29 Mar 2010

The Chemmies: A Descriptive Chemistry Audio/Video Research Project

In-Class Activity

Submitted by Neal Yakelis, Pacific Lutheran University
Categories
Description: 

This project was initiated as a way to enhance the descriptive inorganic chemistry unit presented in our General Chemistry II curriculum.  As the time available in the term prohibited the amount of lecture time needed to cover this vast array of material, the idea of a research project allowed for students to investigate an inorganic chemistry topic of keen interest to them over the course of the semester.  A previous term's attempt using a research paper project was quite unpopular, so the idea of a multimedia presentation was devised as an alternative to achieve similar learning goals.  Students were required to work in teams of two or three to produce a 6-8 minute narrated, fully-referenced PowerPoint or video presentation on a topic within the domain of inorganic chemistry.  As our class numbered nearly 100 students, a wide variety of presentations on both main group and transition metal chemistry topics provided a student-led "tour" of the periodic table.  The presentations can be used both in and outside of classtime if posted on a course website. 

Learning Goals: 
  • Students should be able to initiate and investigate a topic relating to main group or transition metal chemistry using both printed and online resources. 
  • Students should be able integrate their research into a meaningful 6-8 minute summary with  consideration of the fundamental components of an effective scientific oral presentation. 
  • With regard to their topic and image content, students should be able to find both primary and secondary research resources and cite them properly according to American Chemical Society style within their presentation.
  • Students should gain hands-on experience with advanced features of presentation software like MS PowerPoint.   They may also choose to gain skills in audio- and video-editing software. 
  • Students should be able to identify the broad range of topics covered by the term "descriptive inorganic chemistry".  Furthermore, they should gain an appreciation for the importance and applications of inorganic chemistry in a variety of disciplines such as biology, geology, engineering, and materials science. 

 

 

 

Equipment needs: 
  • Presentation software (Microsoft PowerPoint, OpenOffice Presentation, Apple Keynote, etc.)
  • Microphone (either internal laptop/computer or external)
  • Library resources (journals, books, online databases, image resources, etc.) 
  • Optional:  Digital video camera and video editing software (Windows MovieMaker, Apple iMovie, etc.)
Related activities: 
Implementation Notes: 

The attached student handout summarizes the project as it has been implemented in our course.  Examples of student projects as they were submitted are posted, also.  (Students have given consent for the posting).

A key to the successful implementation of this project must be a well-constructed timeline to allow the production of the projects to be spread over the course of the term.  For instance, at the halfway point into the project,  the students were required to submit an annotated outline of their presentation including properly formatted reference citations. 

This project was scheduled in consultation with our university digital media center.  Similar services are offered through library/computing services/information technology units in other colleges and universities.   Their staff schedules regular workshops on both audio and video software/resources for students and faculty.  They also provided technical troubleshooting for students with specific questions during their office hours and by email. 

Time Required: 
Outside of class project: approx. 2 months allowed for research and preparation.
Evaluation
Evaluation Methods: 
  • Students were able to vote on their favorite videos in a variety of categories (Best Overall Presentation, Best Video, Best Audio, Best Scientific Content, Most Entertaining, etc.)  The winning teams were award "Chemmy" Awards for their achievement.  
  • Students were graded on two components:  their annotated outline was worth 10 points and their final submitted project was worth 75 points. The project score was divided into Scientific Content (30 points), Video/Audio Presentation Quality (30 points), and Reference Citations (5 points).
Evaluation Results: 

Overall, the students embraced this project with gusto and I was quite pleased with the final products.  The topics were wide-ranging as I had hoped:  synthetic heme, ozone and atmospheric chemistry, gems, hydrogen fuel cells, arsenic in medicine, organomercuricals, alloys in cardiovascular medicine, biological roles of copper, sulfur in geothermal vents, lithium-ion batteries vs. NiCd batteries, carbon nanotubes, zinc-dependent enzymes, biomineralization of teeth, and Olah superacids.   Two of the topics that were oversubscribed and I would discourage next time are fireworks/pyrotechnics and radioisotopes in medicine. 

 

Student project evaluation data:

  strongly agree agree neutral disagreestrongly disagree
I would rather write a research paper than produce a narrated presentation 6% 14% 17% 26% 37%
All members of my group contributed equally to the production 35% 40% 10% 7% 8%
I see the value in learning presentation and multimedia software 48% 37% 10%5% 0%

 

Samples of student comments: 


"I didn't like the idea at first, but it ended up being a lot of fun and I learned a lot."

"It was loads of fun and better than a research paper."

"I felt like my life was taken over by chemistry for a month while I worked on the presentation, but I learned A LOT."

"Offer an option to do it without a partner."

 

In its next iteration, I hope to provide study questions to guide students to key scientific content and assess their learning of topics in descriptive inorganic chemistry in the post-project evaluations. 

Creative Commons License: 
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