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:
Virtual labs and simulations can also be used to for guided-inquiry or open-inquiry activities/case studies. The advantage of these is in the flexibility, efficiency, and ability to focus students on a precise concept (Smetana & Bell, 2012). Simulations and virtual labs are learner-centered and inquiry-based which promotes higher levels of thinking and retention. It also allows students to receive immediate feedback and correct their faulty understanding of a concept (Smetana & Bell, 2012; Stone, 2007). Additionally, experiments that would be too expensive (either cost of instrumentation or supplies), complicated or even dangerous to work with can be recreated safely in the virtual environment.  Here’s an example of a website with a series of virtual labs.

Ways that virtual labs have been integrated into curriculum are as a compliment to an experimental in-class lab, as additional lab experience where classroom time does not allow for another physical lab, or as an inquiry-based learning experience (whether for homework or in-class activity).  For instance, students might be required to complete and answer a series of questions using a virtual lab to prepare themselves for a physical lab on the same concepts and to familiarize themselves with how the instrumentation works. An example of an inquiry-based learning experience would be to ask students to predict and prove the outcome of an experiment with calculations and then to test their results using a virtual lab simulation.

Some examples of using tools for engagement and assessment:

  • Twitter: a means of real-time feedback, engagement, or assessment (Bowen, 2012). As an example of real-time feedback, instructors may have a twitter account projected on the screen or their mobile device active during a lecture/class activity. Students are encouraged to tweet questions or feedback in real-time and an instructor can then answer the question or choose to modify the discussion on the spot. This may be a useful technique for engaging students who are shy about speaking aloud in class. It can also be used as a means of assessment if students are asked to answer a short question via tweeting their response during class.  Another use of twitter might be to give students an assignment of following 15-20 twitter accounts related to the course and to then provide a summary of what they’ve learned after 10 minutes of following (or some other defined time period).
  • Clicker technology has been shown to be very popular with students. By incorporating series of questions which require student feedback via clicker, students can then see how the overall class has answered the question and be prompted into a think-pair-share activity (pre-, during, or post-assessment functionality). The same question can be repeated and the distribution of answers observed. This also provides real-time informal assessment of students’ understanding and the opportunity to redirect instructional content towards “trouble areas”.

More to come in the next post!


Bowen, J.A. (2012). Teaching Naked: How Moving Technology Out of Your College Classroom Will Improve Student Learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Kubicek, J.P. (2005). Inquiry-based learning, the nature of science, and computer technology: New possibilities in science education. Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology, 31(1). Retrieved from

Smetana, L.K. & Bell, R.L. (2012). Computer simulations to support science instruction and learning: A critical review of the literature. International Journal of Science Education, 34(9), 1337-1370.

Stone, D. (2007). Teaching chromatography using virtual lab exercises. Journal of Chemical Education, 84(9), 1488-1496.

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