Lowell Thomson's blog

Using Chemical Mysteries (in the IB) Chemistry Classroom

Inspired by Tom Kuntzleman*, I started using mysteries in my chemistry curriculum this past year. The first mystery I shared with my students was burning water. While my magician skills aren't perfect, I was able to get the students asking questions and proposing hypotheses. For my IB students, it really allowed me to delve into a number of topics (e.g. combustion, intermolecular forces, polarity, density). And thus an idea was born: Using one mystery per topic. In this blog post I'll discuss my beginning effort to find or develop a mystery for each topic within the IB Chemistry curriculum.

One teacher's attempt to use BCA Tables for Stoichiometry

The thermal decomposition of copper II carbonate basic

In this blog post I'll describe a recent attempt at using BCA Tables for teaching stoichiometry. I discuss the method I used with one introductory chemistry class to teach both the algorithm method and BCA tables to learn more about a technique I've been curious about for a while.

Capturing the Beauty of Chemistry with an iPad

In my IB Chemistry class, my seniors were finishing up independent investigations for their Internal Assessment a few weeks ago when something cool happened. One of my students was using silver nitrate and potassium chromate for a titration. This is notable to the story here because the endpoint is marked by the formation of silver chromate as a precipitate, with a deep reddish color. I overhead the student showing his reaction to another student, with both of them commenting on the cool colors involved.

Using "Chemical Detectives" iPad App to Practice Spectroscopy

Chemical Detectives app

The new IB curriculum includes compound identification using NMR, IR and Mass spectroscopy. My current high school lab does not have any of these available. And that's no surprise, given the cost of these machines is far out of our budget. And while some of you may be lucky enough to have a connection to a local university or college, for the rest of us what are the options when it comes to teaching spectroscopy?


Lab Report Feedback, Part 1: Using Drawboard PDF on a Tablet to Provide Feedback on Student Labs

Throughout my 21 previous years as a teacher, I have really struggled to provide meaningful (and timely!) feedback to my students on their lab reports. Teaching IB Chemistry has really forced me to get better - and I have. Yet I still feel like this is an area for more improvement.I've got a series of blog posts planned to share some ideas with you - and hopefully garner some discussion that will be helpful for me also! First I'd like to share the mechanics of how I provide feedback.

Using an iPad simulation and an online Java applet to help students understand Maxwell-Boltzmann distribution curves

There are occasionally discussions amongst educators about the efficacy of using technology in the classroom. Does it really make a difference? One train of thought is looking at the use of technology through the SAMR lens. Is the technology simply a Substitution? Or does it Augment the learning compared to previous methods of learning the same material. Maybe the use of technology Modifies the learning tasks. Or will the technology actually Redefine the learning by allowing the student to interact with knowledge in a way that is impossible without this technology. With this in mind, I set about to use an iPad app and an online simulation to introduce my IB Chemistry students to the concept of Maxwell-Boltzmann distribution curves. I'm not sure exactly where it fits on the SAMR continuum, but without the simulations I could only show my students the graphical representation of the Maxwell-Boltzmann distribution curve. By using the simulations, I am attempting to help my students develope a deeper understanding of them.