The end is in sight… or is it the beginning?

It’s the final week of my Media Enhanced Learning course (you know, the whole reason I started this blog devoted to exploring and documenting my learning about social media & technology in chemistry education). I can hardly believe the flurry of tweets, Facebook posts, and forum posts will be drawing to a close! And I feel perfectly okay confessing my relief… maybe I’m not representative of my generation, but participating in various conversations in so many different platforms was quite a struggle for me. I felt like I was continuously distracted by each new topic or post that appeared and would begin formulating a response to it when another equally interesting one would appear. It was also a brand-new experience for me to work full-time while attending school part-time (even in an online course format). I think I have a better understanding of what many of today’s post-secondary students are dealing with  and I can only express my profound respect for their commitment to learning amidst the daily requirements of family, work, and life.

I still feel like I’ve been on a bit of a circus ride (perhaps a whirly gig?) with a myriad of impressions and idea seeds floating around in my head. I’ve learned about or been exposed to web 2.0 tools, copyright issues and Fair Access, projected media, non-projected media, instructional design, gamification in learning, and what education may look like 10 years down the road to name only a few. I think I could easily spend the next year processing it all out on this blog, and secretly I hope to! I don’t want this blog to die with the end of the course but to continue to be a resource and inspiration for myself and other teachers in chemistry or education who are interested in integrating technology and social media for enhanced engagement and learning.

So I’d like to leave this post with a link to a great infographic featured in Ed-Tech magazine created from Always Prepped Blog 7 habits of highly effective teachers.

7 Habits of Tech Ed

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More Web 2.0 tools for the classroom

I’ve been exposed to an amazing variety of technology tools that could be strategically employed to enhance teaching and/or learning in my PIDP3240 course. I wanted to highlight a few more that I am especially excited about using: BrainShark, Vialogues, SpicyNodes, and free stock image sites.

1. BrainShark. BrainShark is a free “cloud-based software for creating, sharing and tracking online and mobile video presentations” (BrainShark – What Is It). It’s a comparable alternate to Screencast-o-Matic that allows you to create audio recordings to accompany PowerPoint and then make it available on the web for on-demand viewing. You can incorporate PowerPoint, photos, or video clips into your recorded presentation. To record the audio track for your presentation, you can either use a microphone or telephone. Documents (Word, PDF, excel) and urls can be attached to the presentation as well. It does require creating an account, unlike Screencast-o-Matic, but one advantage may be the compatible mobile device app, SlideShark, for apple devices that allows for creation and viewing of BrainShark presentations. BrainShark presentations can also be added to your LinkedIn profile.

2. Vialogues. Vialogues = Video + dialogue. This is a really interesting discussion tool.
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Technology & Chemical Education

Technology is being increasingly used and integrated in all areas of education from K-12 through post-secondary. The use of technology can facilitate more student-centered learning, inquiry-based learning, and allow for a flipped classroom where content is covered outside of class and application/feedback occurs during class time (Kubicek, 2005; Bowen, 2012). Some of the ways technology has been used in chemical education are: content delivery and/or concept review via podcasts and/or online chemistry videos (see below for example), entire online courses, simulations, virtual labs, and using various technology tools for engagement and assessment (e.g. Learning Management Systems, wikis for collaborative lab reports (see my previous post on this), chemistry iPad apps, Twitter, clicker technology, online quizzes, etc.). See the resources section for more tools and links. I hope to keep adding regularly to this page in the future.

Podcasts for Chemistry
Chemistry World’s Element Podcasts – stories of the discovery and properties of each element by famous scientists

Royal Society of Chemistry’s Chemistry World Podcasts – once a month production covering important chemistry news items

Nature’s Chemistry Podcasts – although there’s nothing new on their site since 2009:
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Trends in Chemistry Education

Apparently it took me a little while to recover from a week long trip to Kauai so let’s get back on board with a look at some current trends in high school/post-secondary chemistry education. These are by no means the most important or the only trends, just a few that are particularly interesting to me right now: context-based chemistry and inquiry-based learning.

Key issues with how chemistry has traditionally been taught include: (1) an overload of content in courses due to the rapidly emerging body of scientific knowledge, (2) curricula being taught as a series of isolated facts that do not facilitate the formation of  meaningful connections between facts, (3) lack of transfer of problem-solving skills, (4) lack of relevance to students’ lives, and (5) inadequate emphasis on the skills necessary to advance in further studies of chemistry or inadequate emphasis on scientific literacy for those who will not be continuing in the field of chemistry (Gilbert, 2011). The idea of setting chemistry within particular contexts and structuring courses as modules to enhance student engagement and learning developed in the 1980s and has become increasingly popular.
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“Teaching Naked”, the final chapters

This is my last journal entry on Jose Antonio Bowen’s book. It was so interesting to see my perspective on “Teaching Naked” completely changed from beginning to end. I’m eager to reread it again and start pulling out resources that I want to explore in more detail. And I also finally figured out what Bowen meant  by teaching naked:  “non-technological interaction with students inside the classroom” (Bowen, 2012, preface x).


Bowen (2012) argues that in order for institutions to survive the impact of the internet on educational delivery and global competition, faculty and administration must work together to create a unique learning experience that can only be provided in face-to-face format. “If students are going to come to campus, there must be something more on campus than is available online, and that can only be faculty interacting with students in powerful and meaningful ways” (Bowen, 2012, p. 286). He points out that the perceived experience of college as a rite of passage to adulthood with the extras of football teams, gyms, dorms, and campus life will be less and less valued. The product of education, being able to demonstrate that more learning is taking place on campus, will become the new standard by which an institution is judged and ranked among its competitors. Hybrid courses that combine online and in-person components will be the preferred mode of learning and will offer the most possibility for growth in enrollment (Anderson, Boyles, & Rainie, 2012; Bowen, 2012; Rowland, 2013; University of Washington Bothwell Learning Technologies, 2013). Each institution must assess its local and global strengths and adapt its course offerings, course designs, and physical and administrative structures in order to exist in and alongside the digital world. file0002022362803

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More web 2.0 in the classroom

I’ve spent a lot of time in the web 2.0 forum this week reading about and pondering new tools for teaching. Here’s a commentary on a few tools: FlipSnack, Socrative, and TimeToast.

1) FlipSnack lets you create a interactive flash digital document from pdfs, called a flipbook, that can be embedded in websites or blogs.  The makers of the tool envisioned its use for creating visually appealing, easy to maneuver online magazines, books, newspapers, theses, portfolios, bulletins, annual reports, or catalogs. One great advantage of the tool is you can take multiple pdfs and merge them into a single flipbook. I tried the free version of the tool using my twitter account as a login (love not having to create another account) and created a flipbook of all the pdf assignments for the online course I’m taking.

I admit that in this format, it was much more fun to read through the documents. You can also customize the look of your flipbook and the background. You can share your flipbook by embedding the code in a website or sending a unique url ( to others. You can also download it to your computer for later use (only in the premium/paid version though). Check it out:

To view this flipping book you need to have Flash Player 9 or newer installed and JavaScript enabled.

Okay so actually embedding that video was a lot more work than just using the url. That may be a downside to the tool. Also as FlipSnack mentions, in the free version, you are limited to creating e-books of 15 pages in length and you can only create 3 flipbooks.
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Reflecting on the use of technology for content delivery

This is the second journal entry prepared for my PIDP 3240 class based on readings from Jose Antonio Bowen’s book, Teaching Naked: How Moving Technology Out of Your College Classroom Will Improve Student Learning. The middle section of his book discusses integrated technology (hybrid courses) in course designs as a way to deliver content outside of class-time, engage students, assess students and motivate students. If you don’t know anything about the book, here’s a video of Jose discussing the major themes in under 5 minutes:

I want to quickly highlight some of the many resources that Bowen lists for online chemistry content delivery to give and then the rest of this blog post is a reflection on what blended learning is, how using technology to deliver content outside of class-time is advantageous, and why I feel that it’s important to explore in a post-secondary or adult upgrading education context.

Bowen (2012) mentions several fantastic places to start for general chemistry resources: YouTube videos, apps for the periodic table and chemical formulas, podcasts from Nature to provide relevant connections to students’ lives, animations from the University of Akron, and open learning courses by Carnegie Mellon and MIT. To this I would add sites like the University of Colorado’s interactive simulations of chemical concepts (, ChemCollective’s virtual labs (, and University of Oxford’s virtual chemistry page ( Virtual labs could be done outside of class to prepare students for an in-class experiment or to provide students with data that could be analyzed together in class. I also see an opportunity for collaborative learning by including a reflective assignment where students are asked to review existing online resources and identify new resources that they believe should have been included.

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Accessibility of online learning

After reading an opinionated piece in the NYTimes about why students would consider a $50,000 education when they can access the same courses online for free, I started wondering about how truly accessible online learning is. Here are some interesting statistics on both the US and Canada. Food for thought!

From 2010 data: Statistics collected by the Commerce Department showed that 68% of US households had broadband internet access.  For households whose annual income is less than $25, 000, only 43% had broadband internet access. Comparatively, for households whose annual income is greater than $100,000, 93% had broadband internet access. Black and Hispanic households had significantly less broadband access at 55 and 57% respectively compared to Asian and White households (81 and 77% percent). Rural households also had less broadband internet access (57%) compared to urban households (70%). Studies also show that Black and Hispanics are more likely to use a mobile phone to access the internet than a computer. How would this impact the ability to take online courses?
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Who Doesn’t Succeed In Online Classes

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I came across this article in the Chronicle of Higher Education that reported results from a recent study (2013) about how different demographics fared in online courses. I was especially interested in this study as it focused on students at community and technical colleges in the U.S. as opposed to universities. I am always curious about the impact of taking “trends” and applying them across all kinds of institutions without factoring in diversely different student bodies. I suppose I should apply the same modicum of caution to this study as well. This study used a large sample size of 40,000 students from Washington state taking ~500,000 online courses in a variety of subject areas. (Note: the quality of the online courses was not evaluated or corrected for as a variable). The two key results were: (1) almost every subgroup of students performed more poorly in online courses (both in retention and in grades) than they did in face-to-face classes and (2)  students who typically struggle in traditional classrooms experience even more difficulty in online courses.

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A random collection of impressions from week 1

So I feel like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz who enters this whole alternate universe unlike anything experienced in her previous reality. As a quick rehash of this week, some things I’ve learned about or been exposed to for the first time: using wikis as an alternate mode for preparing and submitting group lab reports, Screencast-o-matic as a tool for short videos capturing images on your computer screen, and Massive Open Online Courses (or MOOCs for short).

1) Using wikis for collaborative lab reports. I love this idea! An instructor can provide videos, podcasts, or presentations in the template of the lab report that help the students prepare for or reflect on each section. Students can post data to the wiki during the lab and continue to collaborate on it after the lab without needing to meet in person. They can include screenshots of raw data or computer generated graphs. As an instructor, you have the ability to see which individuals are logging in and making changes to the site. You can also monitor the progress of each group on it’s report and encourage those that are slow to get started. This post by a physics instructor describes in detail how he sets up and manages the wiki for lab reports. Here’s another post by a chemistry instructor of her experience using wikis. This wiki page includes a lesson plan for using the wiki for lab reports. Lastly here’s an article in the Journal of Chemical Education (2010) [you do need access through a personal subscription or educational institution to read it, sadly not an open source journal] about using chem-wikis for online lab reports to boost student collaboration.
Below is a video on getting started with a wiki page:

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