This section includes discussions only related to this paper and the
exchange I participated.
From: Denis Bussieres
You refer to different generations of your first animation on the reaction
of a matal atom with a non-metal one. Each generation is a kind of
"upgrading" of the previous one by addition of some more details. This is
great and show how good is the technology to serve our purpose of
illustrating our concepts.
SQ- A3 BP : Upgrading animations
Question : With those upgrading and additionnal details added, is there a
way not to restrict the access _and_ the comprehension of the simulations ?
With to many details and infos, can one loose the overall image or concept
we are trying to explain ?
ASQ-A3 CC Upgrading animations
We agree with you. If the animation or simulation has become too complicated
or contains too much information, students will probably not get the message.
However, what we meant by a different generation refers to a version using
a new generation of technology. With improved technology, we can present
the simulation better, not necessarily more complicated or contains more
From: george long
An issue that has been on my mind for some time is assessment of computer
based curriculum. There are a variety of methods used for this, but most
methods are conventional - by that I mean they could be applied equally as
well to any curricular change. For example, the use of student evaluations,
and then the double blind study of student performance on tests.
My question - Are these reasonable assessment methods for computer based
curricula ? the Software industry uses very different criteria in
evaluating software, that deals with ease of use, among other issues
(because the goals are different, of course). There seems to be no current
criteria for efficiency in delivering material for example. Also, The rate
of change in the available technology seems to be faster than the abillity
to study the use of the technology.
I'd be interested in any thoughts anyone might have on limitations of the
SQ-A1,2,3 GRL: Assesment
ASQ-A1,2,3 CC: Assessment
Frankly, we have not done an assessment study of animation or simulation.
Like many other educators, we make up these material hoping to achieve
the goal of making students see what we like them to see. We pulled
students opinion, and they did give favourable comments. However,
the results did not give quantitative indication of the effectiveness
of animations and simulations. How these were used also affects their
effectiveness. We have difficulty in giving double blind test, because
we give all students equal opportunities. We have about a thousand
students in freshman chemistry, and we offer the computer material to all.
Some classes have been exposed more to computer animations and simulations
than others, but the examinations do not test concepts involved in these
Publishers of our textbooks are interested showing us how fancy their
visual clips of experiments are. The representatives are seldom
interested in what we have developed. So far, we have not got any
software industry to evaluate our computer simulations, partly because
the technology evolves so fast that no market has been developed for them
From: Donald Rosenthal
SQ A-3 DR: Q1- Student Access to Animations and Simulations
Do your students have access to these animations and simulations
or are they only available in your lectures?
SQ-A3 DR: Some Short Questions about Paper A-3 From:
ASQ A-3 CC Students access
Students have access to the animations and simulations over many years
when students access the DOS version of our course information system.
Since we move to the Internet course sites, students are not given the
opportunity to access the DOS version of animations or simulations.
Some, but not all are shown during lectures recently.
From: Donald Rosenthal
SQ A-3 DR: Q2- Do your students have access and do they use
other simulations in your general chemistry course?
For example, do they use simulations like those described in
ASQ A-3 CC: Access to other simulations
Our course Internet site has links to some other simulations.
Some students may have accessed to others, but we have no hard data on
these yet. We are aware of simulations in A-1 only recently, and our
course Internet site has not linked to these yet.
From: "Noah's Father" nfackler@NebrWesleyan.edu>
SQ Addressed to all Presenters and Participants: I am curious how much of
your efforts in computer usage are directed towards giving a "small class
size" feeling to otherwise large lecture sections. Though I appreciate the
wonder and utility of computers in the classroom, it seems to me the time
input and added equipment is not much different than adding a new faculty
line and diminishing the lecture class size, thus facilitating more
student-student interaction, allowing more "on the fly" assessment, and
generally providing for a more manageable, interactive atmosphere.
SQ A-1,2,3 NF Class Size
ASQ A-1,2,3 CC Class Size
Come to think of it, your question hit the nail right on the head,
Professor Fackler. Because the class size is large (220 per class) and
students ability differs greatly. We provide animations and simulations
to help the weaker students. Strong students are able to handle abstract
concepts, and they may see the simulations and animations as trivial.
However, the availability of animations and simulations raises other
interest than science itself.
Comment from Walt Volland
I agree that an additional faculty member allows for smaller class sizes.
However, just because the class size goes down by half doesn't necessarily
alter what the student sees in lecture. Adding faculty doesn't necessarily
improve our student's views and perceptions of chemistry models.
I think Donald is right when he trys to compensate for large class sizes. I
think simulations and animations offer a way to do this. They also do more
than that, because they offer students more than one bite at the apple.
Students can get some experience with the principles without worrying about
their limited access to a lab. When they work with the simulations and
animations they are not hampered by a lack of lab skills. They are potentially
free from schedule limitations. The animations create a version of an "open"
Regarding the cost issue, many colleges are willing to buy computers and
software regardless of whether or not chemistry faculty incorporate them into
their classes. Much of the expense of computers will be incurred by the
institution no matter what chemistry faculty do.
Short question: Have any students commented on the convenience of accessing
the simulations at off hours?
Some Other Related Discussion
SQ A-1: Simulations for problems.
Q1: I have read your paper and I have gone to your teaching web site to
look at some of the simulations you offered to your students. You have
used worksheets to guide your students' investigation. In other occasions,
you have used a form for students to submit work. Thus, some of your
simulations are sources of data for problems. They are actually sources of
homework, especially for group learning tasks. Are you using simulations
mostly for learning tasks?
Yes, at the present time most of my simulations are linked to learning
tasks (homework). I have found that student compliance with doing problems
from the back of each chapter is not good (one year I tried collecting it
for a small amount of credit . . . the fraction of students handing in
completed work from each chapter grew smaller as the semester progressed .
. . there is also a problem with copied work). Most students do complete
the on-line work related to the simulations even though I only collect each
assignment from a small fraction of the class. However, students can still
"collaborate" on the work.
SQ A-1 Q2 from email@example.com
Q2: Using simulations for homework is certainly interesting, but you have
devoted a lot of time in making these simulations up. Using CGI and
programs, you have used HTML Forms to evaluate students' work. Do
you see merit in using Forms to generate problems for students' home work,
and use computer to evaluate their work without the simulations?
ASQ A-1 Q2
In fact I plan on adding some non-simulation "homework forms" within my
course notes during the summer break. These will be used when simulations
would be of little value (in my assessment). For example I plan to add
interactive forms for conversion of unit type problems (within the SI
system, moles/mass, mass/moles/volume/molarity, etc). The good points of
these involve immediate feedback (as long as a check feature is built in)
and a large number of problems (if they are generated using a random number
function). However, students must have access to a computer and the web
(although the interactive problems could be generated in a form that could
be downloaded and used off-line). Whether they will be "effective" remains
to be seen.
One concern that I have is the growing fraction of students who have
difficulty using their calculators properly. Has anyone else noticed this?
Comment from firstname.lastname@example.org
I have a system to let students write quizzes over the Internet. In one of
my Quiz questions the result expected is (1/4)e-9. On some of the
calculators, the student will see 0.000000002 and they enetered 2e-9 as
the answer. My computer system gave a zero mark for such an answer. The
student came to argue for marks in my office. I told him or her the answer
he or she entered has an error of 20%, and that was why the answer worths
Because of this incidence, I put a block of questions that gives similar
answers such as (1/3)e-9, (1/6)e-9, (1/7)e-9, (1/8)e-9, (1/9)e-9 etc to
make sure that each students will get one such a question. More students came
to argue, and I was glad to catch some of students' bad habbit.
Comment from Jimmy Reeves
I think calculators are a key factor in the tendency of students to seek
algorithms rather than understanding. If the proper formula can be found,
it becomes an easy matter to plug and chug their way to a solution, without
ever considering its meaning. When a students fail to realize that
3x10(-15) is not a reasonable answer for the number of molecules in a sample
of matter, it seems obvious that the problem extends beyond their inability
to use their calculators correctly. When I lecture, I emphasize the need to
estimate the size and indicate the unit of the answer they are seeking as
the first step in approaching a problem. The interactive exercises being
developed for AACE will explicitly require students to do this. In
addition, when I design multiple choice exams, I strive to make two of the
distracters "impossible" but achievable on a calculator if the data is input
incorrectly. For example, when asking a question on average atomic weight,
I provide answers that are below that of the isotope with lowest weight and
above that of the isotope with the highest weight. I also emphasize
conceptual questions that ask students to identify a picture that best
represents the physical situation indicated by a number (c.f.
Comment from Denis Bussieres
This seems to be a general trend. Nowadays, students want the best way to
get the "wright" answer, whatever the process needed to get it.
I think the "key ingredient" in there is the "units". I insist and make
obligatory to give the "units" with the answer otherwise there is a penalty.
On the other end, I make sure they understand that "units" can help them
sometimes to find the way to get the answer they are looking for.
And calculator do NOT give "units"...
Comment from L. Peter Gold
Most general chemistry textbooks are contributors to this problem. They
say all the right things in Chapter 1 or 2 about looking at the
reasonableness of the answer but then forget about it in subsequent
chapters. The only exception of which I am aware is the new edition (3) of
Brady, Russell, and Holum. They go through this for almost every example
problem in the book. I don't know whether they also do it in the solutions
manual; if not, they should.
I present this idea to my students as "Wheeler's First Great Moral
Principle." John Wheeler is a physicist; he stated his principle in one of
his textbooks many years ago. It says, "Never solve a problem until you
know the answer."
Don Mencer's Comment invites some comment on quizzes.
I also liked Walt Volland's on-line quiz
(http://www.scidiv.bcc.ctc.edu/wv/7/spq6/spq6.html) with animations. I
am not sure how I could use such a quiz in a supervised setting (due to
the logistics . . . too many students for any of computer labs) and I
would not want to give quizzes on-line that would be done outside of
class time (for example in dorm rooms). Any thoughts on how we can do
on-line testing and be satisfied that the work submitted is actually done
by the student who will receive the grade?
Our regular in-class (lectureed) students have been writing Quizzes over
the Internet for more than two years. Anything presentable on the Internet
can be used on these quizzes. I have used some figures, but have not used
animations. I have also visited Walt Volland's site above, and find the
questions excellent. I will try to use animations in the future.
In our case, the quiz marks is worth only 10% of the total grade. Each
student write 9 quizzes for a 13-week term, and we use 8 best marks to
derive an average quiz mark. Since the weight for the quiz mark is low, we
do not care much about several students doing them together. These are
not supervised quizzes. We keep track of some of the things students do,
and the records show many students doing the quizzes after midnight. If a
student get a very low mark, we allow them to write the quiz again. Of
course, a new set of question will be chosen from the pool.
In each quiz, I give 5 to 10 questions, each from a set of similar
questions. Thus, I can cover 5 to 10 different concepts in a quiz.
When students re-write a quiz, they will learn the more same thing
again, hopefully better.
While I revize the questions during the past few weeks, I thaught the
purpose of the quiz is to help students learn. Why not make writing the
quizzes a learning process. Thus, I added some background information and
point out the skills students are suppose to acquire from doing a
problem. As a result, students will have to read more, and spend more time
for each quiz.
Unfortunately, only registered students will be able to write these
quizzes, because of mark processing. Thus, I cannot offer the trial
to the CONFCHEM audience at this time. The thaught and strategy might be
of interest to you.
Regarding Walt Volland URL for emission spectrum
I took your suggestion and visited your excellent site
Would you let us know the software you have used to make up the diagrams
on this and your other pages?
Reply from Walt Volland
Thanks for the nice comments. The spectrum site took a lot
of time. You are seeing the 5th or 6th version of the spectrum
simulation. I've had a good number of thoughtful suggestions from students
for improvements so it is still a work in progress. There are some high
school teachers who have their students using the "lab" as an enrichment
The software I use includes
Adobe Photoshop 5.5
Macromedia's Fireworks 3,
Macromedia's Dreamweaver 3,
Homepage (by Filemaker),
Bryce 3D (Metacreations now Corel),
Chem3D , Cambridge Scientific
Poser 4 (Metacreations now Corel)
Painter 5.5 (Metacreations now Corel)
Graphic Converter (a shareware program)
These are the mainstay programs Each one offers a different "benefit."
The way to minimize costs is to buy though a software vendor like software
showcase who provide educational discounts .
Some of the companies like Wavefunction and Cambridge have good educational
Comment from Don Mencer
This is not a bad idea . . . in essence the quiz is an on-line learning
tool that counts toward the grade (similar to homework). Even though it
counts for only a small portion of the grade, some students could take
unfair advantage (by having someone else do the work for them).
Does anyone have thoughts on how a automated on-line exam/quiz system can
be used to fairly assess (avoiding cheating) student learning? Am I
"stuck" with using any on-line versions (which could include nice
animations or simulations) as practice exams?
Has anyone tried projecting animations in a classroom as part of a quiz or
Comment from Brian
To check how effective this was, for the next test I didn^Ot tell the
students specifically that the animations would be covered on the
test. During the test I setup the animation and asked them, for extra
credit, to write out a description of the main points of the
animation. The results as you might expect were quite good. Errors
were generally incompleteness, not mistakes in interpretation. The
next semester a similar procedure was followed, except I didn^Ot setup
the animation during the test. Surprisingly the students did as well.
Leaving out the step of discussing the student descriptions of the
main points of the animation, resulted in somewhat less complete
answers. The overall results were still quite good.