Discussions from the magazine, website and social media. Teaching mechanisms and equilibrium. VLEs in school and Twitter for teacher CPD.

Talk Chemistry

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There have been some great discussions recently on how to make teaching mechanisms and equilibrium fun.

Teaching equilibrium

Leonard Winninga teacher at Kingston Grammar School started this topic: 

I'm shortly to start teaching equilibrium to my Y10 IGCSE classes and I'd be interested to learn what demonstrations/analogies others use to try and get students to an understanding of equilibrium. 

I usually use a coin-turning activity as a way of emphasising the dynamic nature of chemical equilibria. It seems to work quite well, but it's not a perfect analogy. Other suggestions, anyone? 

Duncan Armour from Simon Langton Grammar School for Boys replied: 

I teach it with an example of an irreversible reaction then set an oscillating reaction to get the idea that not every reaction has to go to completion. 

I project an escalator on the board and have a student running on the spot in front of it. 

A healthy wodge of theory in the middle, and typically I'd finish with the cobalt equilibrium demo at the end. 

Dayna MasonRSC Regional Coordinator for Wales, posted: 

I was talking to a teacher before the Christmas break and they mentioned that it's difficult to make organic mechanisms fun for students. Does anyone have any tips or suggestions for this one? 

Gordon Watson replied: 

Depends on your definition of fun. Over the last few years I've been putting together a resource aimed mainly at reaction mechanisms. Designed to cover those met in Advanced Higher Chemistry as taught in Scotland but probably covers similar territory to the A level courses.    

Andrew Gray suggested a great activity for students 

If your students have smart phones, there are several stop motion apps which you can use. 

In one hour, I introduced them to the idea of using the stop motion apps to produce an animation of a mechanism. I put them in groups and gave them each a mechanism to animate and some molymods. The bit that was most interesting was seeing the different ways they simulated things like charges, lone pairs and arrows using bits of paper and blu tac. By the end of the lesson they said they all had a better idea of how the mechanisms work in 3d. 

Other suggestions have included flickbooks, fuzzy felt, and the new RSC website  Mechanism Inspector. Take a look online for some of the other great ideas that have been suggested. 


Catherine Smith started a vibrant discussion asking if anyone had any good practice tips for using a virtual learning environment (VLE) in school to support students studying chemistry. Fantastic suggestions have poured in from across the world. 

Simon Hepburn said: 

I've now had experience in 2 schools of Moodle. To me, the key to getting them used is: consistency between subjects; make it equally useful as a tool for teachers; make it worthwhile visiting; use quizzes that have time-limits; don't expect it to be used too much! I'm happy if [students] pop in occasionally for help, do the quizzes, submit the odd assignment and download 'lost' homework. Once the material is there it takes little time to manage. 

You can read all the contributions in full, and carry on the debate on theTalk Chemistrywebsite.

Top tweets

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Here are some of our favourite tweets this issue:

  • Several tweeters liked last month's Endpoint article by @alomshaha on Twitter as a method of teacher CPD

    @Leathandrel said:

    It's bad that we *still* have to defend our use of Twitter. I'm regarded as something less than professional since I *came out*.

    @teachingofsci agreed:

    Same here - colleagues know I tweet but I think most don't really understand. Shame isn't just *their* loss. 

    @hrogerson also concurred:

    I think the 'don't get left behind' section is so true: I know more things and sooner because of twitter. 

    How has Twitter been useful in your teaching or CPD? If you don't tweet, is there a reason why not?

  • The chemical education  Distillates caught the eye of @michaelkls. The article's author, @lowlevelpanic, replied to him:

    Thanks for the plug! It's hard to summarise good Ed Res papers in 300 words. A bit like writing a tweet.

    Chemical education  Distillates return next issue.

  • An important event in January was the launch of  Learn Chemistry. The chemists at Knutsford High School, @chemknuts, tweeted to their students:

    Year 12 get on this and have a scout about! MT: @RSC_EiC: RSC launches new chemistry teaching and learning platform

    Have you tried  Learn Chemistry? How has it helped you?

  • Finally, we were delighted to launch the RSC's new student magazine at the ASE conference. @akshatrathi joined in the celebration:

    Congratulations @RSC_EiC! Glad to hear about the launch of The Mole. Look forward to reading it!

    Have you read  The Mole? What did you think? What did your students think?

Follow us on Twitter for the latest chemistry education news.