Alchemie has a long history with curved arrows in mechanisms - or the lack thereof.
When we first developed the Mechanisms app, we were determined to do mechanisms in a different way that would allow students to understand the movement of electrons better. When debating how to do this, our CTO, Joe, insightfully pointed out that arrows are an artifact of drawing mechanisms on paper. But when you do a mechanism digitally within the app, your finger is used to move the electrons, eliminating the need for an arrow to show that movement. Nevertheless, your finger would also cover the arrow head and you wouldn’t be able to see it anyways.
Although we received some pushback from instructors, we ultimately found that students better understand the movement of electrons using the Mechanisms app because they are actually moving the electrons opposed to drawing arrows to symbolize this movement -- a representation that often leaves students confused as to what is actually happening.
Alchemie has stood by this philosophy since the beginning. That is, until we were designing our new 3D mechanism tool and our Lead Developer, Jeremy, included an image of a cursor to draw attention to the movement of electrons in a mechanism replay. The cursor made it resemble an arrow and the content team’s eyebrows raised in excitement.
From there, Jeremy presented various arrows and ways of showing them.
As someone who has been a wholeheartedly happy passenger on Alchemie’s train of no arrows since working here, let me tell you, these arrows are absolutely gorgeous. In addition to being in 3D, we are allowing users to see mechanisms in a way that they have never seen before.
The difference between drawing arrows on paper and the arrows in Alchemie’s mechanisms is that ours are followed by an animation of the electrons moving, allowing for students to connect the arrow they drew to the movement of electrons that actually happens, solidifying their representational competence.
Alchemie has released some pretty revolutionary learning tools, but this one is probably the one I have been most excited for, and I can’t wait for instructors and students to test it out in our newly designed learning system this summer! ;)