Pedagogic roles of animations and simulations in chemistry courses

Pedagogic roles of animations and simulations in chemistry courses
Jerry P Suits and Michael J Sanger (eds)
2014 | 456pp | £97 (HB)
ISBN 9780841228269


This collection of peer-reviewed book chapters arose out of a symposium at an American Chemical Society meeting. I was hoping for a guided tour of some of the animation and simulation (A&S) highlights that exist for chemical educators but instead the focus is more on why such approaches are effective, how to make them more effective and how to demonstrate what you have achieved. There are four groups of chapters dedicated to theoretical aspects of visualisation design, design and evaluation of visualisations, visualisations studied by chemical education researchers, and visualisations designed for the chemistry classroom.

All the chapters were written independently and so there is significant overlap in the literature coverage and background educational theory. 

Chapters two to four of this book are concerned with theoretical issues and concerns in developing and deploying A&S to teach concepts in chemistry such as behaviourism, cognitive load and Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development, together with design principles that are informed by educational research on learning with multimedia.

Two pairs of chapters exploring and then evaluating the approach follow. Chapters five and six focus on interactive simulations created as part of the PhET interactive simulations project while chapters seven and eight focus on Second Life and how it is used to teach chemistry lessons.

Chapters 9–14 describe the results of chemical education research studies on the use of A&S. Chapters 15–17 demonstrate how specific dynamic visualisation programs and modules were designed and how they could be used to improve student understanding.

The illustrations are predominantly in black and white, which is inappropriate given the subject matter. This is slightly improved by the colour insert section but this approach to graphics in books is from a previous century.

Overall I think it is a very thorough introduction to the educational theory behind the use of A&S in teaching chemistry, but I was hoping for more. I would like to see the full text and colour illustrations available on the web for everyone to consult. It seems a shame that all the author’s effort has produced a book that few can afford.

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