I have been answering a lot of student questions on various web forums. This included my own. An additional word about this. My webforum was becoming heavily spammed and I wanted to cure that. I was looking for some phpBB hack that I could use. Long story short, my ISP was un-helpful, I changed my forum software twice and now operate with punBB. It hasn't been spammed yet and future is to install some hacks to moderate forum and block spammers.
Answering questions tells me two things. One, it tells me the kinds of questions or problems that students are having ... Read More...
One, in order to keep the changes orderly for owners of the book, I am going to create an update that contain only the changes. This will involve new reactions, changes to reactions, and errors corrected.
Two, I need to decide how many notes I am going to include. The book was supposed to be a workbook. It was never supposed to be an organic chemistry textbook. Read More...
The analogy of learning a foreign language is also apt. The most effective methods ask that you ... Read More...
So, tried my own site. I clicked on a page, but it wouldn't do anything. It wouldn't start Adobe Reader or anything. I went to Windows XP and it opened fine after entering my password as expected. I printed a page. Adobe Document Center logged the printing. This confirms that people are just looking at pages without doing any arrow pushing. Read More...
While that task in being worked on, I really need to get back to remedying parts of my website. My Google ads aren't generating the specific click through rate I would hope for. Read More...
Ice skating on Lake Carnegie
How long ago did that happen before this year?
I have screen shots of nearly every page of "The Language or Organic Chemistry". My current project is to link those screen shots with the Table of Contents and the Index. The other side of this is to place metadata also into the pages (or perhaps to create individual .pdf pages) so Google can link directly to individual pages. In that way, if someone wants to find the mechanism for the Swern Oxidation, the link could take them directly to it. It is interesting that the Swern oxidation has the highest click through rate of my keywords. It doesn't provide the most impressions, but it does give the most hits.
I need to provide more opportunities to link to mechanisms (good content) in order to improve my Google organic rating.
Nassau Street in Princeton
I have been experimenting with Adobe InDesign. I have a bit of a learning curve for using it, but I also have a problem with reformatting the chemistry files. InDesign requires an additional step. In contemplating how the book will appear, I need to determine the best way to do this. I have numerous smaller files in MS Word that print directly. This method was good because MS Word took care of some of the accounting, formatting, etc. To the negative, it was also true that MS Word limited some aspects of formatting. InDesign is different and can provide different solutions to those problems.
A third option is to use iWork Pages. Pages is in between MS Word and InDesign. It has a number of formatting options similar to InDesign and is more compatible with the ChemDraw files without creating an intermediary structure.
I'm currently experimenting.
Ducks in Millstone River near Canal in Kingston
Does it matter if you don't know everything about the reaction? Let's say you are in a strange place and you ask for directions. The person giving them doesn't speak English very well. He knows the terms 'left' and 'right' are the directions he needs to use, but isn't sure which one is correct. Does it matter? Do you really have to know every word? I learned that while traveling to ask the person to also point in the general direction I had to travel. If you want to understand, you must know the meaning of every word. Just because you know the destination, does not mean you know how to get there. What if you don't know the exact destination?
Here is the problem. Organic Chemistry is like a language. It is easy to learn a number of phrases that one must use. Because it does not contain the complexity of other languages, students do not realize the importance of how reactions take place (the mechanisms). Furthermore, for a number of reactions, the mechanism may not be known. Therefore, the importance of having and using a mechanism is left out of many reactions.
As students progress, the number and variety of problems increase. Again, like learning a language, the phrases that were statements are now questions and mixed in tense. You need to know how words are used and varied. That is the difference between memorizing phrases and understanding the words. To understand the words is to understand the logic of the language. What is the equivalent in organic chemistry? That is how mechanisms are useful. They are the meaning for organic chemistry. They are the explanations of how and why electrons move.
How do you learn mechanisms? I found this to be easy for me. I knew I was going to be asked to solve a problem that used the mechanism that was being taught on a new problem. It was clear to me that before I could use that mechanism on a new problem that I had to be able to write it for an old problem first. Therefore, I memorized the mechanisms. I also found that as I memorized more mechanisms, they were similar to mechanisms I already knew. I started from a blank sheet of paper and wrote them out over and over until I could write them without any notes.
While I could encourage students to do as I had done, I quickly learned that my approach and abilities did not work for other students. What I learned that I needed to do was to go back to how a language is learned. You don't teach English to a child by reading the New York Times to him or her. If you did, there would be no context to the words and therefore no meaning would be acquired. In college, I learned French. In the class, they took phrases and gave us translations so we could grasp the meanings of the words. However, they also made us use the words in class. They varied the sentences so that new connections were created in our brains that allowed us to use the words in meaningful ways.
What "The Language of Organic Chemistry" does is to reproduce that process. The mechanisms are broken down into meaningful phrases. The different parts contain portions of the problems. Mechanisms are learned bit by bit. This is to teach the patterns of reactions because our brains are efficient at learning patterns. Finally, the book is laid out so you can make copies of pages because you cannot learn a reaction by writing the solution a single time. (On this last item, that was how initial versions of the book were created. However, it is difficult for me to predict whether I can or should maintain that format given the practicality of the publishing process. Furthermore, I had anticipated that an electronic version of the book would allow students to easily make copies of any page. However, if the book were released as an unprotected version, there would not be a book, but things change. Adobe has created a mechanism that allows me to retain control of the .pdf files. In that case, do we need the hard copy or does the hard copy need to be in a format that can be easily photocopied?)
Bridge over Millstone River in Kingston
The marketing advice I found on the net suggests that I also start advertising on Google in addition to or rather than Yahoo. That, and to sign on with Lightning Sources, Inc., re-write the book in InDesign, possibly change page sizes (??), increase my organic forum contributions, I guess my work is cut out for me.
Carla J. Shatz, Ph.D.
Department Chair and
Nathan Marsh Pusey Professor of Neurobiology
Harvard Medical School
“The human brain is the most complex computational machine imaginable. There are well over a hundred billion nerve cells and even more connections. It is this complexity of connectivity, and its precision that determines how the brain works. But how does this wiring happen during development? How do nerve cells know where to grow their connections? To what extent does the brain have to function in order to achieve its adult precision of connectivity? The major aim of research in my laboratory is to elucidate the cellular and molecular mechanisms that establish this precision during neuronal development.”
The above is from her website. She was talking about control of brain growth and development. About two distinct portions, one fixed and the other malleable. The fixed part is connections between the eye and the brain. It always happens. The other is influence by environment and changes with age. There are molecules that act as signals for connections and others that slow or stop growth. She was suggesting that if the brakes could be turned off, then functions lost through injury, a stroke, might be returned. (Not the memory contained in dead cells, but the ability of the brain to learn again.)
I have continued to feel that you and I, everyone needs to know how the brain works in order to find strategies that are best suited to using it.