Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Google Apps, iPhones and A Chemistry Curriculum: A Series of Handheld General Chemistry Exercises

Thomas J. Manning*(1), Caley Allen(1), Greg Kean (1) Michael Tang (1) Tolulope O. Salami (1) and Aurora Pérez Gramatges (2)

(1) Department of Chemistry, Valdosta State University, Valdosta, GA, 31698,, (2) Departamento de Radioquímica, Facultad de Ciencias y Tecnologías Nucleares, Instituto Superior de Tecnologías y Ciencias Aplicadas (InSTEC), Quinta de los Molinos, Ciudad de La Habana, Cuba, A.P. 6163

Abstract: This letter argues that new electronic communication devices can be used in a chemistry lab and lecture setting in place of desktop and laptop computers. We present 4 spreadsheet exercises that can be conducted on an Apple iPhone (or a similar device). The Google Apps package, which offers free wordprocessing, spreadsheet, presentation software, as well as electronic classroom domain space, easy to post web pages, and e-mail, is utilized by students to do these exercises offering some advantages over the MS07 package.
Recently we developed a series of computer-based laboratory exercises that were designed to take between three and twelve hours for completion. These exercises incorporated Excel spreadsheets and molecular modeling (Spartan, Wavefunction) software. Given the growing presence of computers in chemistry laboratories, it was argued that some wet laboratories in a chemistry curriculum could be enhanced or even replaced with these computer-based exercises. For example, rather than doing two or three experimental titration labs, a student could perform one hands on laboratory and one computer simulation aimed at deepening their understanding of the reactions taking place. [snip]

The release of Microsoft 07 placed an additional financial burden on academic institutions, from K-12 through PhD granting institutions, to not only purchase new software but to also upgrade computer systems to support this version. In our curriculum students traditionally utilize word-processing (Word), spreadsheet (Excel) and presentation (Powerpoint software in classes and research projects on a regular basis. [snip]

This summer we conducted a two week course for middle school and high school science and mathematics teachers entitled “Computers in the Classroom.” This experience reflected what was encountered at universities but at a deeper level. [snip]

...  Google ... has introduced a spreadsheet, word-processing, and presentation package that is offered free to academic institutions. It includes email (gmail) and the ability to publish Web pages quickly and easily. The files generated are stored at the Google site reducing the memory required at the host institution. Google apps [1] allow educational institutions to set up electronic classroom folders free of charge. [snip]

Although we have used this package in classrooms and laboratory settings while the teacher is in direct contact with the class, the Apps system does have similarities to distance learning programs such as WebCT and could be used in that capacity.

The interface of the popular Apple iPhone to Google Apps has been announced. It raises the question: “if computer use in an educational setting might be accomplished by a device such as the iPhone.” [snip].

.... Four spreadsheet exercises that have been adapted to Google Apps from a computational laboratory manual  ... . The spreadsheet exercises were originally written in Excel. This manual was developed by American and Cuban faculty and students [2]...  and outlines the use of several spreadsheet labs aimed at high school or general chemistry courses.

Exercise 1 introduces the commands needed to work in Google Apps. Exercise 2, a simulation of a strong acid/strong base titration, also contains Google Apps commands. Exercises 3 and 4 assume the students feel comfortable working in Google Apps. Reports are generated in Google Apps word-processing program and instantly published to the Web or stored in a designated file that the instructor can access. The four ... exercises can be conducted on an Apple iPhone.

Exercises of this nature raise the question if traditional computer laboratories that require either a laptop or desktop computer can be replaced in a chemistry laboratory by an Apple iPhone (or a similar device) utilizing free software (Google Apps). Rather than designating entire rooms with dedicated infrastructure, will computer laboratories of the future simply require students to pull their cell phones out? The advantages of this approach include savings in space, hardware and software costs, added flexibility in file sharing, and the reduction in on-campus memory needs.

While current programs in Apps (spreadsheet, word-processing, presentation) lack the depth of commands and flexibility found in the current MS 07 software, this simplicity also serves as a good training tool for these programs [snip]

[snip]. For a range of applications including laboratory and homework exercises, presentations, reports published to the Web, and distance learning, the combination of a free and flexible software package coupled with a pocket-sized computer, which can access assignments from locations worldwide is a potentially powerful educational tool.

Supporting Material. Four laboratories that can be implemented in Google Apps are available

[Not Available 09-23-09]


References and Notes

1. (accessed August 2008).

2.  (accessed August 2008).

© 2008 The Chemical Educator, S1430-4171(08)52160-1, Published on Web 12/1/2008, 10.1333/s00897082160a, 13080374tm.pdf


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!!! Thanks To Thomas J. Manning / Senior Author / Valdosta State University / For The HeadsUp !!!


  1. How can the supporting material be accessed that is listed in this document? The web page currently is not available and states on this page that it is "Not Available 09-23-09.

  2. There's an implicit bias in this, and any program which is not prepared to supply web-enabled mobile telecommunications devices to all of its students should at least be aware of the implications for those less fortunate. Fees are already barely bearable.


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