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1984 Winter Newsletter


Note: This article was scanned using OCR from the 1984 Winter CCCE Newsletter. Please contact us if you identify any OCR errors.

Dr. John H. Wise (Department of Chemistry, Washington and Lee University, Lexington, VA 24450) won first prize in the Computer Graphics Contest held at the "Eighth Biennial Conference on Chemical Education" 1held at the University of Connecticut in August. The figure entitled Van der Waals Equation was generated using an APPLE II+ with a Gemini 10 printer. The program was written in Applesoft BASIC. Professor Wise submitted a number of graphic figures. He uses many of these to enhance his lectures.
If any of us were ever in doubt whether the time we spend puttering with our computers is time well spent, we need look no further than the October issue of the Journal of Chemical Education for some strong support and encouragement.
From Tom Lippincott and George Bodner, page 844, " ... We must go beyond textbooks and lecturing in our classes. Computer techniques can be used to substantially improve on certain aspects of what textbooks do, and they can also be used to replace many of the less creative components of lecturing ... What we need now are 100 geniuses to dedicate the next 20 years of their lives, each one to a different aspect of our mission."
Or in the next article, a summary of the ACS Chemistry Education.Task Force, page 846, "The u.s. Government should expand its role as a major supporter of R&D in the use of computers ... in science education."
And again, in Dr. Johnstone's article "New Stars for the Teacher to Steer By", "Computer Programs ... here we have a technique in search of a use. So much of the software does little more than could be done with a pencil and paper and possibly a pocket calculator ... Where programs could make a unique contribution to chemical education, would be in a noise-reducing role ... Strategies have to be built up and practiced. These and many others are begging for the ingenuity of those with computing skills."
To me, the message is quite clear - computers continue to offer tremendous potential as instructional tools and we are still just scratching the surface.
Thinking about all of this, I asked myself "When was the last time you did something 'creative', that is, sat down and assembled a program that did something unique?" 
Quite honestly, I didn't like the answer, so I decided at that moment to put other obligations aside and work on the "special" topic I've had kicking around in the back of my mind for the past several months. It's not a revolutionary, earth-shaking program; in fact it's not at all sophisticated, even though it took up most of the weekend to get it far enough along to see whether it was really going to work. And I think it will. In my definition, a program works if it can help my students get more out of the time they spend on chemistry.
I'll know more about its usefulness next summer because I'm going to use. the rest of the year to test it out. Check with me at the Workshops at Clarkson University or at the meeting in Montclair and I'll give you a copy of it if it does!
Isn't it time YOU stopped and took a few days off to breathe some life into that nifty idea you've been carrying around in the back of your mind for the last year or so? If we don't do it, who will? Maybe the government will find those 100 geniuses and fund them for 20 years. But I doubt it.

Donald Rosenthal
Department of Chemistry, Clarkson University
Potsdam, NY 13676

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