Rowan Hollingworth, Assistant Lecturer, Department of Chemistry, University of New England
Chemistry Teaching Graphics Ver 1.1 General & Organic
The two CD ROM's contain graphics and animations of chemical concepts developed at the University of Washington. They are designed to be used by a lecturer or by small groups of students at a computer monitor. The author states that there have been highly favourable responses to the graphics from both students and staff, at a number of test sites. The reviewer has not tested them on students yet.
On my Mac Performa 5200CD (16Mb recommended) there were no problems, when all other programs were removed and virtual memory was off. There were frequent crashes otherwise. The 25 page manuals on disk (and an explanation page contained in each module) give full details on memory and other requirements.
The General Chemistry disk contains modules on matter, atomic structure and orbitals, bonding, intermolecular forces, gases, solids and crystals, reactions and thermodynamics. The Organic Chemistry disk contains the following modules: introduction, bonding and molecular orbitals, organic bonding, intermolecular forces and properties, conformation and stereochemistry, organic reactions,
All the modules are completely stand alone units and can be copied onto a hard disk for more convenient presentation in a lecture. Navigation through a module is very easy. There are forward and backward buttons, as well as a navigation menu to take you immediately to certain points. Some modules have an additional page with a full flow diagram of the module, from which you can click to any screen directly.
My only criticism in this regard is of the presence of a next screen topic button at the top of the screen, which competes in prominence with the graphics labelling that particular screen. This can be confusing at times and I would prefer all the navigation buttons perhaps in a bottom bar, clearly away from the screen topic information. Sometimes the screens can become rather cluttered at the end of sequences, so it will be necessary for the lecturer to explain clearly each step along sequences.
Of course, it is vital for a lecture presentation, that the lecturer is very familiar with the flow of the graphics and has prepared integrated discussion and questions to accompany the graphics at relevant points. It is then easy to jump to particular sequences, repeat animations or show alternate models in response to student queries. In fact, I thought one of the strong points of the graphics, was the number of representations or models available to illustrate many concepts.
Additional modules of models and exercises, with their own comprehensive 20-30 page manuals are available for each disk. These contain a range of model files in standard "pdb" format to be used with the freely available RasMol program. The two CD's then are the result of a dedicated effort to produce good computer graphics to improve lecture presentations.
As is usual with these detailed resources, a significant commitment from the lecturer is required to use them to their full advantage. Given the time to do this, I believe lectures can be considerably enhanced. I recommend the two CD's highly.
UniServe Science News Volume 6 March 1997
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