It's not rocket science, it's chemistry

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"Several studies claimed that students are more receptive to learning chemistry concepts when game playing is combined with the learning activity," states Dr.. Joseph S. Chimeno in a recently published article in the "Journal of Chemical Education".

The article is a condensed version of the book, "Evaluating Three Methods That Contribute to the Learning of Inorganic Chemical Nomenclature." The article and book not only describe chemical concepts, but also one of the most effective ways to teach chemistry.

His research for the book was part of his doctoral dissertation. "The study involved 40-volunteer students in the first semester of a two-semester general chemistry sequence for science and pre-professional majors," says Chimeno.

The research did not stop here, he continually observed this process and how it works dealing with three separate schools, North Iowa Community College, Middle Tennessee State University, and College of Eastern Utah, the scores of each student are proven to be higher if the learning is to take place with a game format, rather than traditionally learning through the end of chapter homework and lectures.

This led Chimeno to his first publication of his book, describing all of the research that he had done, and the results of teaching chemistry using this new effective theory.

After the book was written, Chimeno created additional games that are helping students develop a working knowledge of chemistry. He is continually developing new chemical educational games in his ongoing research.

His first game, the Rainbow Wheel, had drawn much attention from other chemistry instructors. Information about this game was published in the Journal of Chemical Education (JCE) in February 2000, in Vol. 77 No. 2.

Chimeno did no stop there, but continued on to his next teaching game, the Rainbow Matrix, which was recently published in this month's JCE, Vol. 83 No. 4.

This article not only contained information about the "Rainbow Matrix," but also had information about how the game actually worked in chemistry classes, and statistics on how successful it is.

Some of the feedback the students had given after trying the game is contained in the article. One student mentioned that, "the instructor helped us understand how to set up the Rainbow Matrix game and worked a few examples for us."

Another student dealing with the same game, the Rainbow Matrix; said, "By repeating the combinations over and over, it really drove the point home and helped me see just how to do chemical nomenclature."

Even though the primary focus of Chimeno's work involves educational games to aid the students, he also has virtual labs that are available online, www.chemgames.com. Chimeno is working to make it possible for students to take online chemistry courses via the internet, which will allow students to attain college credit.

The virtual lab is designed to react like a "real life" lab with animations that have effects such as fire, explosions, etc. This not only creates a safer and cheaper environment, but makes it so the students don't have to leave their homes to participate in the chemistry class.

Currently Chimeno is designing a new game. This time, he has others working with him in designing this game, and it also involves his chemistry classes.

"I enjoy developing chemical education games, the students seem to like them. It is an excellent way, as an educator, to stimulate student's interest in the subject matter ... this application can be used in any field." he says.

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