High-Tech Tools for Teaching Physics: the Physics Education
Technology Project

Noah Finkelstein, Wendy Adams, Christopher Keller, Katherine Perkins, Carl Wieman
and the Physics Education Technology Project Team.

Department of Physics
University of Colorado at Boulder
Boulder, Colorado 80309
contact: Noah Finkelstein
303 735 6082

the Journal of Online Teaching and Learning

September 15, 2006

This paper introduces a new suite of computer simulations from the Physics Education Technology (PhET) project, identifies features of these educational tools, and demonstrates their utility. We compare the use of PhET simulations to the use of more traditional educational resources in lecture, laboratory, recitation and informal settings of introductory college physics. In each case we demonstrate that simulations are as productive, or more productive, for developing student conceptual understanding as real equipment, reading resources, or chalk-talk lectures. We further identify six key characteristic features of these simulations that begin to delineate why these are productive tools. The simulations: support an interactive approach, employ dynamic feedback, follow a constructivist approach, provide a creative workplace, make explicit otherwise inaccessible models or phenomena, and constrain students productively

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