P586: Placing interactive technology into the hands of students: Student perspectives on PhET simulations in the general chemistry curriculum

Author: Julia M. Chamberlain, University of Colorado - Boulder, USA

Co-Author: Ingrid M. Ulbrich, Colorado State University, USA; Robert Parson, University of Colorado Boulder and JILA, USA; Katherine K. Perkins, University of Colorado Boulder, USA

Date: 8/5/14

Time: 2:05 PM2:25 PM

Room: MAK B1100

Related Symposium: S44

Chemistry students confront a variety of difficult concepts that involve molecular-level processes, which are inaccessible to direct observation. Simulations and animations can help students to visualize these processes and connect their mental imagery to the symbolic representations used by experts. In this work we examine the use of PhET interactive simulations in a first-semester general chemistry course of approximately 600 students. PhET simulations feature open, exploratory environments with intuitive interfaces that enable student-directed investigation, and serve as flexible tools for faculty use in a variety of pedagogical contexts. More than 20 simulations were incorporated throughout the curriculum in several formats, including student-driven and instructor-led activities in class. Student perceptions of simulation utility and student-reported use of simulations were assessed in two surveys, administered at intervals through the term. Here, we will examine factors that affect student perceptions of simulations and reflect on how these outcomes inform choices about using simulations in class. Finally, we will discuss the potential implications that different use modes have on student perceptions of simulations and expectations for the process of learning chemistry.

P67: Interactive engagement strategies for undergraduate physical chemistry

Author: Robert Parson, University of Colorado, USA


Date: 8/3/14

Time: 4:00 PM4:20 PM

Room: LOH 164

Related Symposium: S10

Over the past five years, the Physical Chemistry program at the University of Colorado has explored the use of a variety of interactive engagement strategies in undergraduate Physical Chemistry. These strategies include concept tests administered with personal response systems (clickers), in-class breakout activities in which small groups work through context-rich problems, and interactive computer simulations developed by the PhET project. They have been deployed across a range of classroom environments and demographic categories, including a small class (~30-40 students) intended for Chemistry majors, a larger class (~40-70 students) intended for Biochemistry majors, and a much larger class (~120 students) intended for majors in Chemical and Biological Engineering. The impact of these activities on student learning was assessed using a concept survey developed specifically for the common content of all three courses, and the impact on student attitudes and beliefs about science was assessed using the CLASS (Colorado Learning Attitudes about Science Survey), and student interviews. This presentation will include results from these assessments, together with a discussion of practical aspects of implementing these strategies in the classroom and of sustaining their use after a course is handed off to a new instructor.