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Using multi-platform tools to support chemistry teaching. Part 2 – in practice

Herein the second part of Peter Bank's guide to using multi-platform tools to support chemistry teaching, about using BYOD in practice. You can read part 1 here.
We'll carry on the conversation about these tools and techniques with teachers and will welcome feedback and ideas.

Using multi-platform tools to support chemistry teaching
Peter Banks
Part 2 – in practice


Do I need to be a tech wizard? (Confidence-boosting tips!)

Generally no; remember you are not teaching students to use their own devices. They should (and most likely will) be able to complete basic operations on them fairly well without the need for your instructions.
General tips:
  • Trust pupils’ knowledge of devices.
  • Don’t aim to teach them to use their phones.
  • Start simple. Try tasks which simply replace current technologies like replacing IT suites for research-based tasks first before inventing new tasks.
  • Try it out. If in doubt there are a variety of emulators online (some better than others) which will allow you to check whether tasks or websites will work on different devices, you could use:
  • When using this strategy for the first time:
    • Start small.
    • Start with a task that doesn’t rely on everyone owning a device.
    • Have a backup plan. As always, if everything fails, have a supply of worksheets and IT room booked or an alternative task.
    • Be prepared to spend a little more time than usual. On the first occasion that you do this you might need a little extra time built in to make sure that you know pupils are comfortable and have learnt everything that you want them to

Suggested activities:

  • Photograph the experiment
This gives pupils the opportunity to revise key pieces of apparatus very easily and quickly. They can also revisit results. My year 7 class took pictures of pH investigations. Year 12 found it very useful to have photos of their apparatus and products to remind themselves of their set ups for reflux and distillation.
·         Very clear reminders of previous work.
·         Pupils have a clear historical reminder of their work.
·         A great reminder for collecting info about results.
·         Photos often get ‘lost’ in a phone’s memory.
·         Using phones during practicals could create safety risks, Always add this into the risk assessment.
Get pupils to set up a folder in their photo gallery for any pictures.
Carefully encourage social media sharing. It is important that you know your class for this.
As always risk assess the practical, in particular ‘wet’ practicals might not be appropriate.
  • Research based tasks
Setting pupils a task to find out about a subject and then feeding back to a group can be very powerful. A regular one for me is setting them the task of finding out a topic.

Groups of 4-6 pupils then have to collaborate to produce a piece of information (leaflet or poster type) in a very short space of time. This promotes their team-working skills as well as online search and research skills.
·         Very speedy delivery of information.
·         Improves pupils’ search skills
·         Most pupils have an area in which they can achieve highly and can find that strength.
·         Not everyone needs their own device. Pupils without devices can be supported by those with devices or with school-based equipment.
·         Pupils sometimes don’t challenge themselves; they can rely on another person to carry out tasks.
·         Some pupils can be left not working for short periods of time if not carefully managed.
·         Difficult to manage the sites that pupils visit if pupils do not use the school’s network connection.
Supply a list of suggestions for websites, ideally these could be via an electronic communication such as email, Twitter, VLE, school or subject-based website.

Video your demo
If you are confident about your demonstration skills, pupils often enjoy filming them so they can look back at a later date.
I often find that pupils are only really interested in the explosive and visually exciting videos, which sometimes means that they ignore the chemistry behind them.
·         Provides a record of a demonstration which pupils can review at a later date.
·         Pupils might share it amongst themselves and spread their learning wider than the immediate classroom.
·         Errors and tasks which go wrong are caught on camera forever; confidence with demonstrations is required.
·         Pupils could be concentrating on filming you when they should be watching instead. Try allowing them to film a second trial once they’ve seen and experienced it properly.
·         Sharing outside the classroom may be something you don’t want to happen - have some ground rules in place.
Students can add commentary as they film. This will capture the explanations, which they can later listen to and thereby revise the content.

Great online resources

There are a large number of fantastic resources available. Particular favourites of mine include:
  • Aspirin screen experiment (Royal Society of Chemistry). I set this as a pre lab and post lab revision exercise, generally for homework. No problems from any pupil accessing on any device. (difficult on small screens but still manageable)
  • RSC Problem solving tutor (Royal Society of Chemistry). Again, no problems on any device, it is easier on devices with larger screens.
  • Open science lab (Open University). Generally works best on computers, but I have made these work on tablets and a large smartphone.
  • Learn Chemistry (Royal Society of Chemistry). Many of the Learn Chemistry resources are in pdf form, which is easily accessible from smart phones.
  • Spectraschool interactive spectra widget (Royal Society of Chemistry). You often need to select the “HTML 5 widget” option and it works very well on most modern devices. Again larger screens are useful
There are so many variations upon the themes above and a nearly infinite number of other ideas for you to explore that would fill a book if I were to suggest them all now. My personal favourites include: Google Drive, Quizlet, stop frame animations, and online assessment tools.

Whatever you do with your class, think carefully about whether you are using a strategy to enhance your pupils’ learning experience. I always enjoy discovering ways for pupils to use their mobiles and tablets and often find that they are inspired to continue learning independently outside of the classroom.

This, on its own, would be a good enough reason to give any idea a try.
Posted by Duncan McMillan on Feb 10, 2015 7:33 PM Europe/London

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