P887: Active, constructivist instruction in chemistry using Molecular Workbench

Author: Neocles B. Leontis, Bowling Green State University, USA

Co-Author: Peter Blass, David Erickson and Andrew Torelli, Bowling Green State University, USA

Date: 8/6/14

Time: 2:45 PM3:05 PM

Room: MAK B1100

Related Symposium: S63

Molecular Workbench (MW) is a free and easy to use, on-line molecular dynamics (MD) simulation tool, embedded in a rich curricular authoring framework. It provides instructors with integrated tools to engage students through constructivist modeling and simulation in the study of important chemical phenomena. With MW, instructors can deploy rich activities that students can download, run, and modify on their own computers. Student creations can be uploaded for sharing and evaluation. We have identified barriers to constructivist pedagogy that must be overcome to achieve significant student learning gains. Students experience cognitive “overload” when first presented with open-ended modeling exercises. We have developed a new strategy we call “Break It to Make It.” Students are presented with working simulations of familiar phenomena and are challenged to modify or “break” them so the existing behavior no longer occurs. Then they modify selected parameters to “re-make” the simulation to produce new dynamic behaviors. Challenges deployed using this strategy include “breaking” exothermic reactions to make them endothermic (or exothermic in the reverse direction), “breaking” miscible liquid mixtures so they separate into immiscible phases, and “breaking” uniquely folded polymer chains so they unfold without changing temperature. After students gain experience with highly scaffolded modeling exercises, they are presented challenges requiring more creativity on their part. Examples will be presented including trapping molecules inside of cells or finding ways reduce the osmotic pressure of a solution. MW is especially suited for exploring challenging topics that are difficult for students to master using conventional “static,” book-based learning.

P564: “Metabolism Fun”: Learning through gaming

Author: Neocles B. Leontis, Bowling Green State University, USA

Co-Author: Neocles B. Leontis, Bowling Green State University, USA

Date: 8/5/14

Time: 2:05 PM2:25 PM

Room: HON 148

Related Symposium: S37

Gamification is a powerful strategy for deepening student understanding of complex systems with many interacting parts. Many aspects of metabolism are difficult for biochemistry students to learn with conventional methods of lecture, textbook reading, and examinations. Many students fail to learn that co-factors such as ADP/ATP, NAD+/NADH and FAD/FADH2 form limited pools confined to individual cells, that need to be recycled many times each day. We have created an on-line computer game, “Metabolism Fun,” which will be made available at the presentation for attendees to try. Metabolism Fun challenges students to wisely choose and allocate nutrients to organs and pathways to achieve physiological goals: RNA and protein synthesis for growth and repair, glycogen and tri-acyl-glyceride (TAG) synthesis for storage of fuel molecules, and synthesis of ATP for nerve and muscle action as well as biosynthesis. By playing the game, students quickly learn the inter-connections between the major metabolic pathways and how to most efficiently synthesize ATP and recycle NADH and FADH2 to allow catabolism to proceed without interruption. Most importantly, they learn to carefully allocate nutrients to balance the need for energy on the one hand and for precursors for biosynthesis on the other. The game provides visual feedback of the levels of ATP, ADP, NAD+/NADH, FAD/FADH2 in each cell type and the amounts of macromolecules synthesized in different tissues. Students compete to synthesize macro-molecule to score as many points as possible within a limited number of turns.