Science can be difficult to visualize. Some things are too small like atoms or microbes. Some others are invisible to the human eye. But using simulations in science courses can help improve learning by allowing students to interact with the data, writes Bree Barnett Dreyfuss for eSchool News.
Since a mentor teacher introduced her to PhET simulations, the physics teacher changed her curriculum making her classes more interactive and versatile with the help of simulations.
Knowing that the average 15-year-old can have short attention spans, Mrs. Barnett Dreyfuss is using simulations in her Physics, Conceptual Physics, and Physical Science classes, allowing students to take a large amount of data more accurately and in less time than a hands-on lab.
With the Charges and Fields simulation, for example, students can easily change variables and get instant results. This allows them to gather enough data in just one class period to make the data interpretations necessary to see how these values influence each other.
The teacher points out that simulations also promote critical thinking and help students better understand abstract concepts. "Many of my students would rather solve a calculation question than answer a conceptual one. Without a number backing it, they often don’t understand the proportions in equations," she said.
Students happen to love interactive simulations. Physics and other science lessons can be more fun and increasing students’ engagement and understanding at the same time.