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Second Homework - Explore Ideas about using PhET

Please select one or two of these options:

1.    Explore Guided Inquiry Strategies for PhET use and test your understanding using the Guideline Practice

a)    Read PhET guide for Inquiry Activities

b)    Review Demonstration of alignment for isotope activity

c)    Try Guideline Practice pH Scale


2.Want more ideas about how teachers use PhET? Read one of these and submit a reflection.

a)    Check out Trish’s Sugar and Salt Activity

b)    PhETUse homework

c)    PhETUseLecture

3.    Interested in PhET research? Read an article and submit a reflection.

a)   Teaching physics using PhET simulations

b)    Factors promoting engaged exploration with computer simulations

c)    What Levels of Guidance Promote Engaged Exploration with Interactive Simulations?

Task Discussion

  • Anonym   July 19, 2012, 10:35 a.m.

    I read the article “What Levels of Guidance Promote Engaged Exploration with Interactive Simulations?” It is very interesting to see that “no guidance” is preferable to traditional “cookbook instructions.” In fact, I wonder how often our traditional teaching methods actually interfere with learning instead of promoting exploration and innovation.

    In the “demonstration of alignment for the isotope activity,” I like the idea of having students work with a partner to write quiz questions since students who ask have a vested interest in searching for answers. It could also be interesting to have students list the questions a journalist might ask while using the simulation.  I am searching for ways to draw out essential questions from students as they work (and play!) Any ideas are welcome.

    I thoroughly appreciate the resources and posts available to date on this P2PU course.  

  • Trish Loeblein   July 19, 2012, 10:53 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Anonym   July 19, 2012, 10:35 a.m.

    Thanks Chris,

    Are you thinking about changing any of the activities that you have already written as a result of the homework? I know you have sent us some for review. I thought I would wait to send comments until this course is over, or would you rather I comment on the ones you send?


  • Trish Loeblein   July 22, 2012, 11:31 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Anonym   July 22, 2012, 4:26 a.m.


    I wll review your lessons and get them back to you.

    Thanks for particpating so actively in this course.


  • Kathleen Miller   July 16, 2012, 8:36 a.m.

    I downloaded the homework and lecture PDF files and was pleased to see that there are suggestions for many ways to use sims in a classroom. Our school is very handicapped as far as computer time goes (we have one lab which is constantly monopolized by the language arts department) and some of my students do not have internet access at home so the lecture option would have to work a lot of the time. I have actually used the Forces in 1 Dimension to demonstrate Newton's 3 laws and I let the students call out settings which we then tested. This year I will use the lecture guidelines to come up with a purposeful classroom activity.

    By the way, the first time I used the wave on a string was as a demonstration three years ago at the end of the waves lesson (I had a shortened class day due to an in-school basketball game) and one student remarked that this was the best class day he had EVER had!

  • Trish Loeblein   July 16, 2012, 12:51 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Kathleen Miller   July 16, 2012, 8:36 a.m.


    Thanks for sharing. BTW: Force and Motion has replaced Forces 2D for most uses. We used research since the development of the first version to improve the sim for more independant student use. We still have the old sim up because it includes some energy relationships for which we have not yet started a new sim.


  • dylaX   July 16, 2012, 5:35 a.m.

    Yes I am interested in PhET research and so I have deeply read two articles: "What levels of guidance promote engaged exploration with interactive simulations?" and "Factors promoting engaged exploration with computer simulations". These articles have scaffolded me in the design of a scientific simulation, the role of implicit scaffolding and  the meaning of a "engaged exploration" in education. Before my partecipation to this course, I had not enough reflected on the role of implicit scaffolding in a sim and I didn't know that PhET simulations I have used had affordance, constraints, analogies and multiple visual representations that promote engaged explorations. I agree with the authors that a driven questions exploration is the best one to promote engagment and to act like a scientist in a school science lesson. Now I feel more expert in the use of PhET sims in education and every time I use a PhET simulation I will try to understand the implicit scaffolding implemented in the simulation.


  • Trish Loeblein   July 16, 2012, 12:52 p.m.
    In Reply To:   dylaX   July 16, 2012, 5:35 a.m.


    Glad you found the papers useful. We should be posting new research soon.


  • Trish Loeblein   July 15, 2012, 3:38 p.m.

    I am glad to see that the "PhET Inquiry Strategies" appears to be useful and that by practicing with the side by side comparision, teachers are able to self-evauate what they are doing. I hope as you write activities you will share them on the PhET Teaching Ideas.

    Thanks for your continuing active engagement in this course.


  • Ms Courtney   July 15, 2012, 11:30 a.m.

    I reviewed the PhET Guide for Inquiry Activities and reviewed the pH activity scenarios A and B.  Scenario B was aliged closely with the Guided Inquiry STrategies, provideing minimal directions on sim use and allowing the strudent to decide how to use the sim to answer the questions.  The real-world connections and building on prior knowledge were apparent in the student selection of various substances to predict the pH of, while allowing them to check their predictions.  Finally, the activity culminates in an analytical activity requiring sense-making and supporting of ideas with evidence.

    Unfortunately, I see too much of my usual assignments in Scenario A!  I have designed "webquests" in the past that are very cookbook oriented and simply require students to answer questions by pulling information straight from the reading or activity, and not focused on developing their own understanding. 

    I think my classroom is going to look very different in the coming year as I work to incorproate these inquiry based sims into every unit.  I find as each eyar goes on, I rely less and less on lecture, and continue to find more ways for students to construct their own understanding.  I made strides this year in incorporating POGIL learning, but I think the sims are going to really enhance student understanding.  I am also beginning to germinate some ideas about students creating small quizzes in Edmodo for others to answer and critique -- a social networking connection to the student constructed learning scenario.


  • Kathleen Miller   July 14, 2012, 8:38 a.m.

    I looked at the strategies for inquiry (in fact, I downloaded and saved it because it applies to all inquiry activities, not just sims and it's a great summary) and then evaluated the two lessons in terms of the strategies. It is obvious that Lesson B is far superior to Lesson A in terms of inquiry. Lesson B uses most if not all of the strategies, especially requiring students to use reasoning and make sense then explain the outcomes of their manipulation of the sims.

    Unfortunately, the activity I have used most with my students is the Wave on a String and I have employed a real cookbook type worksheet with that, thinking that at least they would all be able to "complete the assignment" that way. The fact that the students still enjoyed working with the sims is a testament to how good they are! I think I need to go back and redo that worksheet in terms of the strategies and see if I get better understanding of waves this year. I will be happy to report back on my efforts!

  • Juan Abelardo Garcia Jr   July 13, 2012, 4:30 p.m.

    On option 2 as well:

    I agree with my Italian colleague. The students LOVE to play once you turn them loose on the simulation, and they will make some good connections. Here is a comment from one of my students this summer on the :Natural Selection" sim, and what she thought was the connection between the wolves and the bunnies and the environment:


    "Once i would turn the hot to the cold which is winter the wolves would only eat the brown bunnies because they were the ones that were more noticeable than the white bunnies. 
    Once i would change it back to hot the wolves would only eat the white ones for the same reason because they were more noticeable than the brown bunnies. 
    The bunnies would increase a lot if you would just leave it there."


    The idea was to make them see that if they leave the environment as is, a species with no interference can quickly grow to become the dominant one on the planet! And the point is very well driven home by the fact that if they don't have wolves come in and interact with the bunnies, they will take over the world and they see a picture with the new ruling species.

    To me, class discussion is facilitated enormously by these interactions. The kids feel that they were playing a video game, but when I step in and pose some guiding questions, they make the connection to real life situations, and to material that they might have seen in class, but was not introduced like this (i.e. perhaps they saw it in a lecture or another not-so-hands-on way during class)

    Here is another attempt at relating energies from the "Energy Skate Park" simulation by another one of my summer kids:


    "well as the height got higher then the speed increased. and if you increased the friction the man will ride slower. kinetic energy was being used while it was riding and while it was not in motion it was potential energy. thermal energy was when the guy had been in kinetic energy and stopped at an instant and as potential energy and created thermal energy."


    I teach at a school where the population is almost 99% at-risk, economically disadvantaged, and a vast majority are ELL's . For students like these, expressing simple scientific principles, even once they have internalized them and can explain them verbally to me, is a hard task when I ask them to put it in writing. From these two samples I can see a small glimpse of future complex writing, and in science, this is very important. The student using the Skate Park was able to surmise that as friction increases, the man starts to slow down, with no interaction from me, just by him playing with the controls, and he was able to put it in writing.

    My master teacher saw a comment I posted on my Facebook wall about the course, and she was happy. So I think that I will be indeed introducing the sims during our department meetings the week before school starts!



  • Kathleen Miller   July 15, 2012, 4:47 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Juan Abelardo Garcia Jr   July 13, 2012, 4:30 p.m.

    I enjoyed reading your student responses. I am afraid that too often I don't allow my students to 'discover' ideas, using the excuse that I have to keep up with the curriculum pacing guide, and they just might play without discovering. I am going to rewrite my student worksheet for the sim I use most and see if I can get the same kind of higher order thinking that is shown in your students' responses.

  • dylaX   July 13, 2012, 7:57 a.m.

    Some reflections about option 2 of Homework week 2. I have used Balancing Act in may classroom in this school year and have experimented what I have read in PhETUse Homework and PhETUseLecture. PhET sims are very usefull as visual aids and enbling inquiry-based science and mathematics lessons. All my students like use sims on LIM to explore science laws because they say "We feel as we are playing". Play  is the key word. The students love to see what if when they clik on sims. I suggested them to collect data and make graphs to discover the law  of equilibrium a a lever using PhET sim and stuff from the scientific lab of the school. Students didn't realize that time goes by and all of them have partecipated with great enthusiasm. I am reading all the documents in this course and I am learning a lot about PhET simulations. I plan to introduce PhET sims to my collegue for next school year.

  • Trish Loeblein   July 13, 2012, 3:17 p.m.
    In Reply To:   dylaX   July 13, 2012, 7:57 a.m.


    I see that you are in Italy and hope to introduce PhET to your collegue. I am curious about in what language you use the sims. I see that almost all of the sims are available in Italian (see to see how many at this time are translated and to link to the Italian versions). Do you typically use the italian versions or the english?

    In order to help you spread PhET -  If you would like to hold a meeting, we could use something like BigBlueButton or Skype or Teamviewer if I could help. I am always happy to reply to emails as well. 


  • dylaX   July 14, 2012, 11:13 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Trish Loeblein   July 13, 2012, 3:17 p.m.

    I often use the Italian versions but sometimes I also try to use the English version to make practice of English in a CLIL lesson.

    In my middle school there are only three teachers of science and mathematics so it is easy to spread PhET sims.