PhET Interactive Simulations

Developed by: PhET Interactive Simulations, University of Colorado - Boulder

Level

middle schoolhigh schoolintro collegeinter-mediateupper levelgrad school   other

calc based

alg based

conceptual

Topics
+3
Setting

What? Open-ended game-like simulations with an intuitive interface and minimal text appropriate for a variety of class settings. Includes expert visual models that make the invisible visible and provide multiple representations, enabling scientist-like exploration and real-world connections.

Why? They are free and easy to incorporate into nearly any teaching environment or style. They are based on research into how students learn, student understanding of specific science concepts, and user interface design. Effective use of PhET simulations can lead to improved conceptual learning.

Why not? If your goal is for your students to learn to use real lab equipment, or if you don't have access to computers, PhET simulations might not be the best approach.

### Topic outline

Here is an example of how to incorporate PhET simulations into an introductory physics class:

(IC In Class Activity; CQ clicker questions; HW homework; Demo: teacher centered group discussion)

 Semester 1 Unit 1: Introduction to Motion: Moving Man: IC/CQCalculus Grapher: HW/CQ Unit 2: More on motion and Measurement Vector Addition: IC/CQProjectile motion: IC/CQ Unit 3: Forces and the Laws of Motion Publishing skills: curve fit, drawing, tables Forces and Motion: Two activities IC/CQRamp- Force and Motion: Two activities IC/CQMaze Game: HW/CQCurve Fitting: HW Unit 4: Work, Energy, Momentum and Collisions Energy Skate Park: Four activities IC/CQMasses and Springs: IC/CQCollision: HW Unit 5: Circular Motion and Semester Project Pendulum: HW/CQGravity Force Lab: IC/CQPendulum: HWLadybug 2D: HW/CQLadybug Revolution: HW/CQMasses and Springs: HWBalancing Act: HW Semester 2 Unit 1: Heat and Thermodynamics Friction: DemoStates of matter: IC/CQ Unit 2: Waves: Introduction to light and sound Waves on a String: IC/CQFourier-Making Waves: Three activities IC/CQ/HWSound: IC/CQWave Interference: IC/CQResonance: IC/CQBending Light: ICGeometric optics: IC/CQ Unit 3: Electric and Magnetic Forces and Fields Faraday’s Electromagnet Lab: IC/CQElectric Field Hockey with Charges and Fields: IC/CQBalloons and Static Electricity with John Travoltage: Demo / CQ Gravity and Orbits: CQ Unit 4: Fluid Mechanics, Semester Projects Density: ICBuoyancy: ICBalloons and Buoyancy: IC/CQUnder Pressure: IC/HW/CQEstimation: HW Unit 5: Current, Resistance, Circuits, and Circuit Elements Charges and Fields: DemoCapacitor Lab: HWCircuit Construction Kit: Three activities IC/CQ

The PhET website has more example curriculum outlines, e.g for undergraduate physics and high school physics.

### Student skills developed

Designed for:
• Conceptual understanding
• Making real-world connections
• Using multiple representations
Can be adapted for:
• Problem-solving skills
• Lab skills
• Designing experiments

• Low

### Resources required

• Computers for students

Developer's website: PhET Interactive Simulations
Intro Article: C. Wieman, K. Perkins, and W. Adams, Oersted Medal Lecture 2007: Interactive simulations for teaching physics: What works, what doesn’t, and why, Am. J. Phys. 76 (4&5), 393 (2008).

You can find over 100 simulations available for free on the PhET website.

PhET also has an activity database where PhET team members and teachers from around the world can contribute teaching activities using PhET simulations. The database contains hundreds of activities that you can download for free, including labs, homework assignments, lectures, activities, concept questions, and more.

RESEARCH VALIDATION
Silver Validation
This is the second highest level of research validation, corresponding to:
• at least 1 of the "based on" categories
• at least 2 of the "demonstrated to improve" categories
• at least 4 of the "studied using" categories
(Categories shown below)

### Research Validation Summary

#### Based on Research Into:

• theories of how students learn
• student ideas about specific topics

#### Demonstrated to Improve:

• conceptual understanding
• problem-solving skills
• lab skills
• beliefs and attitudes
• attendance
• retention of students
• success of underrepresented groups
• performance in subsequent classes

#### Studied using:

• cycle of research and redevelopment
• student interviews
• classroom observations
• analysis of written work
• research at multiple institutions
• research by multiple groups
• peer-reviewed publication

### Similar Methods

#### Related Workshop

PhET Interactive Simulations