Common Sense Review
Updated October 2015

The Physics Classroom

Solid simulations and practice problems boost understanding
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Common Sense Rating 4
  • The Physics Classroom: a place for learning, practicing, and teaching physics
  • An example of a Physics Tutorial's contents, containing several lessons on each topic
  • Tutorial pages are mostly text-based, with simple diagrams and highlighted key words.
  • An example of one of the simple Shockwave simulations
  • Minds on Physics is an adaptive question program that looks for gaps in student understanding.
Pros
A gold mine of physics learning resources for students and teachers.
Cons
More real-world connections could help hold students' interest.
Bottom Line
Though the content is a bit text-heavy, this is a detailed, helpful resource for clarifying and deepening kids' understanding of physics.
Emily Pohlonski
Common Sense Reviewer
Classroom teacher
Common Sense Rating 4
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 3

Most content is informative, though not particularly engaging. New HTML5 Physics Interactives are effective at illustrating concepts.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer? 4

The site does its job in providing resources for learning and practicing physics concepts. The simulations allow kids to change conditions and observe the effects. Practice problems give kids immediate feedback with explanations.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students? 3

Kids can get tips on effective problem-solving. Simulations have activity sheets to guide kids as they explore. Teacher Toolkits provide more specific learning outcomes and additional resources on various physics topics.

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How Can Teachers Use It?

The Physics Classroom is a great resource for students who need to review concepts or get extra practice. Teachers could also use the simulations to illustrate concepts during lecture. Sections of the site could also be assigned in lieu of labs missed in class. The Minds on Physics (MOP) program is a standout feature. This section could be assigned for credit; teachers could track student progress. There are plenty of teacher tips, instructions, and videos on how to use the MOP section with students.

Teacher resources include PDF handout packets for use with the tutorials. These might make good unit reviews or practice exercises. Throughout the unit, use these to give your students a variety of review questions, diagrams, graphing and data practice, and equation work. Other free teacher resources include ACT practice passages, a library of inquiry-type labs, and a Flickr photo gallery of real-world physics phenomena. Lab activities include a teacher's guide with tips, precautions, a scoring rubric, and connections to relevant tutorials.

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What's It Like?

The Physics Classroom is geared toward high school physics students. The site has sections for learning, practice, and review, as well as teacher tools. The main learning area is the Physics Tutorials section, which includes in-depth lessons on physics topics that are embedded with simple diagrams and questions to check for understanding. Along with these tutorials, kids can access a library of interactive simulations to develop their understanding. 

The review sections of the site provide kids with numerous opportunities to problem-solve and check their answers. The Minds on Physics (MOP) program is an adaptive question tool that teachers can assign, either for credit or practice. The program analyzes kids’ answers and recommends topics and areas for review. MOP the App can be downloaded from Google Play or iTunes so students can use it on their smartphones or tablets at home.

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Is It Good For Learning?

High school kids will definitely find the resources helpful, though the text-heavy format might be daunting at first. The tutorials are heavily text-based, and the simulations could stand to be updated with more color, modern-looking graphics and authentic, real-world examples. Text supports include highlighted key words that are linked to related tutorials, as well as links to external websites.

Additionally, there are a wealth of practice problems of various types, including multiple-choice, matching, passages, and word problems. Students can check their answers immediately and see explanations of the solutions. Overall, serious students with the patience to study and work through the problems will gain the most here. Nevertheless, struggling students may also find help with learning concepts and problem-solving. It's worth noting that some of the animated features may require a 64-bit Web browser (such as a recent version of Firefox) to function properly.

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See how teachers are using The Physics Classroom

Lesson Plans