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We’ve all seen and use the so-called Aufbau Diagram. It is a mnemonic used to remember the order of “filling” of atomic orbitals during the construction of the ground state electron configurations of the elements. The presentation of this diagram is largely disconnected from any physical meaning. Here’s what we tell our students: “Memorize the diagram, learn to use it, and you’re guaranteed to get the right answer.”
Chemists Celebrate Earth Day
The April 2016 issue of the Journal of Chemical Education is now available online to subscribers. In honor of Earth Day 2016, the April issue includes a variety of content that provides ideas and suggestions for bringing environmental chemistry to students on the topics of: water quality; climate science and greenhouse gases; atmospheric chemistry; sustainability, green chemistry, and environmental awareness; and energy storage technology. Also in the issue are articles on: outreach and public understanding; teaching organic chemistry; physical chemistry; exploring biochemistry with proteins; research experiences in the laboratory; educational resources.
In a dramatic movie trailer voice: “The Boiling Point. Gone without a trace. Or were they? The scene… a mystery. Had they disappeared? Been broken up into unrecognizable pieces? Can our hero find the answer? Or will it be too late?”
Is the cover of the March 2016 issue (see photo) of the Journal of Chemical Education a familiar scene? It is to me. I’ve spent many hours surrounded by shelves full of books and journals, in all of their papery goodness. Paper was the mainstay of my undergraduate searches in the chemistry library, although computer searches (to lead me to paper) also played a role. Since then, the landscape has changed dramatically, with far-reaching effects on both students and educators.
Chemical Information Special Issue
The March 2016 issue of the Journal of Chemical Education is now available online to subscribers. The entire issue is devoted to topics on various aspects of chemical information and information literacy: chemical education research on information literacy; chemical information literacy for undergraduates; chemical information literacy for graduate students; prototypes and best practices; discovery.
Providing Unique Learning Experiences
The February 2016 issue of the Journal of Chemical Education is now available online to subscribers. Topics featured in this issue include: metal–organic cage & host–guest interactions; safety; innovative teaching approaches; understanding kinetics; computer-based instruction; activities combining ethics and analysis; “play with your food” laboratories; synthesis and analysis in the laboratory; fluorescence-based experiments; chemical education research; mining the archives: copper.
The extent of my involvement with football is to check scores to see who won the Super Bowl and to watch an online recap of the best commercials that aired during the game. Nonetheless, I was excited to read, appropriately enough, on Super Bowl Sunday, a football-focused activity in the February 2016 issue of the Journal of Chemical Education.
This past summer our conversations turned to, “How can we improve our instruction to try and prevent the initial misunderstanding?” We had all read Dorothy Gabel’s article Improving Teaching and Learning Through Chemistry Education Research: A Look to the Future. We were intrigued by the author's description of the three fold system of representing concepts in chemistry.
An educational reform that has been gaining a large amount of popularity in the last decade is standards-based grading (SBG). The heart of the SBG movement is truly rooted in one very important question, “what do you want your grades mean?” In a traditional points-based system, a student’s grade typically reflects performance on tests and quizzes, ability to turn in homework, participation, and maybe some extra points for bringing in tissues. This system leaves little room for reflection, remediation and growth. It also puts an undue weight on behavior as opposed to learning. In an SBG system, a student’s grade reflects how well he/she has mastered a set of learning targets. This system gives students timely feedback and opportunities to remediate and reassess their knowledge and skills. Behavior is modified outside of the gradebook so grades simply reflect learning.
American Chemical Society (ACS) ChemClubs and ChemMatters have teamed up to offer a chemistry infographic contest for teachers, students, and really, any chemistry aficionado out there who would like to enter. Choose any chemistry topic and communicate it creatively and clearly through an original infographic. A class project or science club activity, perhaps?