This study examined a graduate general chemistry course delivered on the Internet. Using a qualitative case study procedure, this research explored the central question of what the students and instructor experienced in the course. The study reports on the themes emerging from an in-depth understanding of the complexities of the participants' experiences and discusses the implications of the new teaching approach as an alternative in the curriculum and instruction design.
During the last two decades, science curricula in secondary schools
have been adopting micro-scale (i. e., hands-on) activities in
preference to macro-scale activities (Brooks, 1995; Carin, 1994;
Jackson, 1993; McKean, 1989; Morrison, 1994; Steitberger, 1992).
The time has come for science teachers to acquire sufficient small-scale
skills in order to address a variety of issues related to such
activities in their teaching. Running summer workshops has served
as an approach to addressing a time-for-training conflict, but
bringing teachers together requires substantial travel and support
costs. Summer workshops also lack the opportunity for testing
the hands-on activities with students in real-life high school
classrooms (Brooks, 1995). To save high costs and to integrate
science teacher training with in-service teachers' concurrent
real-life classroom teaching practices, distance learning, characteristic
of using telecommunications technologies, seems to be the right
Research literature documents the success of numerous attempts at distance learning over the past few decades (Alexander, 1993; Harris, 1989; Langford, 1994; Ross, 1994; Strom, 1994; Turner, 1989). Ross (1994) reports that Indiana University and Purdue University integrated distance learning in teaching chemistry. Using micro-scale labs with home chemicals and supplies at reduced concentrations and quantities, hazardous experiments were performed and then reviewed on videotapes and data from the apparatus were collected.
A Brooks Course Overview
D.W. Brooks (1995) designed and conducted a graduate course entitled "Small-Scale Chemistry Activities for Secondary School Classrooms" entirely on the Internet. To our knowledge, Brooks' attempt was the first reported in the United States that included a lab component in a graduate chemistry course.
The course extended from January 30 to July 7,1995. Twenty-one students (11 males and 10 females) were enrolled in the course. Mostly secondary school chemistry teachers from all over the country, some held a Bachelor's degree in chemistry, and many held a Master's degree. The instructor and other experts developed the textbook for the course, SmallScale (a CD ROM). The course, including seven modules each three weeks in duration, was offered for credit in chemistry or in curriculum and instruction. Assignments were in accordance with the choice of emphasis. Modules provided the participants opportunities to conduct small-scale experiments and discuss them with their instructors and their "classmates" via e-mail. Communications that were shared among all the students were sent to a listserv set up through the university and managed by the instructor. Assignments, with only one exception, were submitted also via e-mail.
During the course one student (male) dropped out. Of the twenty remaining, nine (five females and four males) successfully completed the course and eleven (six males and five females) did not complete the course.
A qualitative case study of the Internet chemistry course tried to capture and interpret the themes and issues that emerged from the novel teaching and learning experience of a graduate general chemistry course delivered on the Internet. Around this focus were seven sub-questions: What was the scenario in which the students decided to take the course? What happened during the course? What were the students' evaluations of the course? What themes emerged from the students' experience in the course? What themes were unique to this case as compared with the themes that emerged from other cases applying distance learning? What theories helped understand the themes? And what insight can be gained from studying the themes across the cases?
The data mainly consisted of e-mail, telephone, and face-to-face interviews, and the students' written assignments submitted via e-mail or by mail. Three e-mail interviews), were conducted at the beginning, the middle, and the end of the course (see Appendix A). A face-to-face interview with the instructor took place at the end of the course (see Appendix B); telephone interviews with the students were conducted four months after the course was delivered (see Appendix C).
The findings can be categorized into six sections: what the participants gained from the course; what advantages were found with the distance learning mode; what technologies were involved; what problems were encountered; what could be done to resolve the problems; and what urgent issues future research should address.
What did the participants gain? Students, mostly in-service high school chemistry teachers, were attracted to the course either to get to know small-scale activities or to learn new ways of doing micro-scale chemistry. Many learned about the course offering through the article "Small-scale Chemistry via the Internet" posted by the instructor in Chemunity News and other magazines such as the Journal of Chemical Education and the American Chemical Society; some read about it via the Internet through the ChemEd listserv or from the Labnet on America OnLine; others heard about it at professional conferences; and two participants got the information directly from the instructor.
Those who completed the course praised the course as a valuable learning opportunity, an opportunity to study micro scale from the SmallScale, from trying out the labs and designing their own experiments, and from the electronic discussions that took place between the students and the instructor as well as among the students themselves. Many students submitted excellent work (see Appendix D); some even produced work better than what the instructor had ever seen.
Most of those who did not complete the course viewed the course as a good, positive learning experience, with individual advantages.
What advantages were specific to the distance learning mode? The primary difference distance learning made to the course participants was that it provided an opportunity for learning that otherwise would have been unattainable. The absence of travel and the ability to communicate at all hours were obvious advantages. Many participants from different parts of the country found an advantage in being able to integrate the course into their teaching, trying the experiments out in real life classrooms while they were taking the course. "It was a simultaneous adaptation while the course was going," one participant remarked.
The distance learning mode also allowed the students access to the instructor, who is a well-known professor of chemistry education in the United States. When asked to comment on the strengths of the Internet chemistry course, several students mentioned the teacher as a major strength: "Dave has a broad spectrum of experience which allows him to respond, knowingly, to almost every situation." A few students signed up mainly because they wanted contact with him.
The distance learning format can also be seen as an advantage in its allowing simultaneous interactions and collaboration among participants. Participants, including the instructor, rated this the most as a program benefit. "I have wanted for quite some time to do some micro-scale work," said one participant. "Now I certainly have access to some real chemistry teachers who are involved in this work," another remarked. "Chemists are not usually limited to text only (as we have been in this course); it was amazing to me how easily communications flowed in that setting."
Distance learning and cooperative learning combined have the potential to maximize the learning experience for students as well as faculty (Guskin, 1994). The interactions in the Internet chemistry course set up bridges of collaboration. Linking the innovative ideas of hard-working chemistry teachers and their students, these bridges led to cooperative learning outcome. Idea sharing and exchange of information were limited not just to the course content; many participants also used the class as a place to share information on chemical education beyond the course syllabus.
Finally, the development of self-teaching skills was seen as a distinct advantage of the distance learning format. An Internet class is a student-centered rather than teacher-centered unit. Students are allowed freedom of developing self-reliance by working on their own, exploring the resources on the Internet, and discussing with their teachers and classmates at their convenience. The instructor of the Internet chemistry course laid special emphasis on encouraging his students to design their own experiments and inviting innovative chemistry ideas. "We seemed encouraged to go out on a limb to think about a specific implementation of a broad chemical idea," one student commented. "This leads to creativity, rather than redundancy."
What technologies were involved? The technologies involved in
the Internet chemistry course included e-mail system, CD ROM facilities,
and the associated hardware and software configurations.
E-mail served as the vehicle in the Internet chemistry program; technologies associated with e-mail were therefore crucial in facilitating teaching and learning. Students were required to have access to a color Macintosh with a hard drive and the ability to send and receive e-mail via the Internet at least twice weekly. Course description and syllabus were sent to interested individuals via e-mail. Class instructions and discussions, communications between/among the participants, as well as assignment delivery and submission were all accomplished using e-mail. All course participants used a listserv set up through the university network system. It served as a bulletin board for posting the information written by any participant from any place and at any time. Class instructions and discussions, assignments, and most of the communications between/among the participants went to the listserv, which was accessed by all the members of the Internet chemistry class.
Another technology that played a key role in the course was the SmallScale, a highly interactive database derived from an application program called HyperCard. Participants were required to have access to a CD ROM player. HyperCard is an object-oriented application software designed for Macintosh computers. It can be used to combine text, sound, graphics, and animation into interactive instructional materials. SmallScale, which served as the hypermedia course textbook, used HyperCard to demonstrate the experiments in a variety of forms: text, graphics, and videos that were created with the application software QuickTime.
SmallScale contained text instruction and visual illustration
of 80 small-scale experiments in general chemistry, which provided
an excellent resource of such activities for the secondary classrooms.
Still pictures and QuickTime movies provided the visuals of the
80 small-scale labs. Course participants found the CD ROM SmallScale
helpful because it provided excellent resource materials created
by a group of experts in chemistry education. Many participants
pulled some labs out of it for use in their classrooms. Second,
the QuickTime movies on the CD ROM helped the course participants
as well as their students understand the small-scale experiments.
The high school students benefited a lot from the make-up feature
on the CD ROM. They could watch the CD and make up the lab. Third,
the CD ROM offered new experiments and ideas about how to conduct
experiments both familiar and unfamiliar to participants. Fourth,
participants could easily develop materials from the CD ROM. They
got ideas and insights from the CD ROM and thus were in a better
position to design labs to meet the special needs in their own
In terms of hardware and software, the requirements of equipment and facilities were kept at a low-cost level. For hardware, participants only needed to have access to an e-mail system, a color Macintosh computer, and a Mac compatible CD ROM player. The major computer software involved in the program were HyperCard, Eudora and other e-mail applications, as well as any application software capable of producing a spreadsheet, such as Microsoft Excel, ClarisWorks, and Lotus.
Eudora was used by some participants to store and retrieve e-mail messages from the course, to send messages, and to attach files to the messages they sent.
Spreadsheets were employed by course participants to record and transmit data collected in the labs conducted by themselves or their students. Microsoft Excel and ClarisWorks were most frequently used for this purpose.
What Problems Were Encountered?
Pedagogical problems. The problems that the Internet chemistry course participants encountered were partly pedagogical and partly technological. Pedagogically, the participants' responses focused on five factors. First, lack of time hindered some participants' participation in the course.
Some participants found that they could not fit the labs required
for the course into their teaching curricula. Conducting the labs
themselves, they frequently fell behind. It became especially
challenging to allocate time for on-line discussions if the students
could not integrate the small-scale activities required for the
course into their teaching curricula.
Third, for some students, the flexibility of time in participating in the class discussions and submitting assignments actually generated procrastination. Participants who overused the freedom of attending the "class" at their convenience fell behind, became frustrated, and in some cases, failed to complete the program.
Many participants missed face-to-face interaction. They found it difficult to remember that they were interacting with their "classmates" instead of a computer screen. Not communicating face to face, students sometimes would take a couple of days before responding to an e-mail message. Sometimes they had something to share with their classmates but forgot to put the information on the computer in time.
Fifth, many participants were disappointed that there was not as much communication going on during the program as they had expected. Some students found it time consuming to type up everything in order to communicate with the class. During the course, only five or six students communicated with the class through e-mail regularly and substantially; the majority were listeners rather than talkers.
Technical problems. Apart from pedagogical issues, course participants also hit technical problems such as backward network system, hardware/software shortage and incompatibility, and inexperience in the use of e-mail and some software. Quite a few students reported difficult e-mail access. The student who took the course from New Delhi had wonderful teaching experience to share with the class, but due to problematic e-mail access, he could barely participate in the course activities. Another hardware problem arose from lack of Macintosh computers in some schools. Macintosh computers were needed for the CD ROM Small-Scale in the course because it consists of HyperCard software compatible only with Mac computers. Four applicants were unable to enroll in the course just because they did not have access to a Mac.
Problems associated with software also frustrated some participants during the course. Some students did not have the relevant software to open certain documents from their "classmates." Even the instructor could not escape the embarrassment of software shortage: not having the software QuickTake, he could not open a graphic file submitted by a student. Since then, he has had to request that all pictures be saved in the PICT format and sent to him as PICT files. Moreover, it would have greatly improved the transparency and quality of experiment reports if everybody could video-capture the lab procedures and send them with his or her text reports as Eudora or other types of attachments. Unfortunately, not all schools had the software and digitizing facilities to accomplish this. Besides, although compressed QuickTime movies could be made available at an File Transfer Protocol (FTP) site, many students could not take advantage of this because they were using a slow-speed modem. .
Lack of basic computer skills frustrated some participants because they did not know how to combine written material created using different application programs. For instance, they did not know how to copy the data from a spreadsheet and paste it into a document written with a word processing application such as Microsoft Word or WordPerfect. One student could not submit his assignments via e-mail despite several repeated attempts. What the instructor received from him were just blank messages. These phenomena reveal that many high school science teachers need to improve their computer skills in order to take better advantage of rapidly developing information technology.
What Can Be Done to Resolve the Problems?
The problems that occurred in the course fall into two main categories: technical and non-technical. The technical category includes those related to technical facilities and support systems; the non-technical refer to attitude toward distance education, course design, and course management.
Addressing technical issues. A dynamic distance learning program relies on a solid technical infrastructure. Efficient support systems such as reliable and convenient network connection and sufficient hardware and software supports are indispensable for an effective delivery of any distance learning course that involves telecommunications. Rapid advances in hardware and software technology will improve speed and quality of telecommunications as well as create unstable and unmanageable technological environments (Yohe, 1996).
Aware of the technical and financial difficulties in using advanced information technologies, the designer of the Internet chemistry course relied primarily on the most commonly available and widely used Internet tool -- e-mail--in delivering the course. Costs to students and the amount of new technical learning required of students were thus greatly reduced. The major technical problems that occurred in the on-line chemistry course included difficult e-mail access, lack of basic computer skills, and shortage of software.
Solutions. First, easy and timely access to e-mail should be listed in the course description as a prerequisite for enrollment. This would ensure students the means of participating in course activities. Instructors need to know that enrolled students have access to the Internet. Instructors should also know whether or not students own their own computers and can dial in via a modem or whether they will use their schools' computers. Will these be in their own offices? Or will they use public access facilities in the campus library or computing facility?
While a listserv is useful for running an Internet course, a better way of electronic communication would be through a WWW system, which displays multimedia documents in color and allows the user to upload and download multimedia files with ease. This can be accomplished by setting up a Web page where the course participants can post and retrieve information. This may mean more work and technical training for the instructor. Ideally, each course participant would set up his or her own Web page, which would be linked to a Web server run by the instructor, but that may take a while to happen. Meanwhile, using a World Wide Web system seems to be the best approach for delivering an on-line course (Tello, 1996).
To make it easy for students, a Web-based on-line course can require just the use of a Web browser such as Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator. Using buttons and links on a Web page, participants of an on-line course can easily access all the information of their course; they can also chat, e-mail, and exchange text files with each other. After students become comfortable with their Web browser, they can learn how to create their own Web page and use their Web browser to upload and download other forms of files such as sound, graphics and animation.
As for cost issues, a Web-based on-line course can be comparatively cost- effective because the participants basically only need a Web browser. Many software tools such as those to compress and decompress multimedia files, and those to display and create Web-compatible multimedia documents are shareware or freeware and downloadable through a Web browser. Increasingly, even relatively remote communities are finding local Internet Service Providers (ISPs) with reasonable monthly rates. This trend of reducing Internet access cost will only intensify (Richardson, 1996).
In terms of computer skills, three remedies can ensure that the participants possess or acquire them. Internet courses should list all computer skills that are required in successfully completing the course. The description of the Internet chemistry course required "the ability to send/receive e-mail" and "the ability to accomplish FTPs." The minimal computer skills entailed for the course, however, included sending/receiving e-mail, using a word processor and a spreadsheet application, combining a spreadsheet document with a word processor document, reading information from CD ROMs, and navigating HyperCard stacks. Ideally, the students should be able to digitize pictures or videos of their lab experiments and send them to the listserv as attachments to their written reports.
A screening of the applicants' accessibility to hardware and software equipment and of their computer skills should be a requirement prior to registration. The course instructor and the students should have a true estimate of what is expected in terms of technological skills. A combination questionnaire and performance test can accomplish the screening.
Giving the applicants the training related to the required computer skills after the screening is conducted and analyzed is another consideration. The training can be accomplished through video tapes demonstrating all the computer skills required in the course, so that applicants can then purchase the tapes and teach themselves. Demonstrations can be created using various applications such as Persuasion, PowerPoint, HyperCard, Digital Chisel, Authorware, etc. Alternatively, the training can be accomplished by including the demonstrations in a course description and putting the course description on the Internet via a WWW page. Thus applicants can access that Web page and have the training without cost.
The quality of distance education depends in part on effective software. For example, if all participants had had access to a given application software for digitizing images, they could have used it to capture their lab experiments and share those snapshots with the class. They also could have used the software to take pictures of themselves and put their photos on an electronic class roster.
As far as software is concerned, satisfactory quality of an Internet course entails applications with related accessories for the following performances:
Appendix A: E-mail Interview Questionnaires
1. What's your name? Your year of birth?
2. Please list your degrees with year, majors, and minors.
3. Please give a synopsis of your teaching experience (what you have taught, to what grade-level students, at public school or private school, for how long).
4. What is your current career goal?
5. How did you learn that this course was being offered?
6. Why are you interested in this course?
7. Please give a synopsis of your experience with small-scale chemistry.
8. Can you recall who introduced you to small-scale chemistry and how? Describe if possible.
9. What do you expect to learn from this course? How do you think this course would be different from an equivalent course taught in a classroom setting?
10. Is your access to the Internet through school, home, or elsewhere? Describe. Do your students have access to the Internet? If yes, how often do they use it?
11. How much and in what ways have you used the Internet?
1. Have you had any difficulty keeping pace with the course? If yes, please describe.
2. What problems have you come across in completing and handing in the assignments? How did you solve the problems?
3. Approximately how many times have you communicated with the class through the List Server? Approximately how many times have you communicated directly with the instructor? Approximately how many times have you communicated directly with your "classmates"?
4. How have communications between you and the instructor helped you?
5. How have communications between you and your classmates helped you?
6. Have you tried out small-scale experiments in your classroom? How?
7. Have you had any problems using e-mail, FTP, and/or CD ROM? If yes, please describe.
8. What do you think are the strengths and/or weaknesses of this course?
9. How do you think we can make this course work better?
1. Did you have any problem using the CD ROM? Was access easy or difficult?
2. Did you have any problem using e-mail? Was access easy or difficult?
3. Did you have any problem finding access to a lab to conduct the small-scale experiments? Was the small-scale equipment you could use adequate?
4. Have you had any difficulty keeping pace with the course? If yes, please describe.
5. What problems have you come across in completing and handing in the assignments? How did you solve the problems?
6. Have you tried out small-scale experiments in your classroom? How?
7. Have you had any problems using e-mail, FTP, and/or CD ROM? If yes, please describe.
8. How much time did you spend per week on this course?
9. Approximately how many times have you communicated with the class through the List Server? Approximately how many times have you communicated directly with the instructor? Approximately how many times have you communicated directly with your "classmates"?
10. Is this course challenging enough for you? Please describe.
11. What do you think of the 7 modules and assignments for this course?
12. What do you think are the strengths and/or weaknesses of this course?
13. In terms of student-teacher and student-student interactions, what differences do you think it would make if this course was taught in a classroom setting?
14. In terms of motivation, how different, in your opinion, would it be if this course was taught in a classroom setting?
15. In terms of academic achievement, how do you think it would differ if this course was taught in a classroom setting?
16. Would you take another course through the Internet? Discuss.
(For Question 1, you can choose as many answers as needed.)
1. I dropped out of the course because
a) I didn't have enough time b) the course content was too difficult for me c) the course content was not helpful in my teaching d) access to the Internet was too difficult e) other (please describe)
2. Would you like to take this course or other courses through the Internet in the future?
a) Yes b) No
3. Do you have any suggestions on how to run the course better?
If yes, please describe.
(This questionnaire is only for those that dropped out of the course.)
Appendix B: Questionnaire for the Instructor:
1. Had you taught micro-scale chemistry in a classroom setting before this project? How many times?
2. What led to your idea of teaching the small-scale chemistry course via the Internet?
3. How confident were you that the course would work at the beginning?
4. What problems or setbacks did you come across during the course? How did you handle them?
5. Do you think that, in general, the course objectives were achieved? Please give evidence.
6. If you could undo things, would you rather teach the course using the traditional classroom setting or via the Internet? Please give your reasoning.
7. What should be done in order to run the course better?
8. Can we conclude from this project that teaching chemistry via the Internet should be regarded as a viable alternative approach in curriculum and instruction design? Please describe your reasoning.
Appendix C: Telephone Interview Questionnaire
1. How did you find about the course Chem869?
2. Did you have any problem using e-mail while taking the course? If yes, describe your problem?
3. Could you always log on to e-mail immediately? If not, what caused the delay? How often and how long was the delay?
4. Had you used CD ROMs before taking this course?
5. What CD ROM player did you use? Where was it? Who owned it (your school or yourself)? Did you have any problem using the CD ROM?
6. Was the CD ROM helpful to you? In what way?
7. Did you have experience with small-scale chemistry activities before you took the course? If yes, describe your experience.
8. How often did you conduct the small-scale experiments in your classroom during the course?
9. Many of the course participants were not very active in the assignment discussions. What do you think were the causes? What do you think the instructor could have done to increase participant activities?
10. Several of those registered have not completed the course. What do you think the instructor could have done to enable most, if not everybody, to successfully complete the course?
11. Which teaching strategies contributed the most to this class? Did you use any of these strategies with your students? How successful were they?
12. Which aspects (or components) from the class do you think contained the most innovative chemistry ideas?
13. How would you rate the overall quality of the course? Was it excellent, very good, good, average, poor, or very poor? Why?
14. For demographic information, would you tell me about your age and your immediate family? Do you have children? How many?
15. Can you think of any other questions that would help evaluate the course?
Appendix D: An Assignment Sample
Date: Fri, 17 Feb 1995 23:52:02 -0600 Subject: Chem869:Assignment 1
I intended to have a class of 50 tenth through twelfth grade students work through the Formula of a Hydrate experiment 041 on Tuesday and Wednesday, Feb. 7 and 8. Only 27 students were able to complete the experiment - the rest were dying of the hacking disease which they now gave to the original 27. I hope to see my entire class in another week at best.
Some background on the original 27: probably can be considered an at-risk group...low self esteem, apathetic across all studies, no reaction to low grades as long as they do not attempt any work. To get into this first-level ChemCom course they must have received a C in Algebra 2. Our school is now in the process of revising what a C may mean. The first nine weeks are entirely devoted to labs and basic skills in laboratory science including using a balance; mathematical operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication, division when needed in labs; interpreting pie charts, bar charts, line graphs; hypothesis testing; comprehending science-related or scientific articles.
Schedule of events: Monday Feb. 6 we went through a pre-lab demonstration/discussion and copies given of the lab and an empty class spreadsheet and another sheet labeled RAW DATA containing 3 columns relative to the 3 measurements they were to complete. Also, the mole concept was briefly introduced with visuals (one mole bags of CuSO4-5H2O, carbon, NaCl, jar of water, balloons of CO2), and read an excerpt on the life of Avogadro from the Isaac Asimov book On Chemistry. They loved the picture of Avogadro since he looks like a mole (sorry Avo). This spurred questions about how he arrived at this constant. (Does anyone have the real story on this?--not just the fatty acid lab estimations of this) They were to read the experiment for homework.
Tuesday Feb. 7 each student did the experiment without the demand that the data be collected but rather that they ask questions about manipulations. The students knew the actual data collection would occur on Wednesday. My most difficult problem was keeping them focused on the experiment when the room temperature was around 50 degrees, maybe 45, and they were to use Bunsen burners for the samples. Problem 1 related to the expt: manual dexterity-manipulating the pipets on/off the wire gauze. Student solution 1: use a combination of forceps and tongs; or test for the center of gravity (this interested/challenged many if they could find it) by gripping the pipet at different positions before moving, otherwise one of the ends of the pipet will rotate upwards and hit/burn your hand (unless they were numb). Problem 2: pipets tended to roll off wire gauze - ring clamps not level. Teacher solution 2: bend the edges of the wire gauze slightly upward prior to use. Problem 3: spending time obtaining a pre-measuring estimate prior to placing the compound in the pipet. Student solution 3: the teacher should place a 0.5g sample for viewing/estimation on a piece of weighing paper for all to compare. Problem 4: getting the sample from the weighing paper into the pipet. We do not have spatulas so I suggested thin angle-cut straws: the students quickly discarded this approach. Solution 4: some students funneled the sample into the pipet with the paper--but losing sample everywhere; I suggested placing the paper and sample in one hand and using the pipet like a shovel and digging up enough sample to work with (eyeball estimate), tapping it into the pipet before picking up another shovel full - they liked this a lot and it went faster! Problem 5: non-uniform heating of compound--they noticed the top took longer to turn white (no problems melting the tip due to the warning in the instructions and pre-lab demonstration of how quickly this can happen). Teacher Solution 5: roll the pipet slightly with forceps.
Wednesday, Feb. 8. The real lab day. No tardies, lots of absences (23 out of 50), a little colder today - the boiler system not pumping out much heat or more wind than Tuesday. All anxious to get started. Problem 6: still had non-uniform heating. The sample near the ends were turning brown/black before all the sample was decomposed. Student Solution 6: instead of moving the flame back and forth parallel to the pipet (which would overheat the sample at the changes in direction - where the flame spent more time) it may be better to wave the flame perpendicular to the pipet as you move down to the tapered end and then end with a brisk parallel swipe to get rid of any water at the tapered end.
Post-Lab discussions: We are still doing them due to diversions like progress reports, masses, pep-rallies, late start days, etc. Discussions/comments so far: I asked the students to look at the spreadsheet and guess at how the original mass, mass of CuSO4, and mass of H2O loss was/could be calculated (see spreadsheet columns D,E,F--never mind...I do not know how to paste the spreadsheet into this document without losing the columns). A few were able to guess and test their guesses by subtracting one of the appropriate data sets. For others I drew pictures to help them understand subtraction. By trial and error and much probing they determined which column should be subtracted from the other and seemed to grasp the reasoning behind it. I felt that the spreadsheet was an excellent and interesting way to release math anxieties relative to not getting the correct answer (asking others-so what do I put here?)- but would help the student focus on the process of how the correct answer was obtained. All were very interested in determining and testing their formulas (columns D minus E for water loss) relative to columns D,E,F. Today they finally grasped the idea of molar masses and determined them for water and CuSO4. (Next week we will be determining the portion of a mole they used in the experiment.) This was a long process because some students looked ahead on the spreadsheet and wondered about the e values in the columns that calculated moles CuSO4 and H2O used. This spurred classroom activities in understanding scientific notation.
As you look at the data there are only a few that came close to the expected results--this may be shocking for what is considered to be a pretty easy/highly successful experiment in the high school situation. However, since our belief is that we act as one company/team/Cardinal Ritter family we felt that we were successful...everyone applauded/whistled at getting a few data sets to come close to their expected ratio of 5:1. A few of the students suggested reasons for their own negative masses (not properly reading/taring the balances). Although we have been working on this experiment more than any others we have done there was a renewed interest and excitement in the students when they watched Channel One during homeroom this morning (Fri. Feb 17). The Internet was defined and described. Afterwards, students came in asking if that is what is going on with this experiment and who is on the other end.