This July, about 500 scientists from around the globe will gather in Toronto to share and celebrate advances in the pedagogy and practice of chemistry education. The 23 rd International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) International Conference on Chemistry Education (ICCE) makes its way to Canada for only the second time in its history, after being first hosted by the University of Waterloo in 1989. The ICCE reaches out to all members of the academic community: university and college faculty, staff, graduate students, undergraduates and high school teachers — anyone who has put effective pedagogy into practice or who wishes to learn more about novel instructional strategies and evidence-based research in chemistry education. Having been held in Mauritius, Taiwan and Rome in recent years, the conference is a wonderful opportunity to showcase the progress made in chemistry education across Canada.
With the overarching theme of “Communication in Chemistry,” unparalleled opportunities exist at the ICCE to liaise with like-minded colleagues worldwide. The way in which students communicate with each other, and how instructors communicate with students, is currently undergoing unprecedented change. The classical ‘chalk-and-talk’ by the ‘sage on the stage’ approach to teaching still has its merits, although educators are now searching for new and more interactive strategies to reach out to undergraduates who are not necessarily going to attend class in person. These include creating podcasts, vodcasts or video lectures and screencasts as digital recordings of computer screen output. Another approach is to ‘flip’ the classroom, where students take up assigned problems during scheduled class hours after learning new chemistry content online. Some instructors hold virtual office hours through the use of learning management systems such as Blackboard, which facilitates delivery of course materials to students on a 24/7 basis.
The focus of several ICCE symposia reflect some of these ideas: Mobile Devices in Chemical Education, Electronic Resources to Support Learning in Organic Chemistry, Online Resources for Chemical Education and Open Access Chemistry Education Resources — the latter reflecting on the role of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). How effective are Facebook and Twitter as educational tools? A free-of-charge workshop will explore how social media can connect scientists and facilitate teaching like never before. As well, timely and effective communication between chemists and the lay community has never been more important. Some creative approaches to disseminating science to the general public will be explored along with more non-traditional collaborations through symposia, including Chemistry for All Citizens of Planet Earth, Service Learning in Chemistry and Reality versus Public Perception of Industry Regulations.
Green and sustainable chemistry are topics of extensive debate at the moment, particularly in the realm of college and university studies. What should be done to further solidify the curricula principles relating to these areas, in other words, how are we ‘greening’ attitudes in chemistry education? At the ICCE, perspectives are being sought from the academic laboratory and the general chemistry curriculum, as well as away from the formal classroom environment. Participants can undertake some green chemistry themselves in a laboratory workshop. The symposium, Teaching Green Chemistry in High Schools, led by members of Beyond Benign, a not-for-profit organization based in Massachusetts, focuses on progress made in educating kindergarten to Grade 12 students. Other related activities can be discovered in Fostering Engagement in High School Chemistry Students, a diverse symposium reflecting the breadth of efforts made to capture the imaginations of students who are studying the physical sciences for a variety of reasons.