EDUCATION: Chemistry Class Gets Real

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Science  09 Apr 2004:
Vol. 304, Issue 5668, pp. 183
DOI: 10.1126/science.304.5668.183d

Beginning chem students spend plenty of time memorizing formulas and balancing equations, but they may not get to practice other indispensable skills, such as synthesis and sample analysis. To help students think like chemists, David Yaron of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and colleagues launched ChemCollective, a new set of simulations, Java applets, and interactive experiments aimed at high school and introductory college classes. Instead of grinding through cookbook experiments, students must design their own procedures to, for example, determine the amount of silver in a solution. They can then perform their experiments electronically, using the linked Virtual Lab simulator (NetWatch, 7 November 2003, p. 961). Java applets provide practice with skills such as analyzing infrared spectra, and multimedia “scenarios” let students apply their chemical smarts to practical problems.

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