Using Hyperdocs In The Chemistry Lab

When I was at the Google Teacher Academy in 2014, Lisa Highfill led a session on creating Hyperdocs. Basically, a hyperdoc is an interactive Google Doc. Previously, when I was using Google Docs for my Chemistry labs, I simply took the old paper labs and turned them into digital form. It was great for going paperless because now I wasn’t printing 100 copies and the students were typing their information into the lab instead of writing it into the space I gave them. But, nothing was really different about the approach to the lab. The part that always bothered me was that students read the labs less now that the labs were digital. Even if I posted it in Google Classroom in advance, fewer and fewer students were reading the labs before arriving to class. I needed to find a way to get the students to interact with the lab more both during and after the experiment.

In the past, Chemistry labs were used to illustrate why a particular topic was important. Basically, it was the “real-world” example of why you were studying Chemistry. The teacher would teach everything important, then you would go to the lab to practice that information. I wanted to use the lab to teach as well as illustrate. That’s when I remembered what Lisa told us. As you can see in the screenshot below, my Chemistry labs now have links embedded throughout the lab that lead the students to a variety of online resources: wikipedia articles, images, YouTube videos, simulations.

FP Depression screenshot

The Background section of my labs are much shorter because rather than define what specific words mean, I just hyperlink them to other resources. I also use them throughout my procedures as reminders of how to perform a specific task. For example, if it says to measure the volume of water in a Graduated Cylinder, there will be a link to an image of a graduated cylinder as well as one that links to a 30 second video showing them how to measure the volume correctly. In the Analysis section, when students are asked to answer certain questions, I link them to other resources they then use to analyze their results. For example, in a Stoichiometry lab, they were asked to determine if the Law of Conservation of Matter was followed. I hadn’t taught the topic specifically beforehand so I linked them to an online resource. After reading the article, they then looked back at their data to answer the question.

But I think the most important change has been in the reporting of their results. At the end of the lab, rather than simply answering questions as submitting the lab back to Google Classroom, each group must add their data to a collaborative document. For Introduction to Solution Making, that was a Google Slides file; for the Freezing Point Depression Activity above, it was a Google Form. As the data came in from that form it was then displayed on the screen as a scatter plot  for the entire class to see. We then had a discussion about the class’ results and possible sources of error that caused the outlying points. FP Activity Screenshot 2

Too much of what my students were doing in the lab was done in isolation from their classmates. With each group’s work displayed for everyone to see, not only can they quickly compare their work to others to see possible sources of error, but I can catch mistakes in their work before they make their final submission for grading. We learn better together and this method is a perfect demonstration of that.

Now, I have to figure out how to take this to the next level. When doing guided-inquiry labs, I do link instructional videos at different points in the lab. Students should be doing Chemistry labs with a certain level of wonder. Then, as they develop questions on their own, I need to step in and provide the resources to answer those questions.

I would really love to develop a multi-step lab experience. My original thought was something like they perform the experiment for Part 1, they submit their results to a Google Form and then it gives them a link to the next experiment, and so on. Each part has to be completed in order to get to the next. A little gamification, a little inquiry, a little traditional. I almost wonder if I could do a form of choose your own adventure chemistry lab.

Hmmm, something to think about on my drive home.


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