Tony Tooth looks at some websites that may be of interest to chemistry teachers.

Philip Ball

I have been a fan of Philip Ball's science writing since my father gave me a copy of H2O: A biography of water as a Christmas present some years ago; I can thoroughly recommend it, and frequently do so to my students.

Philip's website promotes his writing and there are links to reviews of all his books as well as to his blog. The most recent blog entry reproduces his Crucible column from Chemistry World, wherein he muses on whether or not the periodic table has an end and the significance of the number 137!

At the top of every page there are links to areas such as Water and Nanoscience where you can find further links to the text of various articles. One such is the extended text of an article that appeared in Agenda, a book on water published by Hoffmann & Campe in 2002, and gives a very good flavour of the book if you want to 'try before you buy'.

Synthesis Explorer

Laptop computers

Source: iStock

Launching the Synthesis Explorer from the home page reveals a screen where the first decision to be made is whether to work at AS or A2 level; the difference being the number of families available in the drop-down lists.

Once a family of compounds has been chosen then specific compounds become available in a second drop down list and can be added to the 'canvas'. If a compound is added for which a direct conversion to or from another compound on the canvas is possible then labelled linking arrows automatically appear.

For example, choosing bromoethane and ethanol creates a pair of boxes linked by an arrow from bromoethane to ethanol labelled 'nucleophilic substitution' and an arrow in reverse labelled 'substitution'. Holding the cursor over a label reveals a word equation at the top of the screen with reagents and conditions.

Boxes can easily be moved round the screen or deleted and there is a button at the bottom of the screen labelled show structural formula that actually reveals full displayed formulae for any compounds on the canvas. In addition, data boxes on the right of the screen give access to information such as physical properties, uses, different versions of the structure such as skeletal formulae and rotatable 3D images as well as NMR, IR and mass spectra.

With a little practice on the part of a teacher this could be an excellent teaching resource, especially during revision or delivery of the AQA Unit Four Topic on structure determination, or, once prompted, students could make very good use of it for revision as not all of the information is revealed in one go, which makes it ideal for self-testing.

The instructions and quick tips tab uses screenshots to make the instructions crystal clear and there is even a curriculum links tab that allows one to view interactive reaction pathway screens specific to each of the main A-level syllabuses.

Contact and Further Information

Tony Tooth
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Email: Tony Tooth