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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Spring 2009 term post-mortem of CHEM 241 orgo course

Another term at Drexel is over. Following my previous post-mortem analysis for the winter 09 term here are some thoughts about how things went teaching CHEM241:

1) My Second Life extra credit assignment was very different this term. Instead of having students create exhibits with 3D molecules I focused on the networking opportunities in chemistry. Students had to interview 3 people on Second Life and 3 more on FriendFeed and find out why they are participating in social software and how it relates to their interest in chemistry. They also were asked to take snapshots of chemistry related objects in Second Life. Even though only 4 students did the project what results is a wiki page that could be useful for briefing people about what exists for chemistry on social software platforms and why people bother to participate. Think about what helpful resources could be generated if a few teachers from various academic fields gave out similar assignments for just one term.

2) ChemTiles game: Leveraging the code that he used for the Spectral Game, Andrew Lang created a web version of the quizzes that I have used in Second Life and Unreal Tournament. Having browser access made it much easier for students to participate and the use of high scores allowed me to run contests over a week instead of just one class session. I ran three contests and gave out a textbook as a prize. I added a lot more content to cover chirality, nucleophilic reactions and eliminations. In addition to the contests, sometimes we just played the game in small groups at the workshops. Just like with the Spectral Game, when run in groups I used the images that appeared as opportunities to discuss in depth some of the related course material.

Some students were motivated to beat the high score and the game was a useful addition to the resources available to teach the course materials. There isn't a single tool that will appeal to all students. A recurrent finding in my teaching is that the more channels are offered to students the more choice they have and that can make learning more pleasant and interesting. But all methods of instruction require active participation on the student's part.

Even though I will not be teaching organic chemistry again till January (I am teaching Chemical Information Retrieval in the fall) the ChemTiles and Spectral Games will be freely available to other teachers and students.

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