There's no shortage of ways to use PhET simulations in (or out of) the classroom. Effectively, any time you'd use a static PowerPoint slide or textbook image to demonstrate a concept, it's worth checking PhET to see if there's an interactive version. Chances are high there's already one on the site. There are also virtual versions of common lab experiences, and it might be worth using the simulation if you're short on class time or resources. Even if you have really great videos of experiments, the interactivity of these simulations will contribute so much to your lessons that it's hard not to use both.
Especially for science teachers struggling with 45-minute class times, PhET can be a great way for students to experience labs at home. There are hundreds of complete lesson plans and materials using the site's simulations, which you can download and use as-is or remix for your needs. Just be sure to share your modifications with the rest of the community!Continue reading Show less
PhET Interactive Simulations is a huge collection of virtual science experiments, demonstrations, and visualizations for dozens of math and science topics (from kindergarten through graduate school). Each tool allows students to control a variety of parameters for each concept, tinkering and exploring and probing relationships all from the safety and comfort of a computer. The results are displayed in real time, often with relevant data to make the outcomes even more clear. All simulations are rendered in HTML5, Flash, or Java, and updates are ongoing to bring them up to modern specifications. There's also a paid app available (for iOS and Android) that includes a collection of HTML5 simulations.
Every simulation is accompanied by a large cache of teacher- and expert-created classroom resources including lab guides, homework, and assessments. Further, every tool and many teacher resources are available in dozens of languages, so there are plenty of opportunities to give English language learners the same deep experiences as native English speakers.
Lab experiments and demonstrations have been a staple of math and science since the dawn of time for a very good reason: They promote lasting retention of otherwise difficult-to-understand concepts. A hundred years of learning and cognition research also have shown that when learners actively control, tinker with, and push the boundaries of live experiences, the learning is even deeper and more meaningful. In that way, PhET is a juggernaut for learning. These tools can illuminate some of the very toughest topics in math and science in ways that paragraphs of text, equations, and textbook pictures just can't touch.
In addition to some dated designs that can distract from otherwise excellent simulations, some of the tools are a bit too closed-ended and could benefit from additional controls. These both may be due to limitations of the technology when the tools were designed, so as tools are updated to modern standards, expect better-looking sims and more freedom across the library.