Julia Chamberlain, Kelly Lancaster, Robert Parson, Katherine Perkins (University of Colorado – Boulder, USA)
PhET interactive simulations are designed to be highly engaging and educationally effective for students learning chemistry. Design features such as implicit scaffolding and intuitive interface promote student questions and active exploration of the topic. While the PhET Team uses a set of research-based guidelines to design interactive simulations based on conceptual learning goals, each new topic in chemistry presents a variety of potential design platforms with different merits. We will present the design features for two PhET chemistry simulations that use distinctly different interfaces and approaches to address similar learning goals on solution concentration. Drawing on student interview data, we compare the two simulation designs. We will focus on how the affordances and constraints in each simulation influence student interaction, student interpretation of what simulation attributes are important and student interpretation of what can be learned from the simulation.