Web watch: Josh Howgego looks at some websites that may be of interest to chemistry teachers
The Bloodhound Project Open Educational Resource
The last issue of Education in Chemistry (May 2012) featured the Bloodhound project and the team who believe they can inspire a generation of pupils to study science with their very fast car. Part of the plan is the Bloodhound open educational resource (OER).
Created by web design expert Yvonne Howard of Southampton University, this is no run-of-the-mill resource stockpile. In this website the design has been thought out carefully, to make it a real pleasure to use. For example, all the resources are useable inline and online - you don't have to keep downloading PDFs before you can scope out how useful they are.
Bloodhound's expert educational team upload all their resources here, so the material is plentiful and useful. The site makes it easy for you to upload materials yourself too. 'We don't ask for much metadata, but work out lots for you,' says Howard. That allows all the content to be deeply interlinked and referenced. It may look like any other OER on the surface, but start using it and you'll find it more user-friendly than most.
Epistemeo (which means 'to know' in Greek), is an interactive educational site with material suitable for students studying chemistry from school to degree level. It was developed by Paul Wolstenholme-Hogg, a project leader at Genzyme, a biotechnology company. He told me he'd wanted to create a site like this since he finished PhD (in 1998), 'but the internet wasn't ready for what I wanted.' The aim is to create a truly credible tutorial site. 'Every video and document on our site is vetted before it is released,' says Wolstenholme-Hogg.
One of the best (and most comprehensive) parts of the site is the section on reaction mechanisms. The resources here take the form of videos, with the author drawing out by hand the mechanisms of key reactions, with real-time verbal explanations alongside. It puts a one-to-one tutorial on mechanisms just a few clicks away. Each file also has associated interactive 3D molecular models which give the student a nice feel for the shapes of the molecules being discussed.