Lots of innovations in chemistry education

Karen J Ogilvie

© Declan Fleming

It has been an incredibly busy summer and I am literally writing this on the train home from the Variety in Chemistry Education conference, held in Liverpool on 29 and 30 August. What a fantastic event it was and good to be joined with the Physics Higher Education Conference for the second year.

Liverpool University were superb hosts and the conference venue was the stunning new Central Teaching Hub. This saw some of my academic colleagues turn absolutely green with envy on a tour of these amazingly well-designed laboratory and teaching facilities.

I thought it was quite appropriate that so many of the latest innovations in teaching design and practice were being showcased in this state of the art teaching complex, which is shared between several scientific disciplines. Topics, as usual, varied widely (hence the conference title!). One of the favourites this year was lecture flipping from Michael Seery. I also attended a very engaging workshop by Jane Essex and Katherine Haxton to get a real hands-on experience of her Victorian Pharmacy project. It is really satisfying to seeEiC articles being used as outreach resources.

I won't say any more about Variety as Michael has promised he'll write up his blog so we can share the highlights with you. However, if there is a gap on page 3 he will have broken his promise to deliver it by Monday morning!

During a break, I was chatting to Simon Lancaster about lecture flipping and asked him why this teaching method got him so excited. 'Well, Karen,' he said (very excitedly!) 'for me, the most valuable feature of flipping is having the freedom to use the contact hour in the most effective fashion possible, to probe and reinforce true understanding, and, where misconceptions are found, to exploit the power of peer instruction. It's all about getting them [students] engaged.

Obviously this is something our programmed learning authors were thinking about 50 years ago. However, I think we have moved on quite a bit since then and flipped lectures will be much more engaging and promote deeper understanding of topics.

Irish Variety

It really has been a summer of conferences. At the beginning of July I attended Eurovariety 2013, hosted at the University of Limerick in Ireland. Peter Childs has kindly written a report sharing the highlights, which is online. It was lovely to meet so many Irish colleagues who all have so much enthusiasm for teaching and learning chemistry. It was especially nice for me as not only did I present a workshop with our good friend Michael Seery, I was in the fortunate position to be able to announce that EiC and The Mole will now be distributed free to all schools, colleges and university teaching departments in Ireland, from this issue. So I'd like to welcome our new readers. I hope you enjoy EiC and that we will be able to share your contributions with a wider audience in due course.

I did actually spend some time in EiC towers this summer. Most of it was spent working on a range of exciting new projects and ideas that we will be rolling out in the next few months. The first of these will be our brand new website - coming to a PC, tablet or smartphone near you in November. Please watch out for it - we have lots of new surprises to bring you.

Wishing you all the very best for the new term.