The Molecular Workbench has been downloaded over 800,000 times, making it Concord Consortium’s most popular single piece of software. We’re heading to a million and documenting in video both our history and our vision for the future.
Learn from Charles Xie, Senior Scientist and creator of the Molecular Workbench, about the computational engines that accurately simulate atomic motions, quantum waves, and atomic-scale interactions based on fundamental equations and laws in physics.
Amy Pallant, who researched student use of Molecular Workbench, describes the phone calls she made to students months after they’d used the software—and how impressed she was with their memory of the science of atoms and molecules.
Dan Damelin, Technology and Curriculum Developer, recalls his time as a classroom teacher and his frustration with trying to describe atoms and molecules to his students with words and
pictures. He wanted more—and found it in Molecular Workbench!
Dan sums up the goal for Molecular Workbench: “It’s going to be just a given that this is a regular tool that will just be part of learning science.” We hope so.
We’re closing in on a million downloads and looking toward the next million.
The Molecular Workbench team has a unique opportunity—take our wonderful software and increase access to it. But we know that this is no “Field of Dreams” task. If we build it, will they come?
We’re using The Lean Startup as a guide to optimize our software for the Web. It’s encouraging us to experiment to see which ideas are brilliant and which are crazy and get feedback from users early. We’re thinking about how not to assume we know what people want, but instead go and find out, and be prepared to shift our ideas. In short: Test. Iterate. Repeat.
So we held our first focus group with several Rhode Island teachers who have been loyal users of Molecular Workbench. Our goal was to get feedback on ways to make our new browser-based MW more valuable to them. We asked them to evaluate new designs (we invite you to take our survey, too). We also asked about tone and length of activities. And the teachers described ways they’d like to select and integrate MW models and activities into their classrooms.
Two major themes emerged: flexibility and student accountability. This confirmed what we knew about the classroom: teachers have limited time, a wide range of learners, a diversity of classes, and pressures around high-stakes tests. We’re now working on prototyping ways to incorporate teacher feedback into our Web-based MW models and activities. We’ll share our progress on our website.
And, of course, we’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
As we make our award-winning Molecular Workbench software more accessible and widely available, we’re documenting our story at the same time. Google’s grant to the Concord Consortium funds the conversion of MW from Java to HTML5 so it will run in modern Web browsers. This will reduce barriers for using the next generation MW in schools. Students will be able to access the software from a Web page on a school computer, iPad, or smartphone, giving them anywhere, anytime access to powerful science learning opportunities.
We’re creating videos to share our conversion story. We’ll describe Molecular Workbench, our technical development process, and the benefits of HTML5. We’ve teamed up with the excellent staff of Good Life Productions to produce these videos.
In the first video, Concord Consortium’s Director of Technology Stephen Bannasch describes the power of the modern Web browser to bring science to life. Enjoy.