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The Chemical Educator

ISSN: 1430-4171 (electronic version)

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Abstract Volume 9 Issue 3 (2004) pp 184-189

The Effects of a Computer Animation on Students’ Conceptual Understanding of a Can-Crushing Demonstration at the Macroscopic, Microscopic, and Symbolic Levels

Resa M. Kelly Amy J. Phelps and Michael J. Sanger ‡,*

Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Northern Colorado, Greeley, CO 80639 and Department of Chemistry, Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, TN 37132,
Received June 15, 2003. Accepted March 18, 2004.

Published online: 13 May 2004

Abstract. Understanding chemistry requires the ability to think using three different but interrelated levels: macroscopic, microscopic, and symbolic representations. Students often have difficulty making connections among these three areas due to the abstract nature of many chemistry concepts. The purpose of this paper is to determine how a computer animation of a can-crushing demonstration affected secondary students’ conceptual understanding of the demonstration at the macroscopic, microscopic, and symbolic levels. Two groups of high school chemistry students were compared: one group viewed the animation after seeing and discussing the crushing can demonstration, while the other group received equivalent instruction including the demonstration but did not see the animation. The results indicate that the students who viewed the animations had better conceptual understanding of the demonstration at all three representational levels. In addition, the students’ macroscopic predictions appeared to have a significant effect on their abilities to explain the demonstration at the microscopic and symbolic levels. Based on this work and other chemical education studies, computer animations that display chemical processes at the microscopic level can be effective instructional tools to improve students’ conceptual understanding of chemical concepts.

Key Words: Research in Teaching and Learning; general chemistry; demonstration

(*) Corresponding author. (E-mail:

Article in PDF format (281 KB) HTML format

Supporting Materials:


Supporting Materials:

Figure 1 animation files in four different formats (Shockwave, Director, PC exe, and Mac) are available in one Zip file. (1.84 MB)

Issue date: June 1, 2004

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