There are many ways teachers can use this program, depending on level of experience and time devoted to it. Beginners (or teachers with little time) can look through the library of topics and find something that matches what they're already teaching. They can then direct students to that simulation. Additionally, if teachers have some knowledge of scripting (or are willing to learn), they can modify existing modules or create brand-new ones that do exactly what the teacher wants. These modules can support a wide range of instructional strategies, including problem-based, inquiry-based, and discovery-based learning.Continue reading Show less
There are two parts to Molecular Workbench: the website, which contains a library of hundreds of simple simulations that illustrate topics that have already been taught in class; and the desktop app, which combines the simulations with longer, more detailed curriculum modules. Both tools are continually updated by teachers and professionals, and the content on offer includes lessons on physics, chemistry, biology, biotechnology, and nanotechnology. Each subject is broken down into topics and then into individual simulations. For example: In physics, the instructor can choose anything from a simple pendulum in mechanics all the way up to low-energy electron diffraction in quantum physics.
The modules are useful for students who want to go beyond simple simulations and conduct more in-depth observational studies. With the desktop application, teachers and students can view the curriculum modules or (if they have the programming and scripting know-how) they can create their own simulations to extend the experience. This desktop application not only allows for the viewing of the curriculum modules, it also lets teachers (or students) with programming and scripting knowledge create their own simulations. Keep in mind that the Web-based simulations run on plug-ins, so an updated version of Java is required. Also, the application itself requires a lot of computing power (see the Tech Notes).
When used correctly, this website and desktop application are a wonderful way for students to see and manipulate concepts, objects, and substances that are hard to describe in textbooks. Animated simulations (like the one that illustrates how chemical reactions form) offer more detail and insight than still pictures on a page ever could.
That being said, just turning students loose on the website isn't recommended. The simulations range from middle school level all the way to advanced content that might even stump upper-level undergraduates. Unless students know what they're looking at, or looking for, navigating and searching the site could be intimidating and confusing. Teachers will absolutely find the site useful, but only after they understand how it works and how they want to use it.
Key Standards Supported
Making Inferences And Justifying Conclusions
Use data from a randomized experiment to compare two treatments; use simulations to decide if differences between parameters are significant.
Modeling With Geometry
Apply geometric methods to solve design problems (e.g., designing an object or structure to satisfy physical constraints or minimize cost; working with typographic grid systems based on ratios).
Key Standards Supported
Plan and conduct an investigation to provide evidence that the transfer of thermal energy when two components of different temperature are combined within a closed system results in a more uniform energy distribution among the components in the system (second law of thermodynamics).
Construct, use, and present arguments to support the claim that when the kinetic energy of an object changes, energy is transferred to or from the object.
From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes
Construct an explanation based on evidence for how the structure of DNA determines the structure of proteins which carry out the essential functions of life through systems of specialized cells.
Use a model to illustrate how photosynthesis transforms light energy into stored chemical energy.
Construct and revise an explanation based on evidence for how carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen from sugar molecules may combine with other elements to form amino acids and/or other large carbon-based molecules.
Use a model to illustrate that cellular respiration is a chemical process whereby the bonds of food molecules and oxygen molecules are broken and the bonds in new compounds are formed resulting in a net transfer of energy.
Matter and Its Interactions
Construct and revise an explanation for the outcome of a simple chemical reaction based on the outermost electron states of atoms, trends in the periodic table, and knowledge of the patterns of chemical properties.
Plan and conduct an investigation to gather evidence to compare the structure of substances at the bulk scale to infer the strength of electrical forces between particles.
Apply scientific principles and evidence to provide an explanation about the effects of changing the temperature or concentration of the reacting particles on the rate at which a reaction occurs.
Refine the design of a chemical system by specifying a change in conditions that would produce increased amounts of products at equilibrium.
Use mathematical representations to support the claim that atoms, and therefore mass, are conserved during a chemical reaction.
Develop models to describe the atomic composition of simple molecules and extended structures.
Develop a model that predicts and describes changes in particle motion, temperature, and state of a pure substance when thermal energy is added or removed.
Develop and use a model to describe how the total number of atoms does not change in a chemical reaction and thus mass is conserved.
Motion and Stability: Forces and Interactions
Analyze data to support the claim that Newton’s second law of motion describes the mathematical relationship among the net force on a macroscopic object, its mass, and its acceleration.
Use mathematical representations of Newton’s Law of Gravitation and Coulomb’s Law to describe and predict the gravitational and electrostatic forces between objects.
Waves and Their Applications in Technologies for Information Transfer
Communicate technical information about how some technological devices use the principles of wave behavior and wave interactions with matter to transmit and capture information and energy.
Develop and use a model to describe that waves are reflected, absorbed, or transmitted through various materials.
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