Monday, December 04, 2006

Let's Get Chemical

Today was the first day we had to turn up the wood stove and burn some serious firewood this season. While I was dreaming, last month, of curling up with The Education of Henry Adams, I have instead found myself writing lecture notes for the chemistry class I'm teaching. Now, I took three years of chemistry in college, and I worked in molecular genetics labs for ten or more years, but electron orbitals, redox, and radioactive isotope decay are things I've never had to explain to anyone else. That's a whole different level of intensity, and chemistry was never a favorite topic of mine. The text for the course seemed a little thin on some topics, so today I've been digging for links to fill in my memory gaps. Here's what I've found helpful:

  • General Chemistry Online from Fred Senese of the Chemistry Department of Frostburg State University. This is an attractive, fast-loading, very complete Web resource for chemistry students. This is the first place I'll be going for references.
  • ThinkQuest Library index for Chemistry has Web pages on many chemistry topics, suitable for high school and early college students. The quality is high on the topics I've read through so far, and I was amazed to discover that these are written by students as part of a project sponsored by Oracle Education Foundation's ThinkQuest.

    ThinkQuest inspires students to think, connect, create, and share. Students work in teams to build innovative and educational websites to share with the world. Along the way, they learn research, writing, teamwork, and technology skills and compete for exciting prizes. Sponsored by the Oracle Education Foundation, the competition offers a unique project-based learning experience to students and teachers across the globe. Everybody wins by having their completed websites published in the ThinkQuest Library, a rich online resource visited by millions monthly.

  • ChemTutor is a text-based reference, with very good information. I wasn't able to find out who is responsible for it, and I found that curious. Still, it's a good resource. It describes itself thus:
    Basic chemistry help is available here for high school or college students. Chemtutor begins with the fundamentals and gives expert help with the most difficult phases of understanding your first course in chemistry. Chemtutor is not necessarily a complete text for your course or a complete outline, but we are proud to offer some insightful help in the parts of primary chemistry that have been, from our experience, the hardest for students to grasp.
  • The Biology Project from the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics, University of Arizona. This site includes tutorials for someone needing to review basic chemistry for the biological sciences. They are well-done, and short enough to avoid discouraging the chemo-phobe.
  • Curiosities Related to Chemistry from the Chemistry Teaching Resources, created by Knut Irgum and maintained by Svante Åberg at Umeå University, S-901 87 Umeå, Sweden. "This is an attempt to present a comprehensive list of chemistry teaching resources on the Internet." Sadly, quite a few of the links are dead, including the one I most wanted to revisit, that of some engineers at a Purdue University barbecue, lighting charcoal with liquid oxygen. Alas, it seems Perdue no longer wishes to display this early example of Internet viral video. (I first saw it about 11 years ago.) However, there are still links to alchemy, science jokes, and silly things students say to teachers. Lots of fun.

1 comment:

Dave said...

You're just trying to prove me wrong in what I said yesterday about this blog never being boring, aren't you?

Well, different strokes for different folks, as they say. (Which always makes me picture people as trees, about to be felled by some Paul Bunyan-type dude with an axe.)