Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

Lights, Camera, Reaction! the Interactive Videodisc: A Tool for Teaching Chemistry

Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

Lights, Camera, Reaction! the Interactive Videodisc: A Tool for Teaching Chemistry

Article excerpt

Lights, Camera, Reaction! The Interactive Videodisc: A Tool for Teaching Chemistry

Historically, print media--textbooks and illustrations--have been the predominant tools for instruction and learning. Although print is limited in

its ability to convey certain complex concepts, instructors had few effective or economical alternatives to supplement lectures and lab sessions. In the past few decades we have seen film and video ease the reliance on print. Even more recently, computer technology has fostered an instructional environment easily modified to meet individual requirements. The authors have been enthusiastic participants in this evolution. Nevertheless, we have been looking for improvements in these technologies, ways to enjoy the unalloyed benefits of these media.

As teachers in a scientific discipline, we use laboratory sessions to help students gain a better understanding of chemical concepts described in lectures and textbooks. Unfortunately, ideal laboratory teaching conditions are rare. Laboratory sections are large, limiting the possibility of individualized instruction. Experiments that illustrate important concepts are often too expensive, hazardous, or time consuming for introductory courses. The ideal of a small, well-equipped lab, a few students working with a skilled chemist, is all but unattainable. However, we believe it is possible to approach that ideal by exploiting the results of continuing technological progress.

Previous Attempts

The term "interactive video" (IV) has been used to describe a number of different systems. The process of students viewing a film and answering questions in a workbook has been called IV, as has computer-assisted instruction (CAI) using digitized still photos. The type of computer-assisted interactive videodisc lessons we are using now at the University of Illinois represents a new class of instructional technology.

One of the authors was introduced to the concept of IV while a graduate student in chemistry and chemical education. She began producing instructional videotapes in 1974, working with various techniques, including animation and computer graphics. She later produced a video-mediated course for engineers to avoid the problems associated with large lecture classes. In the video-mediated course, small classes watch tapes and then go over the problems with a teaching assistant (TA).

The other author has a background in CAI and chemistry. He first developed (in 1968) instructional programs in organic chemistry to help in his classroom teaching using the PLATO (CDC Corp.) system developed at the University of Illinois. The organic chemistry courses he wrote are still in use. He moved over to Apple IIs as they became available, and then to IBM PCs, writing programs in general and organic chemistry.

We each felt that the systems we had been working with forced a choice between interaction and acceptable visual images. Videotapes ordinarily do little to actively engage the attention of students. For a while, Jones experimented with systems that offered the classroom instructor more precise control of the video and numeric keypad, when these were used for answering multiple-choice questions; the degree of student involvement was improved but was still not high enough. CAI, while highly interactive, relied on computer-generated graphics that lack the realism of full-motion color video that would allow students to study actual chemical reactions as they happened.

Initially, the most serious problem was the lack of an affordable technology. We experimented with interactive videotape, but the system couldn't supply the functionality we needed. Access time was slow, up to two minutes, and the quality of still frames was not high. Showing a still frame for any length of time damaged the tape. The solution seemed to be the videodisc.


Unfortunately, videodisc technology was, until recently, too expensive to be considered for academic use. …

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