Engaging, educating students with chemistry app

With my summer class this year, I was able to offer my students the opportunity to try a new app called ChemDraw for iPad. This is the newly-available app based on the popular ChemDraw desktop software (developed by PerkinElmer), and it allows students and chemists alike to draw, share, and save molecules and reactions. The app allows me to present students with in-class chemistry problems that quickly help me gauge how well the class is absorbing and understanding the material and concepts.

Prior to the introduction of ChemDraw in my classroom, I would walk around to see how my chemistry students were doing with solving the in-class problems, and as many as half of them did not attempt to complete the exercise. They would passively wait for me to provide the answer to the class. These students missed out on the opportunity to apply their knowledge, and I was unable to properly track their daily progress in class.

With my students now using ChemDraw, I am able to award points to students in class for sending me their drawings of chemistry structures, reactions, or mechanisms. Whether their answers are right or wrong, students gain points for simply participating and attempting to further understand the material. When presented with difficult or new problems, I now see every student in class attempting to work out the correct answer. Students are not only more involved, but also more positive about what they are learning.

Walking through my chemistry classroom after introducing the ChemDraw app to students this summer shows how much the app has positively impacted the learning experience of my class. Instead of staring off into the distance while they wait for me to share the correct answers with them, students now hasten to work out the problems and submit their answers directly to me.

This is an exciting time to be an educator–mobile learning is changing the way we are teaching our students, and it offers a way to present material to students on a platform they are comfortable with using. As the summer semester winds down, I’m eager to see how the implementation of the ChemDraw app impacts my students’ overall performance throughout the course of the class, and to identify ways I can further integrate the app into my future lesson plans.

Dr. Layne A. Morsch is an assistant professor at The University of Illinois-Springfield.

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