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Interactive Simulations for Classroom Use


John S. Martin
Department of Chemistry, The University of Alberta,
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada T6G 2G2

05/31/00 to 06/01/00

I have written these "Smart Instructor's Resources" (SIRs), interactive illustrations, simulations and animations of chemical principles and processes, designed for classroom use by means of a projection monitor. They are completely under the control of the instructor by means of an intuitive, mouse-driven interface. They impose no particular pedagogy, and may be brought into one's classroom presentation spontaneously whenever the occasion arises. They are particularly well adapted to interactive instruction, where you may ask students "What do you think would happen if..." (or they may ask you).

In addition to a conventional table of contents, these SIRs have an "analytic index", a pageful of words and phrases having to do with introductory chemistry. Click on one and a dialogue box appears with short descriptions of the relevant SIRs; click on the appropriate button and you go directly to that SIR.

The presentation will describe several typical SIRs, show examples of possible ways that they may be used in class, and report classroom experience. Twenty-one of a projected twenty-four SIRs are finished. These are being revised and improved as I get feedback from users; it is hoped that this presentation will advance that process.

These SIRs are Windows versions of the Simulations and Interactive Resources published in the Journal of Chemical Education: Software, 1996, Vol. 9B, No. 2 and now available on their General Chemistry CD-ROM. Most are significantly improved. They use the standard Windows 800 by 600 display, and will run on all versions of Windows so far tested: 3.1, 95, 98 and NT.


In 1996 I published the Simulations and Interactive Resources (1), a DOS utility which is now available on the General Chemistry CD-ROM, Special Issue No. 16, third edition, of the Journal of Chemical Education: Software. These have been used worldwide. This report describes a new, enhanced Windows version of the SIRs. They are nearly complete, and are being tested in a number of introductory chemistry courses.

They are interactive illustrations, simulations and animations of general chemical principles, for classroom use by means of a projection monitor. They are completely under the control of the instructor, using an intuitive mouse-controlled interface.

Context-sensitive help is always available, and it is quite possible to learn from the help all about a SIR and its uses. Needless to say it’s prudent to use the help when preparing a presentation rather than during it – but the help is there if you need it.

The most significant property of the SIRs is that they do not interrupt one’s presentation, and they may be adapted to almost any pedagogical approach. They may be brought in spontaneously when a relevant point arises, so that they lend themselves to interactive instruction. The instructor may ask the class (or students may ask the instructor) "What do you think would happen if…?" and the computer will then provide the answer – and very likely stimulate the next question.

Here is the general index page. The twenty-two complete SIRs are in dark lettering. The general topics covered are the periodic table, atomic structure, pressure, phase equilibrium and gases, chemical thermodynamics, equilibrium, acids and bases, electrochemistry, kinetics and mathematical functions.

Though the Windows SIRs are still incomplete, the finished ones have been and are being tested by my colleagues here and elsewhere. Student response has been consistently enthusiastic.

If you would like to try them, please e-mail me at the above address on page 1. I would expect that anyone receiving a trial copy would let me know what works and what doesn’t. The more testing these SIRs receive, the better they will be when they are finally published.


I have received much help and advice from Ed Blackburn of the Faculte St-Jean, University of Alberta who also has posted this material, and from Ken Newman of King’s University College, John Washington of Concordia College, Loretta Jones and Christine Gaudinski of the University of Northern Colorado. I particularly thank Prof. J. J. Lagowski of the University of Texas, whose support and encouragement prompted me to start this project eight years ago.


  1. Martin, J. S. SIRS III: Simulations and Interactive Resources. J. Chem. Educ. Software19969B, No. 2.