Lifelong Learning Programme

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Materials for Special Uses
M.Carnasciali, L.Ricco, C.Artini, A.Cardinale
University of Genova
Online course
Cooperative learning, Experiential learning
Materials Science
Upper Secondary School
English, Italian
The contents
The course consists in three topics, each composed of educational text (with hot words to enable insights), interactive exercises, links and activities to be done. The topics are the following:
“metals for special uses”
“polymers for special uses”

The prerequisites
Prerequisites are different as function of the class of materials:
- “metals for special uses” is the easiest topic of the three provided. It is necessary to know few basic concepts of fundamental chemistry, ie the distinction of the elements in accordance with the periodic table of the elements.
- “polymers for special uses” has an average level of difficulty and requires to know at lest the concepts of chemical reaction, chemical bond, intermolecular interactions, molecular structure.
- “superconductors” is difficult because it needs a basic knowledge of physical chemistry. Upper secondary school students can benefit from this part of the course, but only if expert.

Task Description
Each topic has the same structure:
- educational test giving information as more as possible concrete and inherent to everyday life. The text is provided with hot words, in order to give the possibility of study more in deep the issue, but only if one wants
- interactive exercises, based on the competence acquired thanks to the information of the educational text. In agreement with the two level text, also the exercises section is divided into two levels of difficulty
- funny but educational activities to do at home as well as in class or in laboratory, with materials easy to find, safe and cheap. This section also is divided into two levels of difficulties and is useful to fix the concepts acquired by reading the text
- finally, selected links and further information are provided for the most curious students.

The aims
The course has been developed within the Project “Chemistry Is All Around Us” funded by the European Commission with the aim of promoting the liflelong learning of scientific disciplines in Europe. At the light of this aim, the online course carried out by the Italian Partner, has been dedicated to special materials belonging to everyday life, such as polymers (plastics) and metals, mainly focusing on applications and practical properties.

How to use it in class
Students could be divided into small groups, and read the text in a well defined time (teacher has the task of choosing the level of difficulty on the basis of the skills of the students). Then, the interactive exercises will be a valid tool to verify their comprehension abilities and the acquisition of the information provided. Finally, practical activities, achievable in the classroom if labs are not available, will show the most amusing and concrete aspect of chemistry.
The strength of the online course consists in the choice of the subjects discussed, as well as in the possibility of acquiring information by selecting the more suitable level of difficulty. Moreover, the three categories of materials are discussed in a concrete way, by focusing on practical properties and behaviour, without penalizing the scientific strictness.‘Metals’ and ‘polymers’ sections can be used for students with a medium lknowledge of general chemistry but, and this is the point of weakness, the ‘superconductors’ section requires medium/good knowledge of physical chemistry; therefore only expert students can access this section taking advantage from it.
University of Genova

Comments about this Publication

Your comments are welcome

Date: 2013.02.02

Posted by Jana Šreková (Slovakia)

Message: This source is a part of a project called “Chemistry is all around us”. This part deals with an specific area which consists of 3 special materials: metals for specific purposes, polymers for specific purposes and superconductors. The first two topics are interesting and can be relatively easily tried under the school conditions even without using specific safety rules and with available chemicals. This part is motivating because those experiments can be done by a funny way with connection to a daily life. These parts are really well designed and at a relatively small area they provide a lot of useful information and contain a lot of activities and interactive exercises. The part about superconductors is more difficult and it is aimed at advanced students and requires specific places and laboratories and also a terminology is more scientific. With individual exercises it is great that it is always explained why is the answer correct or not. Even though a traditional didactic approach is much more used those 3 parts are relatively inovative because each of them is divided into 4 parts – an introduction, activities, exercises and relevant link to a topic. This gives an opportunity for all users to understand given topic in its full range and from various sides. Personally I consider this web as a useful one from methodological and didactic point of view and I will use it in my teaching.

Date: 2012.09.24

Posted by Maria Sheehan (Ireland)

Message: This teaching resource is divided up into three different units:
Unit 1 ~ Metals for Special Uses
Unit 2 ~ Polymers for Special Uses and
Unit 3 ~ Superconductors

 Is the teaching resource described useful for you? Why?
The first two units in this resource could definitely be used in the classroom. The third unit (Superconductors) is too advanced and requires materials that would be difficult to get in the school laboratory therefore would be impossible to implement.
The layout of the resources is excellent with a large amount of class material available. The practical activities for the first two units are appropriate and very manageable to set up in the classroom. The follow up exercises are also very useful. The link between chemistry and pupil’s every day experiences are very evident in these units.

 Do you think it can increase the students’ interest toward chemistry? Why?
Units 1 and 2 have definite potential to increase pupils’ interest in chemistry. They relate chemistry to everyday life and the activities use everyday materials that are available to them in their kitchen. Unit 3 is just too advanced to have this effect.

 Do you think it can help the students to understand better and faster? Why?
The hands on activities in unit one and two on metals and polymers will help pupils understand these topics much easier. In unit one pupils will experience first had how to remove stains from metals such as copper and silver. They will also understand the chemistry of how these stains come to be there in the first place. The activities could provide a useful introduction to the corrosion of metals and the compounds formed. This unit could be used with Junior Cycle pupils along with Transition Year pupils. Unit two provides a good link between the macroscopic and microscopic action of polymers. This will definitely help pupils understand how these polymers operate.

 Do you think it propose an innovative didactical approach? Why?
Yes mainly due to the link between these activities and topics with the pupils own everyday life. These activities put chemistry in context. The content in each unit has a solid scientific basis and the resources provided offer a worthwhile educational experience for pupils.

Date: 2012.09.23

Posted by Ireiotou Effimia (Greece)

Message: This teaching resource could be very useful as an alternative teaching tool. This applies especially for the first two sections which are related with Metals and Polymers, because the activities they propose are quite interesting and can be relatively easily performed in a school laboratory or even at home without the need of advanced safety precaution or difficult to find chemicals. The section related with the superconductors is in my opinion quite advanced for secondary education, at least in the way it is presented. For this reason I find this specific section less useful.

I believe that certain parts of this teaching resource could increase students’ interest toward chemistry. The sections related with Metals and Polymers contain fun to do activities which bring out the connection of chemistry with several everyday life materials and experiences. Some of them could also be very enjoyable to perform even away from school. In my opinion, the section on the Superconductors rather diminishes the importance of the teaching resource because the activities proposed can be done mostly in a research lab and not a school lab. In addition, the language employed is strictly scientific, in the sense that it is the type of language that discourages a student to engage in further learning.

I believe that the first two sections (Metals and Polymers) can actually help students understand better and faster because they do contain a lot of useful information in a limited space and in the context of nice activities and interactive exercises. It would be preferable if the user had the possibility to easily move from one multiple choice question to the next one without first having to find the correct answer. It would also be useful if a score was given for the percentage of correct answers. I found it very useful that for every wrong answer an explanation was given for “why it is wrong”.

This teaching approach contains a series of traditional tools which are however combined together to constitute an innovative whole. The combination of the four separate subsections “Introduction” – “Activities” – “Exercises” – “Relevant Links” in each teaching section gives the possibility to all types of users to approach the subject under study from different angles.

National Reports on successful experiences to promote lifelong learning for chemistry The national reports on chemistry successful experiences to promote lifelong learning for chemistry are now available on the related section of the project portal. The reports presents examples of successful experiences in the partner countries and the results of testing of ICT resources with science teachers.