When one thinks of chemistry, the first thing that pops inside his/her head is the mental image of a chemical laboratory or similar environment. Giving the fact that chemistry is primarily a practical science, lab work is the inevitable part of chemical education. However, the majority of elementary schools and high schools in Serbia usually do not possess the necessary resources (e.g., space, glass, chemicals) to provide their pupils with deserved practical work in order to gain elementary lab skills.
Lack of practical work negatively impacts pupils’ motivation
As an experimental science, chemistry encourages tendency towards research, builds deductive reasoning and promotes analytical mind. Therefore, practical work is a must when it comes to teaching chemistry.
The majority of GCSE students (58%) interviewed by Wellcome said they wanted to do more practical work. Unfortunately, the majority of schools in Serbia don’t have adequate space and/or the essential tools and resources for teachers to conduct demonstrations and practical work.
Chemists have all the “solutions”
Pupils from Gymnasium “9th May” in Niš, along with their chemistry teacher, had decided to roll up their sleeves and eventually came up with a solution to this problem – Virtual Analytical Chemistry software.
Chemistry teacher at Gymnasium “9th May” and the author of the homonymous paper published in our journal (CN: 2(1), 138-143) last month, Aleksandra Gošnjić Ignjatović, stated that this paper is “the first report on virtual qualitative analytical laboratory, created to bring closer laboratory work to the high school students in Serbia.”
About the software
The purpose of this software is to introduce the basics of analytical chemistry in a virtually interactive way, so pupils could visualize certain chemical reactions without going to the lab.
“Virtual analytical chemistry is a software which shows chemical reactions of anions (Cl–, SO42-, NO3–, CO32-, CH3COO–) and cations (Ag+, Pb2+, Hg2+, Cu2+, Fe3+, Al3+, Ca2+, Ba2+, Mg2+, NH4+) presence with suitable reagents in an interactive way,” said Gošnjić Ignjatović in the paper.
This virtual laboratory is available to high school students across Serbia. Considering that the software is roughly a replacement for lab work, virtualizing chemistry experiments has its advantages:
- Reagents are not wasted, hence less pollution.
- It has a positive impact on the economy.
- You can use it whenever you want.
In conclusion, no software can replace practical work, but it can definitely contribute to bringing pupils’ minds closer to the chemical laboratory.