ChemDraw 8.0: A Great Tool in the Classroom

by Chad Ronish

Chad Ronish is a chemistry and physics teacher at Hill City High School in Hill City South Dakota, and has been the Science Department Chair for four years.

“A good chemist must understand the biological applications of chemistry, and a good biologist must understand the chemical mechanisms of biology. If you want to make a difference in field research, laboratory testing, or in the classroom, you have to understand the impact that the chemical and biological worlds have on each other. Organic chemistry is the link between these two fields, and ChemDraw is the tool that allows me to deliver organic chemistry instruction to my students.

I have always saved two weeks near the end of Chemistry I to introduce organic chemistry. My objectives include an introduction to naming simple organic compounds, drawing organic compounds, and exploring the three-dimensional structure of organic compounds. In the past, my students practiced drawing molecules from names and chemical formulas. They practiced naming compounds from chemical formulas, structural formulas, and structural drawings. They explored the three-dimensional structure using ball and spring modelling kits.

Unfortunately, there have always been problems with each of my delivery methods. The first problem with drawing organic molecules is that I can’t draw. ChemDraw has solved my presentation problems when drawing molecules. I can draw molecules quickly on my computer and display them on my whiteboard for all of my students to see. The drawings are neat, clean and precise. My students can see exactly what I want them to see and I have totally eliminated the confusion created by my old cave wall drawings. I can also add functional groups and show isomers with the quick click of a button. If I want to show the same molecule using a three-dimensional representation, I can copy and paste to Chem3D and see my two-dimensional model come to life by rotating the molecule in any direction. The three-dimensional image can be displayed using a variety of modes. This tool allows my students to see the transformation of any molecule from two dimensions to three in an instant.

Not only can I neatly draw a ton of molecules and save them by name, in just a few minutes, but ChemDraw tells me when I’ve created molecules that do not adhere to the rules of bonding. Any bonds that violate the rule of octets are highlighted in red. I can also create isomers by using the copy and paste feature which saves me valuable time when I am making up tests, quizzes and worksheets.

When dealing with organic chemistry, hands-on activities are a real challenge in a high school laboratory. Much of the time dedicated to working with organic compounds is spent on naming and drawing molecules. To visualise the three-dimensional properties of these molecules, I have traditionally used the spring and wooden ball modelling kits. ChemDraw has put an end to the frustrations of students building three-dimensional models. Using the program, my students can take the two-dimensional drawings that they have become comfortable with, and create three-dimensional representations of their molecules. They can see the true bond angles and bond lengths, rotate the molecules to see any view they desire, and they can modify molecules to create isomers quickly and correctly. One quick hour on the computer with ChemDraw 8.0 can replace an entire week of chasing molecule parts around the room. Molecule drawings can also be printed for study at home and for inclusion in reports and presentations.

ChemDraw 8.0 has drastically improved the quality of instruction that I use while teaching introductory organic chemistry. My students are able to develop a deeper understanding of the material in a shorter time period. It is this understanding that helps them integrate biology and chemistry into one unified scientific process. In my seven years of teaching, I have continually tried to relay the importance of this relationship to each of my students. By understanding the connection between chemistry and biology, my students are able to make well-informed career and continued education choices. My students are prepared for a career where chemistry and biology are utilised in conjunction with each other. Now they can do it faster and better with ChemDraw.”

CambridgeSoft laboratory software solutions are supplied and supported in the UK by Adept Scientific plc, Amor Way, Letchworth, Herts. SG6 1ZA; telephone +44 (0) 203 695 7810, fax +44 (0) 203 695 7819, email or see Adept’s World Wide Web site Adept Scientific is one of the world’s leading suppliers of software and hardware products for research, scientific, engineering and technical applications on desktop computers.

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