Emily Moore (University of Utah, USA), Julia Chamberlain, Kelly Lancaster (University of Colorado – Boulder, USA), Patricia Loeblein (University of Colorado-PhET Project and Evergreen High School, USA), Robert Parson, Katherine Perkins (University of Colorado – Boulder, USA)
The PhET project has developed over 35 interactive simulations (sims) for teaching and learning chemistry. All sims are available for free at http://phet.colorado.edu. PhET’s efforts in chemistry include sims on atomic structure, polarity, stoichiometry, limiting reagents, molecule shapes, concentration and acid-base solutions. PhET sims are highly beneficial tools for student inquiry in the classroom, providing interactive environments in which students learn through scientist-like exploration and experimentation. They emphasize connections between real life phenomena and the underlying science, make the invisible visible (e.g. atoms, electrons), and include the visual models that experts use. Here, we highlight how sims may be used in large class environments to effectively enhance student learning and engagement. We draw insights from analysis of audio, screen capture and clicker question data captured during the use of PhET sims in large lecture classrooms at an undergraduate institution. Finally, we outline techniques to facilitate student inquiry with PhET simulations.