Web 2.0: In the Classroom?

I went to a workshop a while ago under the title of Teaching During Budgetary Crises.  Among the topics covered were alternative teaching methods and free or inexpensive methods of interacting with your students other than traditional the 50 minute lecture.

We were given a list of a variety of web 2.0 platforms and suggested ways to use them in a classroom setting.  The workshop participants spanned a variety of departments across the university, so as I glance through the list, I can see how some platforms would lend themselves to use in certain departments, while others might make more sense for the physical sciences.

Here’s the list we were given, with links to information about the site.  Have any of you seen any of these technologies used in a classroom or seminar setting?  If so, how were they implemented?  Were they successful?  Would you have done it differently?

I think I could see myself using Jing as a resource to walk through out-of-class examples of more complex or complicated synthesis problems and mechanisms.  Jing is a screen-capture technology that allows you to upload video of your onscreen actions.  I could propose a synthesis problem, jump to my slides covering the needed concepts, and jump to ChemDraw to illustrate my thought process and the correct answer.

Times and technology are certainly changing before our eyes.  Are educators going to stick with the traditional lecture model, or are we going to move with the trends to bring content to students in new and exciting ways?  Or, if we do move with the trends, are we going to end up sacrificing quality to increase curb appeal?

Tools for Interactive Questioning

Strategic Recording

Collaborative Learning


  1. Our organic chemistry course is now fully online using many of the tools you mentioned. The revolution won’t be televised. It’ll be… streamed, I guess. Put on YouTube?

    • Very fun.

      How has the overall response been? Did students/administrators initially seem open to the idea? When given the choice, do students actively choose the virtual classroom over the traditional classroom? And if you have firsthand experience with it, what are some of the things you liked about the specific web 2.0 platforms used? Would you have used different ones or used them differently?

      • How has the overall response been?

        Both positive and negative. Most students do not approach the course with an open mind (it’s orgo, orgo is hard, it’s the pre-med killer, etc.), and most have never taken an online class before, so they don’t start the semester very optimistic. However, by the end of the semester, most of the students have turned around.

        Did students/administrators initially seem open to the idea?

        Admin LOVES it. It’s cheaper, and requires hiring fewer TAs as graders, because the tests are fully online and graded with a click of a button- after many a Saturday wasted grading paper exams, I literally swooned the first time I saw all 700 tests graded with a push of a button. Students’ initial opinions range from ambivalent to hostile. But (and this is putting it nicely) students’ opinions are a dime a dozen.

        When given the choice, do students actively choose the virtual classroom over the traditional classroom?

        It’s too early to tell. We do know that most students leave the course with a more positive attitude toward online courses.

        And if you have firsthand experience with it, what are some of the things you liked about the specific web 2.0 platforms used? Would you have used different ones or used them differently?
        The big online tool we use is ACE Organic, developed by Bob Grossman at UK. It’s a fully online organic chemistry problem set, which allows students to draw molecules, reaction mechanisms, and the like using MarvinSketch. It provides feedback for the student if the student gets a problem wrong- for example, if you try to do an Sn2 reaction on a tertiary carbon, it will provide relevant feedback, such as “Sn2 reactions on tertiary carbons are extremely slow. Recall that carbocations increase in stability with increasing substitution.” ACE organic alone has been worth the effort of the redesigned class.

        While there is a fee for students to use ACE Organic, we have gotten rid of a textbook for the course. The fee for ACE is about $20/student or so, and the price of the course notes is about the same. In that way, we’ve rid ourselves of the stranglehold of textbook organization, which ranges anywhere from random to atrocious. Textbooks are a racket.

        Anywho, for discussion sessions we use Elluminate Live, which has whiteboard, video conferencing, and desktop control features. Unfortunately, it’s also buggy and the server tends to overload a lot. Discussion boards are handled on the school’s discussion board servers.

        Shoot me an email if you want more info on what we’ve been doing. =)

  2. BTW, a lot of the info pdfs were obtained from this very informative website for the technologically adept educator:


  3. in my opinion, iTunes U/MIT OCW are great resources, but some of the courses are incomplete and must be remedied prior to implementing them. These tools are good for classroom use as well as independent learning.

  4. I have been using facebook in my lecture courses for organic and general chemistry for a few years. I don’t use it “top down” as a course management tool, but “bottom up” as a place for student-driven discussions outside of the classroom. With a modest dose of both carrots and sticks to encourage participation, the students have generally taken to it and run with it with very little prodding from me. The one point at which I do “interfere” is by posting a collaborative problem for every exam a week prior to the exam. These are usually thought experiments which get the students to think at a higher level than could reasonably be assessed in an traditional exam setting. They are free to discuss the problem on the facebook group and elsewhere as much as they want prior to the exam.

    Typically, over the course of a semester in a course of 70 students, there are 700-800 postings.

    • That is great! I have usually advised professors and educators to stay off facebook, and stick with social networks like Ning that they have more control over.

      Thanks for giving me a good reason to take another look at Facebook as a viable option.

      I write for ASSETT, a program with the university of colorado at boulder that aims to help teachers and students use technology to assist in teaching and learning. If you all are ever looking for new ideas on technology tools, check out our website at http://assett.colorado.edu.

      Thanks again,

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