BCIT instructor helms College Chemistry Canada

BCIT instructor Jimmy Lowe has built a reputation for innovation in the chemistry lab, which makes him a natural to head a national association of his peers.

Jimmy became head of College Chemistry Canada (C3) at its annual conference held at the University of Toronto this past spring. The conference is well into its fifth decade of commitment to undergraduate chemistry education. The latest conference theme was “diversity and inclusiveness in chemical education,” and included a plenary on ways those with vision impairments can participate in chemistry.

Using Technology to Understand How Students Learn

For his part, Jimmy, along with colleague Rosamaria Fong, presented on their work to improve chem lab instructional videos, which they’ve created to give students a visual for correct use of lab equipment, glassware and techniques.

With help from UBC grad student Matthew Fong, they’re using an app that monitors student video viewing habits. “Our ultimate goal is to help determine the effectiveness of the video, as well as to better understand learner behaviour and actions,” explains Jimmy.

Integrating technology in this way enables a much more granular evaluation, far beyond the usual number-of-views rating. The instructors can explore time spent on different sections, and, combined with post surveys, they can work to improve video clarity and effectiveness.

Greening the Lab and More

Jimmy has tried lots of new approaches on the frontiers of chemistry education. He’s taken initiative in greening chemistry labs including using less solvent, less water, reducing waste, and eliminating dangerous materials such as mercury. In an effort to be environmentally friendly, he developed labs that use more effective and safe techniques to illustrate required concepts.

The upcoming C3 Conference, to be held at NAIT in Edmonton, is its 45th. Of the conference, Jimmy reports, “the networking and variety of topics always motivates me to work on my teaching every year and incorporate one new thing in my class.”

As Program Head of BCIT’s Technology Entry upgrading program, he’s always on the lookout for tools that help students learn to prepare them for a future in technical career.

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