Physics Colloquium - Friday, April 20th, 2007,
Center; Refreshments at 3:30 P.M. in
The next generation of classroom practice: PER, the Physics Education Technology (PhET) project and learning virtually
Department of Physics
University of Colorado
This talk explores recent work associated with the Physics
Education Technology (PhET) project  at the University of
Colorado. We demonstrate that under the appropriate
conditions students not only learn more but are better able to
manipulate real electric circuits after using a simulation
than students who only work with real equipment.  We have
conducted a variety of studies examining the utility of one
particular simulation, the Circuit Construction Kit, in order
to document where and why it is supportive of student
learning. Additionally, I present a complementary, more
advanced level simulations in E/M and quantum mechanics (such
as radio waves and lasers) to discuss general design features
of these simulations, the characteristics of the sims that
make them relatively unique and productive tools, and sample
applications in typical undergraduate environments. We find
that even traditionally advanced level material may be
presented in ways that are accessible and useful to both the
general public (non-science majors) and advanced students
(upper division undergraduates and graduate students). The
talk theoretically frames both the design and validation
studies of simulation effectiveness in terms of social and
contextual use of tools  and places the work in the broader
framework of recent developments in physics education
 N D. Finkelstein, K. Perkins, W. Adams, K. Keller, P.
Kohl, N. Podolefsky, S. Reid, and R. LeMaster, "When learning
about the real world is better done virtually: a study of
substituting computer simulations for laboratory equipment,"
Physical Review, Special Topics: Physics Education
Research,1,1, 010103 (Sept 2005).
 N.D. Finkelstein, "Learning physics in context: a study of
student learning about electricity and magnetism,"
International Journal of Science Education 27:1187 (Oct 2005).