Disclaimer:  I design my presentations to work best when delivered orally.  As a consequence, I do not use much text on the actual slides.  This may prevent the slides posted here from being easy to follow.  To remedy this problem somewhat, I include speaker notes, which at least outline what I said while presenting.  In order to view the speaker notes, you will need to download the presentation and view it in the full version of PowerPoint.  In addition, many of my slides involve simulations, which are embedded using an ActiveX control called LiveWeb.  Unfortunately, in order to run the simulations within the PowerPoint presentation, you will have to download and install LiveWeb.  If you have any suggestions on a better, more convenient approach, please let me know in the comments.

Designing simulations of abstract concepts using analogies and multiple representations

Colin Ashe1; David Yaron1; Jodi Davenport2;W. Craig Carter3; Donald Sadoway3

1Carnegie Mellon University; 2WestEd; 3Massachusetts Institute of Technology

While many concepts in chemistry can be illustrated effectively through direct simulation of atoms, some abstract concepts may be better conveyed via simulations based on analogies. A multidisciplinary project focused on core concepts underlying multiple STEM disciplines identified a number of high-leverage concepts not easily addressed via atom-level simulation. These include the energy landscape, entropy, and free energy. Here, we discuss how we applied theoretical work on analogy and model construction, as well as interpretation-constraining multiple representations, to the development of analogic simulations. We also describe the use of multiple physically different but behaviorally identical analogies to promote abstraction across examples. Data on both student evaluation of the simulation design and students’ understanding of the information represented in energy landscape diagrams will be presented. To conclude, we discuss recent use of contrasting cases in atom-level simulations related to temperature and heat capacity.

Presented on July 31st, 2012 in the “Research on the Design and Use of Simulations and Animations” symposium at the Biennial Conference on Chemical Education in State College, Pennsylvania.
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Jigsaw design for computer-mediated online discussions of intermolecular forces

Colin Ashe1; David Yaron1; David Adamson2; Carolyn Rosé2

1Department of Chemistry, 2Language Technologies Institute, Carnegie Mellon University

While educational psychology is increasingly documenting the learning benefits of social interactions, online curricula may be increasing the time students spend working alone. Here, we discuss a curriculum module that uses a collaborative chat application to bring social interactions online in a scalable manner. This module covers intermolecular forces using the well-known jigsaw instructional approach.  Each student is trained in either dispersion, polar, or ionic intermolecular forces and then assigned to a chat room. Each room includes one student from each training group and an intelligent computer agent that poses questions, listens for participant agreement on a response, and then posts an answer with explanations. The agent also facilitates discussion both generally, e.g. prompting quiet students to summarize, and by revoicing student comments that match a list of expert explanations. In addition to providing details on system implementation, this talk will present notable results and chat transcript excerpts.

Presented on July 30th, 2012 in the “Design, Development and Teaching of Online Chemistry Courses” symposium at the Biennial Conference on Chemical Education in State College, Pennsylvania.
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Interactive Two-Dimensional Simulations as an Introduction to Core ICME Concepts

Colin Ashe1; David Yaron1; Laura Bartolo2; John Portman2; W. Craig Carter3; Donald Sadoway3

1Carnegie Mellon University; 2Kent State University; 3Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The 2008 NRC report on ICME exhorts universities to incorporate “ICME modules into a broad spectrum of materials science and engineering courses”.  While research- and industry-grade simulations are appropriate for upper-level courses, students in introductory courses would benefit from simulations of simpler systems that clearly convey central concepts.  Combining efforts in MSE, chemistry, physics, and digital libraries, we have developed a web-based computational engine for simplified two-dimensional simulations of atoms and molecules that allows students to visualize and interact with simulations as they run. These capabilities provide a means to introduce students to both the underlying materials science concepts as well as to key concepts from computational science, such as choosing a suitable simulation time-step.  In this talk, we will highlight the capabilities of our system, provide examples of its use with students, and discuss how educators interested in partnering with us might use it in their own ICME modules.

Presented March 14, 2012 in the “Integrating and Leveraging Collaborative Efforts for ICME Education” symposium at the TMS 2012 Annual Meeting and Exhibition in Orlando, Florida.
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Interactive Simulations for Learning Fundamental Concepts from Nanoscale Science

Colin Ashe1,2, David Yaron1, Donald Sadoway2, Laura Bartolo3, W. Craig Carter2, John Portman3, Michael Karabinos1, Aaron Slodov3, Arthur Barnard4 and Jodi Davenport51Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; 2Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts; 3Kent State University, Kent, Ohio; 4Cornell University, Ithaca, New York;5WestEd, Oakland, California.

Nanoscale science is quickly becoming an essential component of a broad range of fields, including the physical sciences, engineering, and the life sciences. Although there are unifying big ideas (such as entropy, self-assembly, weak vs. strong molecular forces, kinetic vs. thermodynamic control) that cross these disciplines, students currently learn the material in a piecewise manner and so typically do not see the big picture. In addition, the concepts involve frameworks such as statistical mechanics and thermodynamics that are widely acknowledged to be abstract and difficult to learn. In this talk, we present a series of interactive computer simulations designed to teach students concepts that are fundamental to nanoscale science. Current topics include: free energy landscapes for thermally activated processes, exchange phenomena such as proton and electron exchange, and weak versus strong intermolecular forces. The simulations use model systems that allow students to explore the effects of altering the system parameters, along with curriculum materials and suggested exercises that guide student inquiry. The materials were used by freshman level students in a chemistry course at Carnegie Mellon University and a materials science course at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The materials were also used by advanced undergraduates in a biophysics course at Kent State University. The educational materials developed, including the simulations and curriculum are freely available on, the Materials Pathway in the National Science Foundation’s National Science Digital Library project. This NSF Course, Curriculum, and Laboratory Improvement (CCLI) Phase 2 project is actively seeking to expand its user base and form collaborations in order to expand the breadth of subject matter available to instructors and students.

Presented November 30th, 2010 in “Symposium XX: Materials Education Development and Outreach–From K-Grad” at the 2010 MRS Fall Meeting in Boston, Massachusetts.
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