Reaching for new horizons through technology and communication


Recently, while attending an event to celebrate the launch of Education in Chemistry’s new mobile app, I realised how important communications and technology are to us as scientists and how vital it is to be able to communicate well.

In the room we had set out our printed archive (now all 51 years), which showed the progression of EiC through half a century of chemistry education – bringing the latest pedagogies and practices into the classroom – sharing the best in innovative teaching practices at the time. Looking around the room, we also displayed several iPads and other mobile devices so the team could demonstrate the app to our guests, as well as PCs set up with access to our website and blog. What a long way we had moved in 50 years, always striving to be at the forefront in using the latest in technology to communicate with our readers and help them bring this into their own teaching practice.

Reaching for the sky

On the cover of this issue, we allude to EiC’s continuing commitment by illustrating another in our series of innovative pedagogy features. This time it’s about MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) – the latest trend in reaching out to a potentially vast audience of chemistry students. The teaching and learning literally occurs in the cloud, the ether.

Two groups from the University of Manchester and the University of East Anglia showcase, through case studies, how technology has made it possible for us now to teach hundreds of students at the same time in the comfort of their own homes. One of the featured MOOCs was designed to include virtual labs, the absence of which would make learning chemistry at a distance learning almost impossible. How awesome is that? We can now teach chemistry in a virtual lab! The UK’s Open University is also pioneering course development in this area – we will bring you more about this later in the year.

Effective communication gets the message across

However, innovative approaches like this can only be successful if we can communicate well. This is a skill essential to scientists and a key component of all chemistry degree courses, as we have discussed many times in EiC and will continue to for as long as new technologies for delivering chemical education evolve.

The importance of effective communication cannot be underestimated. How else would we know that the Philae lander had detected organic molecules on a comet zillions (note scientific terminology!) of kilometers away and has also added to the debate about the mystery of where all Earth’s water comes from? OK, it’s gone to sleep for a bit until the sun comes out again before it can tell us some more – but it all goes to building up our knowledge base. ‘Getting the message out there’ is the important bit though. That’s why Bill Bryson willingly puts his name against a prize that encourages young students across the world to take part in a competition and realise the importance of science communication.

I can round off with another fantastic example of science communication. To keep his students engaged, Declan Fleming stops at nothing to make his lessons memorable – he even turns to magic on occasion.

Karen J Ogilvie, editor