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1993 ChemConf: Applications of Technology in Teaching Chemistry

06/14/93 to 08/20/93
Donald Rosenthal and Tom O'Haver

The first ChemConf

Conference Articles

Abstracts of Papers:

Donald Rosenthal
Department of Chemistry, Clarkson University Potsdam NY 13699


This paper describes how students use computers and computer interfaced instruments in a laboratory course.  The experiments and laboratory reports are discussed.  The use of word processing, numerical methods, statistical methods, graphing and other software is explained and illustrated.


B. James Hood, Dept. of Chemistry & Physics, Middle
Tennessee State University


           The use of networked computers has been proposed as a solution to increased computer implementation costs. There are other factors that should be considered when designing and implementing Local Area Networks (LANs). There are two types of LAN configurations: Peer-to-Peer (PtP) and Client-Server (CS) networks.  PtP networks allow each computer in the LAN to serve as storage and peripheral connecting devices.  CS systems have a dedicated computer that is only used to control access to the software and hardware.  Three types of hardware standards exist: proprietary (for example, Lantastic, AppleTalk, Token-Ring), EtherNet (10base5, 10base2, 10baseT), and FDDI (optical).  The networks are physically designed into three types of topologies; daisy-chain (each computer connected with a cable in and a cable out), stars (one cable into the cable), and backbones (one major line with individual computers attached to it).  When cost, performance and maintenance factors are considered, PtP configurations that run EtherNet in a hybrid active star/background topology are best suited for use in the chemistry classroom and or lab.

John P. Ranck
Department of Chemistry
Elizabethtown College
Elizabethtown, PA 17022


Conventional (paper) representations of chemical reactions suffer in that they generally show only the atomic connectivity (topology) of the product and reactant molecules.  We train students to infer additional information not contained explicitly in these representations such as three-dimensionality, atomic size and steric factors, statistics of bi-molecular collisions, and even the higher-energy transition-state complex.  Our representations and our teaching, however, seldom include the facts that the molecular fragments undergo several cycles of vibrational motion during the time of interaction, that the course of reaction depends upon the phase of these motions, and (most importantly) that the molecular orbitals (electron distributions), which are the only factors other than billiard ball dynamics affecting the outcome of the reaction, are constantly shifting in response to both motion along the molecular interaction coordinate and the vibrational motions of the molecular fragments.  Three HyperChem "movies" of the prototype SN2 reaction showing both atomic motions and frontier molecular orbitals throughout the course of the reaction are presented together with commentary about features unrecognized by most students.

*Nava Ben-Zvi, **William S. Harwood, *Ahuva Leopold, **Lisa L. Ragsdale
*Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel 91904,
**University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland 20742


          Telecourses, educational packages with a pronounced video component, have been produced to be used in distance education at the university level.  The creation of these courses and access to them is unequally distributed around the world.  The limiting factor is not necessarily the availability of materials, but instead the need to adapt the course to the needs of different countries.  The first author is the co-director of "The World of Chemistry" telecourse, which had an initial target population of U.S. college students pursuing non-science majors.  The telecourse is currently being used by other populations in the U.S. and abroad.  At the Open University of Israel, "The World of Chemistry" is being adapted and formally evaluated for Israeli students.  Since the course uses a strong Science, Technology and Society approach, it calls for careful tailoring to allow for cultural differences.  The Israeli adaptation process is being compared to adaptation processes in the U.S.  

Joyce C. Brockwell
Northwestern University, Chemistry, 2145 Sheridan Rd, Evanston IL 60208-3113


Organic qualitative analysis is an invaluable segment of our laboratory curriculum, providing an intensive review of techniques and exercising the students' powers of obeservation and deduction. However, grading the work of 275 students each having up to six unknowns is a time-consuming process for the instructor.  In response to this problem, a computer program design is proposed which will provide the rapid, high-level feedback on empirical findings required for the students' success in these experiments.  While the program is designed to assist by giving the students a critique of their technique and a confirmation of their findings, it must necessarily be designed carefully to require the the laboratory work actually be carried out by prohibiting blind guessing ("dry labbing").  All aspects of such a program's design and its implications will be discussed.

K.J. Schray, N.D. Heindel, J.E. Brown. and M.A. Kercsmar. Department
of Chemistry and Office of Distance Education, Lehigh University,
Bethlehem, PA 18015 (


The Department of Chemistry at Lehigh University has initiated a master's degree program by satellite for chemists located at industrial sites remote from the University. The need for this program is evident from the response of companies' continuing education groups. This need arises from the decline in not only the number of bachelor chemistry graduates over the last decade, but also the decline in the percentage of students going on for graduate work.
Thus, both chemists realizing the need for an advanced degree for mastery of their discipline and for personal advancement and non-chemists doing chemistry without sufficient background are interested in furthering their education without the necessity of quitting their jobs and perhaps moving. Companies support these goals.
The program has completed three semesters of coursework, enrolled 80 students from 10 companies in 10 states. The satellite program duplicates the on-site program, although it has less flexibility in course selection. The curriculum, course sequences, and number of offerings are being evaluated and updated as our experience develops. The background and nature of the students, the maximization of the use of the available technology, and the successes and difficulties of the program are all becoming clear.


Frank M. Lanzafame
Department of Chemistry, Monroe Community College
1000 East Henrietta Rd. Rochester, NY 14623
(716) 292-2000 Ext. 5130


A computer program has been written to generate individual graphical problem sets for students in general chemistry.  Its purpose is to develop graphing skills through take-home assignments requiring each student to do his own work.  Data is generated for several problems including: the equation relating different thermometer systems, Gay-Lussac P-T data, vapor pressure versus temperature data, and radioactive decay/first order kinetic data.  Experimental statistical fluctuations are simulated.  Answers are calculated for questions accompanying the data.  Errors in all quantities are provided using regression errors in slope and intercept and the propagation of these errors to calculated quantities.

William J. Sondgerath, Chemistry Teacher, Harrison High
West Lafayette, Indiana (BSONDGER@VM.CC.PURDUE.EDU)


A variety of uses for computers in the high school chemistry class will be presented. The effective use of tutorials with sample guidelines that have been successfully used for specific concepts will be shared. For morevaluable sciencing spreadsheets using class data and calculations will be illustrated, along with graphing of data to enhance concept visualization. The data base capabilities of KC? Discoverer in teaching periodicity and the statistical evidence for improved student learning will be given. Concept stories produced on (IBM Storyboard Plus) which are shown on the liquid crystal display, or on individual monitors, can be used to aid in visualization. The Personal Science Laboratory interfacing value and uses will be given, and results and manipulation of PSL data by software will be illustrated if transmission of data on the electronic conference can be mastered. The use of Microsoft Works for classroom management and safety will be shared. The usefulness of Excelsior's gradebook will be discussed.

David W. Brooks
University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, Nebraska 68588-0355


Conversations about computer use often include comments about access to hardware and software. In reality, the cost of a powerful computer with content specific software is now a small fraction of a teacher's annual salary. In spite of this, instruction regarding the use of computers -- particularly as thinking agents -- lags. The primary reason for this probably is that the total amount of time needed to become importantly conversant with computers and their software is very significant such that the relative salary cost in this area is still on the order of one or two salary years. Persons participating in an electronic conference probably have paid or begun to pay much or most of this.

Aleksei A. Kubasov, Vassilii S.Lyutsarev, Kirill V.Ermakov,
Chemical Faculty of Moscow State University, Moscow, Russian Republic.


The advanced course in Physical Chemistry for students of Chemical Faculty of Moscow State University deals with classical and statistical thermodynamics, kinetics and catalysis.
The main aims of using PC are:
- complex calculations in particularly solving equations and systems of equations having no analytical solution (e.g. nonisothermal kinetics),
- analysis of functions behaviour at the parameter variations (e.g. heat capacity at polytropic processes),
- illustrative graphics in two and three dimensions (e.g. S-T state diagram of water and potential energy surfaces),
- dynamical models of processes - "moving pictures" (e.g. chemical reaction proceeding),
- combination of previous items with text in a hypertext system, producing an "electronic handbook".
We use for this purpose some standard and original programs (chemical equilibria calculations, formal kinetics of chemical reactions, oscillating reactions et al).