Oklahoma State University


My current interests focus on the development of Web-based materials for students taking introductory chemistry. These materials are based on PHP, MySQL and JAVA scripting and can be separated into several different categories:

Finally, I am involved with some addition projects which are outlined following a brief summary of each of the above categories.


Personalized web pages

Students in my introductory chemistry classes have their own personalized web page. Using PHP and MySQL a student’s personal page tracks their course grades, their Pre-Lecture Explorations, homework and other associate class work. If you are interested in viewing the current semester’s Personal Web Page environment you are welcome to log on to the class web site, and complete the SID#/Name form.


Pre-Lecture Explorations

A PLE consists of a series of questions that each student answers using a web-based form, prior to each class meeting. Student response(s) to the PLE are stored in a table in a MySQL database the instructor can access. The PLE takes approximately 10 minutes of the student’s time before class and provides the instructor with several interesting pieces of information about the knowledge and understanding the student brings to the classroom about the content of that day’s material. By answering a few questions the student will be able to demonstrate some basic knowledge. Student misconceptions about a topic can be easily identified when the right questions are asked. The questions used on the PLE will progress from the simple to the more complex. After completing the PLE the students receives a page with their answers juxtaposed to an expert’s answer. By comparing their answers to the expert’s the student will see whether they understand the material or not. As a result of doing the PLE students will have questions when they come to class that they want answered. Students will not know about their misconceptions, but when the instructor reviews the student responses in the database misconceptions can be quickly and easily identified. Thus empowered the instructor can point out common misunderstandings to the students in the class. Students are also able to access sets of randomly selected student responses so they can determine how well other students in the class understand the material on the PLE.


Personalized Problem Sets

These problem sets use PHP to generate a set of problems that contain randomy generated numbers, compounds and questions. When the student "picks up their problem set," all of the random values are stored in a table in a MySQL database. If a student loses their problem set they can always get their original problem set again. Additionally, a HELP page accompanies each problem set. On the HELP page students can check their answer with the Expert on a sub set of the problems on their problem set. The Expert only tells them whether their answer is correct or not. Wrong answers receive a brief hint. Additional when the student gets the wrong answer they will receive a link to a randomly selected student that they can e-mail for assistance. This feature reviews those students who have already checked the particular problem and got the question correct, and then randomly selects from that group a particular student’s email address. Students volunteer to participate in this particular feature at the beginning of the semester.


Problem Tutorials (with Dr. Michael R. Abraham at the University of Oklahoma)

The Problem Tutorials are randomly generated problems that students can do following three different approaches: SHOW ME!, HELP ME! Or WATCH ME!


The "Show Me" function presents the student with a detailed presentation that parses the information in a step-by-step approach similar to a teacher doing a sample problem at the board. The "HELP! Me" function presents the student with an interactive parsed approach to solving the same problem. Input from the student is evaluated by the computer as the student progresses through the problem. The "Watch Me" function presents the student with an input box where the student is expected to enter the answer to the problem. The computer evaluates the answer. If the answer does not match a correct answer or a known incorrect answer the student is given the choice to return to the "HELP! Me" or "Show Me" functions. If the answer is correct the student can exit the Tutorial to try a different problem.


The "Help Me!" and "Watch Me!" components require input from the student. This input can be captured and saved to a mySQL database to provide the instructor with valuable information about how students solve problems, and key points in a problem where students encounter difficulties and misunderstanding. It is also be possible to track how long the student takes to solve each step of the problem during the Help Me! component. By adding some dynamic programming the information stored in the database can be retrieved to help the student find where additional work is needed and where proficiency has been demonstrated.


InClass Exercises (with Dr. Michael R. Abraham at the University of Oklahoma)

InClass Exercises (ICE) are activities that students do in small groups during the lecture portion of the class. The InClass Activity will be an extension of the content discussed in class, and covered in the PLE. The InClass Exercises require the students to apply their understanding of the content discussed in lecture to answer the questions. Some of the questions on the ICE will not have a single correct answer to encourage critical thinking skills. The ICE will require students to discuss their understanding of the material and to answer questions. Students who do not fully comprehend the content will be advantaged by the discussion in the groups as they try to organize the information for themselves to answer the questions in the ICE. Examples of ICEs are available.


Molecular Level Laboratory Experiments (with Mr. Kirk Haines at Oklahoma State University and Dr. Michael R. Abraham at the University of Oklahoma)

MoLE: Molecular Level Experiments in Chemistry are a series of JAVA simulations that will play through your Web browser. The project is a collaboration with Dr. Michael Abraham at the University of Oklahoma. With the assistance of a very talented student programmer, Mr. Kirk Haines, we are developing a series of six computer-based molecular laboratory experiments and their parallel hands-on laboratory experiments around the content areas of: ideal gases (kinetic molecular theory laboratory activity/simulation), chemical equilibrium (Summer 2001), kinetics (collision theory and mechanisms), phase equilibria, solution process and atomic structure. These topics were chosen because they especially lend themselves to modeling using interactive computer graphics and to integrating the three levels of chemical understanding (particulate, sensory, and symbolic). This project is funded through the National Science Foundation. Faculty interested in our project are encouraged to contact either Michael or myself for more information.


Web-Laboratory Experiments (with Dr. Thomas Greenbowe at Iowa State University and Dr. Michael R. Abraham at the University of Oklahoma)

Dr. Greenbowe and his students at Iowa State University have a developed a series of simulations of laboratory experiments using MacroMedia Flash. Dr. Abraham and I have written activities to accompany the simulations. Students can do the activities using the simulations as a substitute for a laboratory or as an activity to collect data that is used to invent a concept. Examples of the simulations are available at Dr. Greenbowe’s web site. Examples of the activities are also available.


Digital Video for Lecture and Laboratory

During the semester, each lecture is videotaped, captured to disk, compressed and streamed from a QuickTime or Real streaming video server. Students can review class lecture as they need to review material. When integrated with MacroMedia Flash, the video lectures can become much more useful to the students. With Flash topics within the lecture can be identified, summarized and linked to the video segment. Students are then able to access parts of a lecture without having to view the complete lecture.


Other Projects

I've also been involved with several programs for high school teachers. For the past ten years I've been involved with the College Board's AP Chemistry Program. In 1990 I started as an AP Chemistry Reader. In 2001 I was appointed Chief Faculty Consultant for the AP Chemistry Program. I have a Web page with more information for AP Chemistry teachers. This web site includes links to presentations I have given during the last few years at 2-day Workshops, and Summer Institutes. The site also contains information for teachers who are currently Readers.


The ChemSource SourceBook project has produced a CD-ROM of resources for high school chemistry teachers in their first three years of teaching. These resources include 36 modules covering topics important for a first year chemistry course. Additional descriptive and applied topics are also included in these modules. Samples of these materials are available for review.


I have developed a set of animations, called Chemistry Animations, that are useful materials for the introductory chemistry topics. These animations are designed to be used by the teacher during their lecture/discussion in the classroom. The animations are available for use.


In 2000 I was elected Chair of the Board of Publications for the Journal of Chemical Education. The Board of Publications meets at each of the National ACS Meetings. Our next meeting is in Anaheim from 2:00 - 6:00 pm Saturday, March 27, 2004 and from 8:00 am - noon, Sunday, March 28, 2004. For more information about the Division of Chemical Education check out the Division's Web Site.


I'm the Web Master for the 18th BCCE, July 18 - 24, 2004 at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa.

For current information on other projects I'm involved with please go to my Web page at http://intro.chem.okstate.edu.


Recent Publications

    1. A Web-Based Molecular Level Inquiry Laboratory Activity. With M.R. Abraham and K. Haines. Chemical Educator, 2001, 6, 1-2
  1. The Multi-Initiative Dissemination Project Active Learning Workshops: Who Attends Them and How Effective are They? With T. Greenbowe and K.A. Burke. Journal of Chemical Education, 2004 (in press).