PhET Interactive Simulations

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Engagement is the primary attribute of any lesson or session in the COVID or Post- COVID classroom. When it comes to STEM or Sci-Tech subjects, my friends often speak about the lack of 'engaging' resources. We can certainly supply them with a list of interactive, collaborative and interesting tools, but what they need is 'engagement', not to be confused with entertainment, rather a participation with the 'experiments' that define science and technology teaching.

The teachers, parents and students, who have been searching for some platform that has a larger acknowledgement and also has a comprehensive stock of activities to practice, can join this blog now. We are sharing with you a wonderful, openly available and regularly updated platform. PhET by the University of Colorado Boulder provides fun, free, interactive, research-based science and mathematics simulations.

Access PhET website: https://phet.colorado.edu/

The simulations are in Java, Flash or HTML5, and can be run online or downloaded to your computer. All simulations are open source (not restricted by any copyright or patent). PhET is designed to help students develop science inquiry skills by exploring cause-and-effect relationships. Instructors can facilitate whole-class inquiry by creating a scenario in the simulation, and asking students to predict the effect of manipulating variables. In such classrooms, students often spontaneously ask many more and deeper questions. It is common for students to ask a series of “what-if” questions and direct the teachers’ use of the sim (simulations).

PhET has huge house simulation and game-based activities that guide even a grade 1 to learn Arithmetics and also facilitate the complicated concepts of Physics or Chemistry. University of Colorado’s PhET Project has developed over 100 interactive simulations for teaching and learning science. These simulations provide animated, interactive, and game-like environments which enable scientist-like exploration. They emphasize the connections between real-life phenomena and the underlying science, make the invisible visible (e.g. atoms, molecules, electrons, photons), and include the visual models that experts use to aid their thinking. All this sounds like a panacea for the current year (you may read this blog even after 05 years).

When we talk of PBL (Project-based Learning) or any aspect of 21st-century education, be it innovation scientific temperament, we need to see teachers getting engaged in a demanding quest. However, PhET makes this journey an empowered interaction. To help students engage in science and mathematics through inquiry, PhET simulations are developed using the following design principles:

  • Encourage scientific inquiry
  • Provide interactivity
  • Make the invisible visible
  • Show visual mental models
  • Include multiple representations (e.g., object motion, graphs, numbers, etc.)
  • Use real-world connections
  • Give users implicit guidance (e.g., by limiting controls) in productive exploration
  • Create a simulation that can be flexibly used in many educational situations

The well-crafted activities are based on  Click and drag to interact with simulation features or they Use sliders to increase and decrease parameters. The learners can choose between options with a radio button; Make measurements in experiments with various instruments – rulers, stop-watches, voltmeters, and thermometers. As users interact with these tools, they get immediate feedback about the effect of the changes they made. This allows them to investigate cause-and-effect relationships and answer scientific questions through the exploration of the simulation. The very first one that I would suggest is the Arithmetic- Table sim. TRY THIS!

For teachers and School, College and University leaders:

As we see the world of education is changing beyond boundaries and brands, the need is to change the face now. The hard work and the investment in education to make it world-class is a truth that gets challenges when there is a mismatch between the aspirations and availability of innovative tools. Not all PAID tools serve the purpose and we may fail to afford everything. hence, there is a need to adopt and adapt to the 'Sustainable vision of education. PhET is one such resource, awaiting your participation. 

By using sims as an animated illustration, instructors find that it is easier to communicate effectively with their students. The sims show dynamic processes and these can be slowed down, sped up, or paused, depending on the concept being shown; the invisible is made visible, and multiple representations are linked. Finally, the sims are easily adjusted by the instructor during the discussion. These features often make sims more effective for learning and more practical to use than static drawings or live demos.

 Watch this Video to Learn more about PhET

Students will …

  • Engage in scientific exploration with multiple, positive learning outcomes
  • Formulate and ask questions
  • Make predictions
  • Test emerging ideas and design experiments
  • Use evidence to support ideas
  • Monitor and reflect on their own understanding (e.g. through self-checking with simulation feedback, discussing with a partner, or teacher-led checks for understanding).
  • Achieve conceptual learning
  • Identify cause-effect relationships
  • Make meaning of visual and mental models, and use them to make sense of scientific phenomena
  • Develop facility with commonly-used scientific representations and measurement tools (e.g. visual models, vectors, graphs, formulas, ruler, …)
  • Coordinate across scientific representations, science models, and real-world situations
  • Make connections to everyday life (e.g. science to the real world)
  • Take and sense ownership of their learning experience
  • Direct their own learning through exploration
  • Persist through intellectual challenges
  • Feel a sense of accomplishment
  • See science as accessible, understandable, and enjoyable
  • Identify as a scientist (a person that uses scientific reasoning)
  • Develop further interest in science
  • Experience the joy of inquiry and discovery

Teachers will:

  • Create a student-centred classroom by …
  • Hearing and valuing student ideas
  • Promoting student agency – students actively driving their learning
  • Encouraging and guiding student inquiry
  • Being a co-participant in the inquiry process
  • Building on students’ prior knowledge
  • Foster a supportive, goal-oriented learning environment by …
  • Valuing and addressing multiple goals - content, process, habits of mind, interest, etc.
  • Being prepared to address common student ideas/thinking and confusions
  • Adapting activities to their environment and their students (e.g. for varying learning goals and education levels)
  • Implementing ‘checks for understanding’ in order to assess student learning
    and drive instruction
  • Being responsive by flexibly adapting to emergent student ideas
  • Bring their experience, professionalism, and knowledge of their students to designing, implementing and improving activities, implementation, and SIM design.

PhET has an Android App and an iPhone App as well. The Apps are not free but the price is very less. Like the Android App is for 65 Rupees only. Users can also go for Chromebooks/i-Pads App as well, through purchase. 

We do hear these days that there are attempts to make Science and technology education available in Hindi as well. PhET has done this in the OER world with a swift presence. CLICK HERE to Access PhET Hindi.

Going by the positive vision of Inclusive Education, PhET also proved some sims with Accessibility features.

Content Curation Src: https://phet.colorado.edu/

About the Author
Author: Parveen Sharma
'You Create Yourself' is the belief that drives the EklavyaParv Life Long Learning Mission. The trilogy of Enhance-Empower-Encourage motivates us and we share learning contents on Communication Skills, EdTech, Life Skills, Blended & Innovative Learning and Insights about Education. These resources are Open Educational Resources (OERs) under CC-BY-NC-SA licence. Parveen is an EdTech Evangelist and has been working in the field of Innovation-driven Education for more than a decade. He writes and delivers training on EduSoMedia, E-Learning, OERs, MOOCs, EdTech, ICT, Blended and Flipped Learning, Academic Intervention, Classroom Makeover, Employability Enhancement, EdTech and Teacher-Student Learning. EklavyaParv is the celebration of his belief in the Learning Spirit of Mankind!

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