While the primary motive was undoubtedly pleasure, I had two important reasons for building the site. First, I needed to gain public support for a unique chemistry program. I thought I could do this best by describing and justifying the methods we use to carry out twenty-one principles that distinguish it from other chemistry programs. In addition, I wanted to demonstrate the potential effectiveness of the net as a resource in teaching, one that would be useful in the classroom.
12. Do you feel you've accomplished these goals?
Well, I am not much interested in outcomes as you have noted. It is the process that interests me. I'm enjoying the process and suspect that I'm right in the middle of a project with an exceptionally large middle.
That you are covering the site is especially meaningful to me. I believe in these ideas, perhaps too passionately, and this gives me the potential for meaningful feedback.
13. Would you briefly describe what kinds of things you have posted on the Web site you created for your chemistry classes?
At this point, I have 143 pages at the site. Thirty-seven are devoted to describing the 21 principles you referred to earlier and the remaining 106 pages include the following:
- 19 Rules and day to day operations of the course
- 47 Subject area sites written for our program inc. SAT study
- 14 Quotation files to reinforce the 21 principle
- 9 Pages of Internet links of special value to students
- 4 Web site organization
- 13 Student grades
14. Do you have any particular recommendations for teachers considering making a similar Web site?
The pages of links are particularly useful and I'd like to recommend that they check out Links To A Better Education, Chemistry Tutorials, Relevant High School Chemistry Resources on the Web, and History of Chemistry.
15. Has keeping up the Web site been a burden or problem for you?
Unexpectedly, the Web site has improved my life greatly in two respects:
a) I have greatly improved communication with parents, especially concerning the open grade book, and
b) I am now beginning to put forms of all types on the Web page and students who need extra copies are directed to the Internet.
I am beginning to see my desk again as these forms which took countless hours to find, copy, and hand out to individuals are now virtual.
I had some real hesitation about the open grade book. I knew that I wanted my students to have access to my grade book at all times but I worried about the effect of letting parents in. To my surprise I have received only positive feedback from students and parents alike.
16. Then your Web site is designed to be a model and a practical tool. Do you have any recommendations for teachers who would like to build a similar Web site?
A most important part of the Web site concerns approaches to dealing with students in such an environment.
I did not design this Web site to be a model. I designed it because the Web was here and I had to. Teachers must be comfortable with the subject matter and style of a course if they are to be successful. The Web offers me the possibility of tossing this out and seeing what happens. Thanks to you, it has become easier.
17. Bob, have you any parting words?
I'd like to end with a quote from "The Fall of the House of Usher" which describes nicely the feel of the high school chemistry lab I had 40 years ago.
The room in which I found myself was very large and lofty. The windows were long, narrow, and pointed, and at so vast a distance from the black oaken floor as to be altogether inaccessible from within. Feeble gleams of encrimsoned light made their way through the trellissed panes, and served to render sufficiently distinct the more prominent objects around; the eye however struggled in vain to reach the remoter angles of the chamber, or the recesses of the vaulted and fretted ceiling.
But it seems to me that this is still a pretty good description of many high school chemistry courses, at least according to many high school students. We're just trying to bring the windows down to eye level so we can catch the same view of the world that students in other disciplines see. Just as Roderick Usher's room is very similar to the high school chemistry laboratory, the plight of Roderick Usher may not be that far removed from the plight of modern high school chemistry education.
We've spent too long in isolation and have lost our way around the rest of the curriculum. Hopefully, we'll come to a better end.