Thursday, February 19, 2015

Livescribe pencasts fade into history

Well, I knew it was coming. The lovely Livescribe 'pencast' seems to be fading out of existence. The ability to combine text and audio so simply, the 'invisible man at the chalkboard' as a teaching tool is getting disconnected.  I must admit that I have moved over to Youtube screen capture videos for my classroom activities (when I had a job), but the ability to point students to 'saved' lectures was a very useful tool.

I will likely NOT be taking down the old lectures since it screws up Bloggers dates. Apparently there is a way to convert them into a type of PDF document, but I will need to test it out and see if it is suitable.  I have been considering new ways to organize some of the classes, particularly Chemistry for Life Sciences (GOB, Nursing Chem) more in line with modeling instruction, so there may be new posts soon. After I find a job that is.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Even though I dont have a job.... What you need to beef up on for Chem 2 (or how to succeed in Chem II)

Chemistry 2 is that place where all your birds come home to roost.  What that means is that all those ideas and concepts you just managed to retain for the final in Chem 1 are now applied.  In fact, chemistry 2 should really be called Applied Chemistry.  In my humble opinion is should be called Applied Solution Chemistry.

When I talk to students, I describe Chem 1 as "counting atoms". You spend all semester learning various ways to determine how much material you have and then a little bit of time learning about the naming, and electronic stuff that makes atoms do what atoms do, and some of the really cool thermodynamics which tells us what atoms get up to when we arent looking.

The same analysis of almost all of Chem 2 is about what goes on in solutions and the lies we told you in Chem 1.   yes Lies.  Solubility rules.  "All halides are soluble except....." is soluble. It is just a matter of degree. Lets put a number on that!!   THAT is chem 2.  Putting a number on the behavior of chemical reactions.  Usually in solution.

So... to win at Chem II here is a pretty decent strategy.

a) review solutions and solution reactions
start by predicting what the molarity of something is in solution before a reaction and, more critically, how much is left over in solution at the end.  For instance  100.0 mL of a 0.100 M NaOH solution is reacted with 50.0 mL of 0.100 M Acetic acid.   At the end of the reaction there will be 0.050 mol NaOH left, 0.050 of Sodium acetate and close to 0 mol of acetic acid. (note moles not molarity, take into account the dilution too 150 mL now).

This will be the starting point of almost every single reaction you will be looking at in Chem 2

b) review algebra.
almost all of chem 2 is finding an unknown based upon some simple generic algebraic expressions. Particularly working with roots and exponents. Go review the first 3-4 chapters of an algebra book.

c) review thermodynamics
the last few weeks are using ideas from thermodynamics. Procedures for determining enthalpy of reaction from tables and constants will be reused.  (save this for the middle of the semester)

If nothing else... focus on solution behavior.

Oh yeah.. almost anything with a big K is just an equilibrium. (you will learn that about 3-4 weeks in) All you need to keep in mind is WHAT kind of equilibrium ie. a specific way of writing a chemical reaction.

Monday, December 29, 2014


So, apparently this tenure thing isn't all that special after all.  It turns out that there is a way to get rid of tenured faculty. Something called 'retrenchment'... which is a weird name since this means that....what?.. I am back in the trenches? Actually it is more like I am out of the trenches.

So my job is gone on 12-31. I have been losing it for a few months now... my job that is. It has really put a damper on my endeavors. The 'modeling chem' and the 'whiteboarding' was actually very cool this semester, but 'genius hour' got lost in the 'oh by the way you are losing your job' shuffle.

So..for the next few weeks I will be looking and learning and reassessing what my role in life will be.

Friday, September 19, 2014


Well Week 3 of the Genius Hour experiment wasnt what I would call successful, but there was none of the serious resistance and flippancy of the last week.  Did a Five W's scaffolding where we worked in small groups to try and flesh out the idea with wimple question generation: Who.. what..when.. where..

Some cool topics though! My particular favorite is Martial Artists and the chemistry tie in has to do with structural changes in bone and mineralization. That might turn into some pretty interesting discussion regarding bone formation and composition.  We will see. There is also some odd balls too... but trying not to judge... even if I am.  haha.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014


Wow!  I didn't expect active resistance to the idea of Genius hour! I have students basically choosing total BS projects. I know I get to approve them, but short of calling them out and saying 'why you gotta be like that' there is nothing I can think of than let them do it.  Of course we are just at the idea generating stage of the exercise, but still, it is disheartening.

Bansho Dojo!

So I am trying a bunch of Modeling Techniques and working on adapting the techniques from Math classed called BANSHO.  Basically it is a a reversal of the I, We, You practice I grew up with.

It involves the following three steps with lots of interaction and comparison.

1. Activation
a prompt to get them to be active
a preparatory exercise?

2.  The problem
explanation, labels, answer sentence and show work

3. Consolidation
talk about the work, focus the idea
turn and talk, come up with an explanation.

This is sort of forming the cornerstone of my push into modeling when I cant actually get them to build the models in class time.

Genius Hour: (well Genius 30 min)
I introduced it last class (my classes are 2.5 hours long) and it was a big ????WTF???? and they spent more time asking questions about what isnt graded than what is graded.

The exercises have definitely increased the energy of the class. I am worried about the utilization of online resources to supplement content though. Have they been watching the vids?? Youtube analytics says NO. Assuming these are unique views then it is a whole 10% of the class.


Monday, September 1, 2014

Trying some new things

Well this blog has lain fallow for long enough!

This semester I am trying a pile of new things. I am kicking myself, but if it was easy then it would be the same old thing!! I have been worried about pseudo teaching ever since coming across Frank Noschese's blog post about the subject.  I wonder and question whether the things I have been doing were really useful for the students or just useful entertainment.

So, this semester, I am trying two things, Genius Hour or some variation of it, and Modeling Instruction.   I dont know how well they will go.... I am going to use this space a a public way to keep me honest with the world and not slink back into lecturing at the students.  The curricular work I have seen for modeling is for high school mostly and I dont think I can restructure the class in a short enough time frame to build ideas from the historical context and the lab is separate and everyone in the class is not the same as in the lab.  Still...  such promise...

Well maybe I should quit writing about what I am doing and just do it. ;)