News at Concord Consortium


Happy 15th Anniversary, Concord Consortium

The Concord Consortium is pleased to announce that 2009 marks our 15th anniversary. To celebrate, we plan to redesign our website to improve the ways our readers learn about and use our software and activities. Your input as a reader of @Concord is extremely valuable, and we invite your opinions and feedback.

New Photos of Electrons

In atoms and molecules, the state of an electron is described using an electron cloud, which represents the probability of the electron being found at a given location. Earlier this fall, scientists photographed for the first time the electron clouds around a single carbon atom using a field-emitting microscope.

These unique and groundbreaking pictures of electron clouds prove what probability theory had claimed—electrons exist as “clouds.” But today’s ultrafast microscopy is still too slow to capture how they move (the mechanism that governs a large part of the physics and chemistry of atoms and molecules). The Electron Technologies project (http://et.concord.org) has developed an innovative computational engine with which students can further explore the movement of electron clouds. A part of the Molecular Workbench software, this engine provides a dynamic, interactive environment that allows students to discover the interaction of electron clouds with nuclei, the formation of covalent bonds, the origin of chemical polarity, electron transfer, ionization, and more.

The fact that the engine is based on solving the time-dependent Schrödinger equation—the equivalent of Newton’s equation of motion in the microscopic world—demonstrates the tremendous potential of computational physics in transforming educational media from static animations to interactive simulations.

Research on 1:1 Computing

There is a growing number of 1:1 school laptop programs, in which every student has a computer to use each day. Pennsylvania’s Classrooms for the Future program is now the nation’s largest statewide deployment of computers, with more than 140,000 laptops serving high school students in English, social studies, science, and mathematics classrooms throughout Pennsylvania.

How does teaching and learning change when every student has a laptop? To help answer that question, the Concord Consortium’s Andy Zucker studied the Denver School of Science and Technology, a highly successful public charter high school where more than 40% of the student body comes from low-income families. Findings from that study are available in two new articles. In its June/July 2009 issue, Learning and Leading with Technology published “Assessment Made Easy: Students Flourish in a One-to-One Laptop Program.” And in its December 2009 issue, The Science Teacher will publish “Teaching Physics with Laptops.” Andy says about these articles, “I wish there were more articles about teaching with laptops because as prices keep decreasing, more and more teachers and students will have daily access to computers. Teaching and learning, especially in science, can benefit greatly from ubiquitous access to computers—but only when best practices are more widely shared.