Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Engaging Students With Cell Phone Technology In Organic Chemistry Instruction

In The Classroom > Adapting to Student Learning Styles: Engaging Students with Cell Phone Technology in Organic Chemistry Instruction

David P. Pursell / School of Science and Technology / Georgia Gwinnett College / Lawrenceville GA /  dpursell@ggc.usg.edu

Abstract > Students of organic chemistry traditionally make 3 x 5 in. flash cards to assist learning nomenclature, structures, and reactions. Advances in educational technology have enabled flash cards to be viewed on computers, offering an endless array of drilling and feedback for students. The current generation of students is less inclined to use computers, but they use their cell phones 24 hours a day. This report outlines these trends and an even more recent educational technology initiative, that of using cell phone flash cards to help students learn organic chemistry nomenclature, structures, and reactions. Student attitudes were positive toward cell phone flash cards in a pilot study and a more detailed study investigating use and effect on student learning is planned.

CITE: Pursell, David P. J. Chem. Educ. 2009, 86, 1219.




Traditional Approach

A traditional approach to organic chemistry instruction includes lecture, discussion sections, and laboratory. Students rely on course texts for substantial supplementation and reinforcement of course topics presented by the instructor. [snip]. Even with outstanding texts and the engaging multimedia resources that often accompany them, students often feel overwhelmed with the pace and content of introductory organic courses. As noted above, students may then resort to memorizing as a means of survival. The notion of memorization depends on one’s perspective, but for the beginning organic student the nomenclature, functional groups, structures, and reactions are often viewed as part of “the infamous, dreaded ‘orgo’, a marathon of memorization.”

To assist students with the task of memorization, all of the texts noted above consolidate nomenclature, functional groups, structures, and reactions into callout boxes that focus student attention. In addition, students often make their own flash cards for these topics. [snip]

Electronic, Web-based reaction flash cards are a relatively recent development, offering an unlimited variety of reactions, reagents, and products drills, often providing feedback to students (and instructor) to guide further study effort. [snip] The Web-based reaction flash cards have been shown effective in enhancing student ability to learn reactions ... . The disadvantage of the Web-based flash cards is that they require a desktop or laptop computer and students miss the learning opportunity of creating their own flash cards.

New Educational Technology Approach


[snip] With the advent of the iPhone and other handheld devices, students can access this organic course content 24 hours a day. This 24-hour-a-day access is likewise available with “podcasts” that are appearing in instructional efforts in many disciplines ... .

As students migrate to the versatility, mobility, and convenience of cell phones—they can listen to music, watch videos, text or call friends, email, surf the Web, play games—all on a pocket-size device, the previous allure of the laptop computer is rapidly waning. A challenge for educators is to capitalize on the pervasive use of cell phones by younger students for educational purposes. [snip]


There have been recent initiatives designed to capitalize on the capabilities of cell phones to enhance education. Liz Kolb discuses many approaches to integrating cell phones into the classroom, primarily in the K–12 environment ... . Michal Yerushalmy has developed five “Math4Mobile” applications that help students intuitively learn about mathematical concepts using their cell phone ... . Her approach is focused on the high school level, but has the potential for use with college level courses and tutorials. Taken perhaps to the extreme, Mobile Enterprise Magazine reports that Colorado Technical University has launched CTU Mobile, which is a virtual campus and curriculum away from student’s computers where they can view assignments, grades, administrative information, video courseware, and podcasts on their cell phones ... . To date there are no reports of using cell phones in chemistry education, so the first generation cell phone flash cards reported in this article may inspire others to find ways of using cell phones for chemical education purposes and their effect on student learning in chemistry.


Organic Chemistry Cell Phone Flash Cards

With these trends in student technology use in mind, the logical progression of organic flash cards is from 3 × 5 in. paper flash cards to Web-based electronic flash cards to cell phone viewable flash cards. To this end, during the past year I developed first generation organic chemistry flash cards viewable on a cell phone with Mobile PowerPoint. [snip]The intent was that students could flip through their cell phone flash cards while waiting in line at the movies, riding as a passenger in a car, hanging out with their friends— ... . [snip]

The cell phone flash cards were organized by text chapter ...  to help students stay in synch with the course syllabus. The format of the cards was flexible, with examples shown for functional groups .... , structures ... , and reactions ... . All students were provided the electronic files for the flash cards.

As not all students had cell phones suitable for flash cards, those without suitable cell phones were encouraged to download the flash cards onto a computer and use them for drill, just as they would with a cell phone. [snip]

For this first generation cell phone flash card effort, I determined that students did not have the electronic drawing tools, facility with the tools, and expertise in formatting structures for cell phone viewing, so the electronic versions were provided to students as a complete package. [snip]

A Likert-scale survey ... captured students’ positive attitude about the importance of learning organic chemistry reactions and about the organic cell phone flash cards as a tool to help them learn. [snip]. The following student statements illustrate their positive attitude concerning cell phone flash cards no giant deck of cards to keep track of more convenient and more fun to look at than paper cards… could conveniently review the [cell phone] cards between classes who wants to carry pages of paper cards study them in the car going to church every Wed night when driving to relatives house for dinner… always have my cell phone with me when I am in the bathroom…



Engaging students is important in attaining educational outcomes. This investigation found that students responded very favorably to engagement with cell phones used as educational technology in the organic chemistry course. Students appreciated the convenience of cell phone flash cards and used them as one of several tools to help them learn organic chemistry. While we are not yet able to demonstrate the effect of cell phones on student learning, their favorable receptions of cell phones is a first step that may inspire chemical educators to further investigate this new and exciting educational technology.

Literature Cited

Thirty Two References

Link To Supporting JCE Online Material / Color Figures  / JCE Concept Connections for October 2009


http://jchemed.chem.wisc.edu/Journal/Issues/2009/Oct/abs1219.html (Subscribers)

!!! Thanks To My ISU Colleague / Dr. Jacob D. Schroeder / For The HeadsUp !!!

1 comment:

  1. As a current student and as a future teacher, I love this idea. As it says, most if not all kids have cell phones in hands reach of them 24 hours a day. Recently, a fellow classmate brought up the fact that technology is being used for entertainment and pleasure instead of for education and that that was not a good thing. I love this blog because it supports exactly what I tried to response to my fellow classmates comment. As a future teacher, my job is to find a way in which my students learn best in. Kids today, like I said use technology for entertainment everyday... so as a future teacher I am very excited in finding a way on how I can teach my students better, so I should be looking to attack technology to do so. These phone flash cards I know would be very helpful to me and my success in college and I'm sure it would be for many others that I know also.


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