Kelly Lancaster, Julia Chamberlain, Robert Parson, Katherine Perkins (University of Colorado – Boulder, USA)
The PhET project develops interactive simulations that are designed to support learning through exploration. Each simulation is tested in student interviews to this effect. When simulations are used in classrooms, however, student interaction is often guided by an activity. Here we examine the effect of the activity on student engagement. The same PhET simulation was given to students in 25 general chemistry recitations with three levels of written guidance. Student engagement was measured by screen capture of student interaction, by audio recording of student conversation, and by a delayed survey that asked students to redraw the simulation from memory. Our results show that activity design strongly influences student engagement with interactive simulations that are designed to support inquiry.