Overwhelmed by the available chemistry resources? Looking for new chemistry teaching ideas? Elementary Articles is the place for chemistry, education, and everything else.

Elementary Articles is the official blog for the RSC's Learn Chemistry – your home for chemistry education resources and activities.

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We’re looking forward to meeting many of you during the exhibition at the annual conference of the Association for Science Education 7–9 January 2016 where we’ll be focusing on how to put chemistry into practice. We’re holding seven free interactive workshops throughout the conference that give you opportunities to experience our new continuing professional development courses, explore primary science in context, discover careers in chemistry, involve your classes in a global experiment and get hands on with our spectroscopy kit for schools.
Have a chat with us and the other exhibitors about everything related to science education, or find out more about our opportunities for teachers and students. Visit Stand A4 to let us know your opinion on the support we provide through Learn Chemistry Partnership. New registrations and existing main contact teachers at partner schools will all get a free Top Trumps pack too.
We look forward to meeting you there! The exhibition is free and you can register as a delegate on the ASE’s website.

Royal Society of Chemistry sessions at the ASE Annual Conference 2016

Thursday 7 January
A Future in Chemistry: Find out how this digital resource can help your students take decisions about their careers. 9.30–10.30 am room LG13.
Spectroscopy in a Suitcase: See how your students can learn about spectroscopy through hands-on experience. 11 am–12 pm room LG14 
Global experiments: Involve your class in practical experiments and share their results with thousands of students around the world. 12.30–2.30 pm room LG14
Showcase: New online CPD courses: Experience a free course taster – as well as an extract from our face-to-face offerings. 3–4 pm room LG13
Friday 8 January
The Impact of Screen Experiments: Find out more about our pre-lab screen experiment resources that allow students to  complete their own unique experiments and record their results online. 12–1 pm room LG13
Surprising STEM: Relate classroom subjects and curriculum topics to students’ future options and pathways. In conjunction with the Royal Society of Biology, the Institute of Physics, Engineering UK and the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications.1.30–2.30pm room LG14
Primary Science in Context: Explore how you can deliver science in context, from effective planning to meaningful activities. 4–5pm room LG14
Posted by Helen Bache on Dec 4, 2015 9:57 AM GMT

As a professional body, we encourage all of our members to develop their technical and professional skills by undertaking continuing professional development (CPD). This can take many forms including formal, structured training courses. To help our members decide on valuable and appropriate training for their needs, we started a programme to formally approve training courses spanning a wide range of subject areas.  Courses are judged against a broad set of criteria by subject experts drawn from our membership and, if they are found to meet these criteria, they are awarded our seal of approval. 

What courses do we approve?

Approved training courses are listed on a database, which allows users to easily search for courses relevant to them. We already have around 100 training courses listed, offered by several different training providers and spanning a wide range of subject areas.  A number of our own courses for teachers have been approved, and it might not be immediately obvious why we do this. Quite simply, we develop our courses with the intent of meeting our own high standards, so it makes sense to put them through the same approval process showing they meet the same criteria we expect of other providers. 

Our courses for teachers – Developing expertise in teaching chemistry

Our online courses are designed to give users an in-depth understanding of key concepts in teaching chemistry. Courses can be completed the users’ pace, which allows them to try out new strategies and activities in the classroom before progressing any further. You can view all of our courses here.
We currently have six online courses available and a number of further courses in development, each of which will be subject to the same rigorous approval process as those by any other provider.

Posted by Florence Greatrix on Nov 27, 2015 1:35 PM GMT
We all like a bit of recognition for the skills and competencies we demonstrate at work. Praise from our colleagues and managers is great for giving us that on a personal level, but when you want something that you can really shout about within your professional community, that’s where gaining chartered status comes in to play. 
Chartered Science Teacher (CSciTeach) provides professional recognition of your achievements and demonstrates impact in science teaching and learning. In a recent survey of over 250 science teachers, 90% agreed that this is relevant to their careers. So if you have more than 4 years’ experience since gaining qualified teacher status (QTS) and can demonstrate the required competences, it may be time to apply.

Tips for a good CSciTeach application
When summarising your recent teaching practice consider the following:
•    How do you plan your lessons and other activities to ensure effectiveness?
•    How have you supported students to better understand scientific concepts?
•    When have you led a team or helped colleagues to develop their skills?
•    How do you make sure you keep up to date with key areas of scientific and pedagogic research?

Try to give specific examples and consider including figures relating to student attainment or qualitative evidence such as feedback you have received.

For more information and to download an application form visit our website and email CSciTeach@rsc.org if you have any questions.

Posted by Andrea McGhee on Aug 26, 2015 3:20 PM BST
We’ve created a new app based on our hugely popular Periodic Table website. The app includes our favourite features from the website, like an interactive slider which shows the elements change state as you increase the temperature and the discovery of the elements as you scroll through history. There are podcasts and videos about the elements too.

We’ve also added some exciting new features, including lots of new images. There are photos of the elements in their natural states, and pictures of real-life applications of the elements. For example, did you know that neodymium is used in microphones? And europium is used in Euro bank notes to help prevent counterfeiting?

You can also customise your Periodic Table app so you just see the things you’re interested in. You can adjust your settings to turn sections of data on or off, depending on what stage of education you’re at. For quick access to figures, we’ve also added a simple table where you can do things like sort the elements in order of increasing density.

The app is free, and is available for tablets and mobile phones on both Android and Apple.

Get it on Google Play 
Posted by Jenny O'Hare on Aug 11, 2015 4:55 PM BST
Many teachers will have begun planning for the new A-level chemistry specification which will start from september 2015.
Planning what practicals to run with your students and having a back-up plan can be time consuming but don't worry help is at hand.


Chrissie Maitland our Education Coordinator for the South East shares her A-level practical collection guide:

This guide has been written to help teachers make the most of the new practical assessment for students. Each exam board will provide a set of standard experiments that they recommend their teachers do, however, most of the exam boards are being flexible and are allowing teachers to choose the experiments they ask their students to complete. This guide gives a series of alternative experiments that match with the practical apparatus and techniques, so that you have the freedom to choose which experiments you do. Moreover, if you have students who have found some of the techniques difficult, but you don’t want to make them repeat the same experiment, then this guide again offers alternatives to help your student’s to master these techniques.

This resource on Learn Chemistry contains the most up-to-date version of the mapping table which now includes the WJEC specifications.

New Specification A-level: Practical Apparatus and Techniques
  Apparatus and Techniques
1 use appropriate apparatus to record a range of measurements (to include mass, time, volume of liquids and gases, temperature)
2 use water bath or electric heater or sand bath for heating
3 measure pH using pH charts, or pH meter, or pH probe on a data logger
4 use laboratory apparatus for a variety of experimental techniques including:
  • titration, using burette and pipette
  • distillation and heating under reflux, including setting up glassware using retort stand and clamps
  • qualitative tests for ions and organic functional groups
  • filtration, including use of fluted filter paper, or filtration under reduced pressure
5 use volumetric flask, including accurate technique for making up a standard solution
6 use acid-base indicators in titrations of weak/strong acids with weak/strong alkalis
7 purify:
  • a solid product by recrystallization
  • a liquid product, including use of separating funnel
8 use melting point apparatus
9 use thin-layer or paper chromatography
10 set up electrochemical cells and measuring voltages
11 safely and carefully handle solids and liquids, including corrosive, irritant, flammable and toxic substances
12 measure rates of reaction by at least two different methods, for example:
  • an initial rate method such as a clock reaction
  • a continuous monitoring method
Comparison Table – Practical Technique vs Exam board experiments
Practical Technique AQA Experiment Numbers Edexcel Experiment Numbers OCR A and B Practical Activity Groups Eduqas Topic References
1 1,2,3,7,9,10 1,2,4,6,8,11,12,13,14,16 1,2,3 C1.6,C2.1,C2.2, C2.3, PI1.2, PI3, PI5.1
2 3,4,5,6,10,11 4,5,7,15,16 5,6,7 C3.3,C3.4,OA4
3 6,9,11 9 2,11 PI5.2
4 1,2,4,5,6,9,10,11 1-16 2,4,5,6,7 C1,6,C2.1,C3.3,C3.4,PI1.2,PI5.1, PI5.2,OA2.2,OA4
5 1 2,3,11 2,11 C2.1,Pl1.2
6 9 2,3,13 2,11 C2.1
7 10 5,6,12,16 5,6 OA4
8 10 15,16 6 OA2.2, OA4
9 12 5,6,16 6 OA4
10 8 10 8 PI1.1
11 1-12 1-16 1-12 C2.1,C2.2,C3.3,PI1.2,OA2.2,OA4
12 7 13 9,10 C2.3, PI3
Practical techniques and suitable practical’s from Learn Chemistry
(matched were possible to the specification core experiments)

Practical Technique Experiments from Learn Chemistry Exam Board Experiment
1 Interactive Lab Primer – Lab Apparatus
The Volume of Hydrogen Gas
The Formula of Hydrated CuSO4
Finding the Formula of an Oxide of Copper
Weighing Gases
Heats of Reaction
Exothermic and Endothermic
A Reversible Reaction
Measuring Enthalpy Changes
Neutralisation – ‘Curing Acidity’
Thermometric Titration
OCR 1; Edexcel 1; Eduqas C2.3
Eduqas PI1.2
Eduqas PI1.2
AQA 2; Edexcel 8
AQA 2; Edexcel 8; Eduqas PI1.4
AQA 2; Edexcel 8
AQA 2; OCR 3; Edexcel 8; Eduqas C2.2, PI4.1
2 Fractional Distillation of Crude Oil
Limonene from Oranges and Lemons
Aspirin (or Aspirin)
also Pre-lab resource
AQA 5, 10; Eduqas OA4
AQA 10; OCR 6; Edexcel 16; Eduqas OA4
3 Neutralisation of Indigestion Tablets
On the Acid Trail
Universal Indicators
pH of Oxides
Neutralisation – ‘Curing Acidity’
Gifted and Talented Chemistry – ‘Acids and Alkalis’
AQA 1; OCR 2, 11; Edexcel 2, 3; Eduqas C2.1
AQA 9; OCR 2, 11; Edexcel 9; Eduqas C2.1
AQA 9; OCR 2, 11; Edexcel 9; Eduqas C2.1
AQA 9; OCR 2, 11; Edexcel 9; Eduqas C2.1
4 Interactive Lab Primer – Titration
Interactive Lab Primer – Distillation
Interactive Lab Primer – Reflux
Interactive Lab Primer – Filtration
Limonene from Oranges and Lemons
Neutralisation of Indigestion Tablets
Titration of NaOH with HCl
Testing Salt for Anions and Cations
Flame Tests
Testing for Negative Ions
Reactions of Positive Ions
Reactions of the Halogens
Fractional Distillation of Crude Oil
The Oxidation of Alcohols
Analysis of Aspirin Tablets
Chromium, Molybdenum and Tungsten
Aspirin (or Aspirin)
Tannin in Wine
Copper in Brass
Testing for Aldehydes and Ketones
Properties of Ethanoic Acid
Testing for Unsaturation
Properties of Transitions Metals
Halogen Compounds
Gifted and Talented Chemistry – ‘Acids and Alkalis’
Creative Problem Solving - ;Five White Solids’
Detecting Aspartame
Hydration of Alkenes
Thermometric Titration
Silver and Lead Halides
AQA 5, 10; Eduqas OA4
AQA 1; OCR 2, 11, Eduqas C2.1
AQA 1; OCR 2, 11; Edexcel 2, 3
AQA 10; Eduqas C3.4
AQA 4, 11; OCR 4; Eduqas C1.6
AQA 4; OCR 4; Edexcel 7, 15; Eduqas C1.6
AQA 4; OCR 4; Edexcel 7, 15; Eduqas C1.6
AQA 4, 11: OCR 4; Edexcel 7, 15; Eduqas C1.6
Eduqas C1.6
AQA 6; OCR 5; Edexcel 5
AQA 1; OCR 2
AQA 11; OCR 4; Edexcel 15
AQA 10; OCR 6; Edexcel 16; Eduqas OA4
Edexcel 11
Edexcel 11
AQA 6; OCR 7; Edexcel 7, 15; Eduqas C3.4, OA2.2
AQA 6; OCR 7; Edexcel 7, 15; Eduqas C3.4
AQA 6; OCR 7; Eduqas C3.2
AQA 4, 11; OCR 4; Edexcel 7, 15
Eduqas C3.3
AQA 10; OCR 6; Edexcel 16; Eduqas OA4
AQA 4; OCR 4; Edexcel 7, 15; Eduqas C1.6
5 Interactive Lab Primer – Standard Solution AQA 1; OCR 1, 2
6 On the Acid Trail AQA 9; OCR 2; Edexcel 9; Eduqas C2.1, PI5.2
7 Interactive Lab Primer – Recrystallisation
Interactive Lab Primer – Separating Funnel
Hydration of Alkenes
Purifying an Impure Solid
OCR 6; Eduqas OA4
OCR 5; Eduqas OA4
8 Interactive Lab Primer – Melting Point
Observing the lowering of Melting Point
AQA 10; OCR 6; Eduqas OA4
AQA 10; OCR 6; Eduqas OA4
9 Interactive Lab Primer - TLC
Chromatography of Leaves
Aspirin (or Aspirin) also Pre-lab resource
Chemistry Masterclass
Detecting Aspartame
AQA 12; OCR 6
AQA 10, 12; OCR 6; Edexcel 16; Eduqas OA4
AQA 12; OCR 6
10 Electricity from Chemicals
Gratzel Cell
Kitchen Currents
AQA 8; OCR 8; Edexcel 10; Eduqas PI1.1
AQA 8; OCR 8; Edexcel 10; Eduqas PI1.1
AQA 8; OCR 8; Edexcel 10; Eduqas PI1.1
11 All Experiments
Interactive Lab Primer – Working Safely
All Experiments
12 Rate of Reaction – Concentration and Temperature
Rate of reaction - Temperature
Rate of Reaction - Concentration
Iodine Clock
Finding the rate expression
Rate of Reaction – Magnesium and Hydrochloric acid
Rates and Rhubarb
Old Nassau
AQA 3, 7; OCR 9; Eduqas C2.3
AQA 3, 7; OCR 9; Eduqas C2.3
AQA 7; OCR 9; Eduqas C2.3
AQA 7; OCR 10; Edexcel 13; Eduqas C2.3
AQA 7; OCR 10; Edexcel 13; Eduqas C2.3, PI3
For more information you can also review an earlier forum post or just search Learn Chemistry for your choice of over 400 class practicals and demonstrations.
For those new to Learn Chemistry please note you can also visit our dedicated experimentation hub for teachers looking for practical resources.

Lee Page, Royal Society of Chemistry, Education Executive.
Chrissie Maitland, Royal Society of Chemistry, Education Coordinator (South East)

           ff81bca072d5e518d2bb2e03207437a6-huge-le                7699e92943ee32693c1abbcb0520ce5a-huge-ca

Posted by Lee Page on May 27, 2015 1:13 PM BST
You might think of Learn Chemistry as a place to find online materials, but recently we’ve made some changes to make it easier to find some physical resources to support your teaching as well. If you're a member of the Royal Society of Chemistry, you're entitled to a 35% discount on everything in our online shop. One teacher per school can get complementary personal membership when they register their school for Learn Chemistry Partnership, a free programme to ensure your school makes the most of our activities and resources.

Posted by Jenny O'Hare on May 26, 2015 4:31 PM BST

It is with great please that I am sharing with you our latest global experiment. Water - a global experiment with hydrogels.


This year’s global experiment and has been written with Key Stage 2 and 3 in mind (ages 7-14) and is focused on the water cycle and hydrogels – which are extremely hydrophilic (water-loving) long-chained polymers. Hydrogels are an important, water absorbent man-made material used in nappies and in the gel crystals used to keep plants ‘watered’.

The global experiment has three distinct experiments, all of which have been designed so they can be run without specialist equipment and on a small budget:

• Experiment 1: How much water can a hydrogel hold?

• Experiment 2: How quickly can hydrogels absorb water? Does this ever change?

• Experiment 3: An open investigation into how water can be retrieved from a hydrogel

These experiments all support pupils in exploring the question: are we wasting water by using hydrogels? All the data collected from the above experiments can be uploaded onto the global experiment website. Once uploaded, all the collated data will be available for examination and analysis. This creates the option of discussing the importance of repeating experiments, as well as the power, and flaws of gathering and making conclusions based on a significant amount of data.

Once you or your pupils have submitted data you’ll receive a certificate to mark your achievement. There is scope to extend the global experiment into other areas of the curriculum as its main question is relevant to exploring the impact humans have on the environment. You could; write letters to organisations and individuals telling them about your findings, blog about human impact on the environment and how your findings support or undermine key arguments, produce a piece of art using hydrogels, or anything else you can think of.

Join a global community in investigating hydrogels. Find out more at http://rsc.li/ge-water

Kind regards

Lee Page (Learn Chemistry Executive)
Posted by Lee Page on Feb 14, 2015 6:46 PM GMT
The global experiment project at the Royal Society of Chemistry have been getting bigger and better each year.
Thanks in the main to all of you for your participation. 

As a result we will now be committing to a new experiment each year in time for British Science Week. All older global experiments will remain open so teachers can use these with new year groups. Eventually we will build up a large suite of mass participation experiment across a range of topics.

As we launch our new expeirment: Water - a global experiment with hydrogels. I wanted to give Prof. David Evans (RSC Beijing local section and Chemistry Teacher) the final word on how he used the global experiment in Beijing to inspire you all.

Crystallising the links between parents and children in Beijing

The pressures and distractions of modern life can mean that parents—whether catching up on work emails or updating their social networking status—and their computer-game-playing children do fewer things together than used to be the case. Recently RSC Beijing Local Section joined forces with the Family Education Department of the China National Children’s Center in an effort to reverse this trend, by running Sunday morning practical chemistry classes for young children and their parents working together as a team. Naturally one of the experiments they carried out was the art of crystallisation - a global experiment. In the first session, each parent–child pair chose one of the samples (table salt, sugar, Epsom salts, potassium nitrate or alum) and measured the average mass to saturate 40 cm3 of tap water. When they compared their results with the average values for the UK given on the global experiment website, they found the values were much lower in each case—indicating just how hard Beijing tap water is (although the relatively low room temperature will also have contributed).

Then they set up their saturated solution and—with a great sense of anticipation–left it to crystallise until the next class. Since this was two weeks away, quite a few couldn’t bear the suspense and repeated the experiment with one of the other solids when they got home so that they could watch developments first hand. The next class started in great excitement as the students and their parents looked at their crop of crystals and compared them with those of other families. On the official global experiment scale of crystal size (from 8–28), the sizes of the biggest crystals were: table salt (23), sugar (25), Epsom salts (28), potassium nitrate (27) and alum (25)—a creditable all-round performance, despite the hard water!

It has been great seeing all the images in Pinterest and following the data as more people take part. The results from over 30,000 participants worldwide is just amazing.

I am looking forward to see some of the same schools and some new ones taking part in our new experiment - check it out!

Kind regards
Lee Page (Learn Chemistry, Executive)
Posted by Lee Page on Feb 14, 2015 6:10 PM GMT
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 GMT
This Spring term (for Northern Hemisphere readers) we are showcasing and promoting some of the many ways chemisry teachers can enhance their teaching with tools and resources that support a flexible, multi-platform approach.

This is often described as BYOD, or 'Bring Your Own Device'. I think this is something of a misnomer, and centres attention on the hardware, rather than the myriad software tools and resources designed to be device-agnostic. To support this theme, we commissioned Peter Banks, MRSC, secretary of the Royal Society of Chemistry's Education Techniques Group, and webmaster of chemstuff, to write about applying a BYOD method to chemistry teaching. 

I'm proud to provide, below, the first of a two-part post on BYOD in chemistry teaching from Peter Banks.

Using multi-platform tools to support chemistry teaching. Part 1 - introduction.
Peter Banks

‘BYOD’ - What is it?

The interminable battle between teacher and pupil to get them to put their phone away, and not to text their mates under the table during lessons, is likely to be one which will continue forever. However, if they want to use their phones, why not harness that energy and put it to good use?

Since being asked to write this, I’ve been asking my fellow teachers about what their advice (if any) would be, when getting pupils to use their own devices. Their response is generally “don’t!” I think this is a shame.

I have found that a mobile phone can be an inspiring tool which supports engagement within lessons and encourages learning. Pupils certainly learn better when they are enjoying their learning. If they have fun using their own devices then it is a technique worth using in the classroom.

There are some real benefits to pupils bringing their own device:
  • First, the pupil will probably have a very good knowledge of how to navigate through their own apps.
  • Second, if the pupil is finding out about chemistry on their own device, they will be much more likely to find the websites again, as the device’s history will include any sites they visited whilst carrying out your task. They could even bookmark sites for use later for their own private study. Pupils with SEN often have their own accessibility packages or settings and therefore can use their own software to support their own learning further.

Potential Pitfalls

Every pupil is likely to have a different type of device: Android, laptop, Chromebook, iPhone or tablet. Everyone will have a different mobile provider, some might not have internet access and some may not be able to access various types of content or apps. These are a variety of the challenges that you might face. However, these can often be overcome for many tasks.

It is of course possible that pupils may take the opportunity to waste time or play on their mobiles, making sure that there are some ground rules usually helps. You will know your classes and where this could or won’t work. It might not be suitable to use this in every scenario, but I think it is often worth a try.

Apps are the most usual pitfall in the ‘bring your own device’ concept and can create difficulty when looking for cross platform ideas. Larger app producers (google, dropbox, quizlet etc) are very likely to have apps for most devices.

If you are looking for an app which performs a specific function (eg stop frame animation) even the less technically savvy pupils can usually search and find something which will do the job with some success. If there’s difficulty, try grouping pupils with working devices together with those who are without, or getting pupils to suggest apps.

As with any strategy it is important to use this for a specific activity which supports learning, rather than using the technology for its own sake. It is important to maintain the focus on the chemistry, avoiding teaching the use of a phone or device as far as possible. I often use a tried and tested activity and add the use of a camera phone or research based task on top.
Posted by Duncan McMillan on Feb 10, 2015 6:59 PM GMT