcript) for cgi applications going directly to a Revolution engine. While using databases such asMySQL under RunRev is an option, it was decided to store data in xml-like text files instead. This pseudocourse has ben developed using our materials and is available for your examination.
All files connected to this demonstration are copyrighted by David W. Brooks.




Conrad has added greater interactivity with his animations by giving students increased feedback by providing hints and questions about the animations.

Contemporary Chemistry Project
New Features

Conrad Trumbore
Emeritus, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry,
University of Delaware.

Two significant additions to our Contemporary Chemistry Project have been: (1) the introduction of a series of essay and multiple choice questions for each animation that allow in-depth testing of comprehension of that animation; (2) a new custom tool for classroom and browser presentation of animations that allows the instructor complete freedom in choosing order of animations and questions from a searchable database and that gives the instructor the option of modifying these questions and creating new essay and multiple choice questions.


Harry tackles evaluating search engines especially the slippery concept of relevance.

Evaluating Search Engines for Chemistry - 2005

SUNY Oneonta, Oneonta, NY


"... As noted in a previous article in this series, there are at least three important criteria that should be used to evaluate search engines: comprehensiveness, currency, and relevance. Comprehensiveness, the measure of what fraction of the total web the search engine index actually includes, is particularly important for chemists, because they are often looking for unusual information that may not be included in smaller search engine indices. Currency measures how often the search engine revisits sites to determine whether or not there have been any changes. This is important to all web searches, since failure to revisit sites allows dead links to be included in the index. The final important criterion is relevancy. Are the most useful sites listed early in the search results?



This article may take quite awhile to download if you are using a modem, if so be patient it is worth it.

PowerPoint: Showing Chemistry Bigger Than Life
By Ken Costello
Physical Science Department
Mesa Community College

The realm of chemistry is so vast that most of it is either too large to see, too small to see, too fast to see, or simply not in the classroom to be seen. However, by using the often overlooked capabilities of PowerPoint, these obstacles can be overcome. The secret to getting the power out of PowerPoint is in the way you perceive PowerPoint. In this article I reveal how to perceive PowerPoint as either medicine, a magician’s hat of tricks, or a picture window. Also included are many tips and examples presented in a visually rich manner.


Mark provides us with links to some of his work, which is available to faculty and students. The amount of material and the number of links is amazing.

Chemistry & Complexity
Mark R. Leach

20 Saturn Grove
Salford M6 6HA
+44 (0)161 736 6971 Manchester Office

The science of chemistry - chemistry, the whole thing - is analyzed in terms of systems thinking. First, the idea of the system is introduced, along with the concepts of complexity, fractal, automata, emergence & chaos. After this, some familiar chemistry topics with simple, linear behaviours are described, before moving on to regions of chemistry space where things get more complicated.


Scott has built in a surprising amount of interactivity into an Excel spreadsheet.

Exploring Radioactive Decay in Excel:

An Interactive Visual Thinking Tool

Scott A. Sinex, Ph.D.
Professor and Chair
Department of Physical Sciences and Engineering
Prince George's Community College
Largo, MD 20774-2199


Daniel discusses options using limited equipment with many students.

Towards an automated introductory chemistry open lab


Department of Chemistry Webpage
Eastern Kentucky University
Richmond KY 40475


Eastern Kentucky University uses an open lab format for the introductory chemistry courses offered for non science and nursing majors to allow a large number of students (450-500) to complete a two hour weekly lab in a room that has only 22 workstations. We have a pre-lab testing system that gives students short quizzes to test their preparedness for the experiments. Software is used to check students in and out of the lab, recording the day and time, events that took place in the lab, and other information. The computer automatically assigns unknowns and a station number to each student, after checking their prelab quiz score. Instructors are able to send an instant message to the coordinator in case assistance is needed. The lab coordinator is able to remotely connect to the database and at any moment see who is working in the lab, where and since when. Upon check-out, students will enter their data into the computer and will receive a grade instantly. This system will allow the collection of a large amount of data and will free instructors from managing the student traffic in and out of the laboratory and from grading lab reports, leaving them with just the task of supervising lab activity.