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Interactive simulations for teaching physics Work supported by: NSF, Hewlett Foundation, Kavli Foundation, Univ. of Colorado, me and Sarah.

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Presentation on theme: "Interactive simulations for teaching physics Work supported by: NSF, Hewlett Foundation, Kavli Foundation, Univ. of Colorado, me and Sarah."— Presentation transcript:

1 Interactive simulations for teaching physics Work supported by: NSF, Hewlett Foundation, Kavli Foundation, Univ. of Colorado, me and Sarah

2  Physics Education Technology Project (PhET) Develop interactive simulations Research on simulation design and effectiveness Goals for talk Examples of good simulations Little about research on what makes them useful  principles to keep in mind when using. When simulations carefully tested and refined : Highly engaging Very effective for learning Work with very wide range of students (“grade school to grad school”)

3 PhET (phet.colorado.edu) ~ 60 interactive simulations Intro physics, modern physics, some chemistry, bit of math, starting to expand into geo and bio, … Phet-based activities database on website--Trish Loeblein show website, sim list, balloons and sweater, moving man, elctromag run phet sims (all free!) : directly from web (regular browser, platform independent) download whole website to local computer for offline use Million sims launched off website; 50,000 full site downloads Extensive development and testing process--teams (faculty, software engineers, sci. ed. specialists)

4 Physics faculty: Michael Dubson Noah Finkelstein Kathy Perkins (manager) Carl Wieman Postdocs: Sam McKagan Linda Koch (Chem) Software Engineers: Ron LeMaster Sam Reid Chris Malley Michael Dubson Grad students: Wendy Adams Danielle Harlow Chris Keller Noah Podolefsky HS Teacher: Trish Loeblein ~6 full time equivalents Staff: Mindy Gratne y, Linda Wellmann Phet Staff

5 Engaging and productively fun (interface design, appearance, …) Connection to real world Highly interactive- stuff happening, user controls Explicit visual & conceptual models (experts’) Explore and discover, with productive constraints Connect multiple representations K.K. Perkins, et al, “PhET: Interactive Simulations for Teaching and Learning Physics”, Physics Teacher (Jan 2006) Design Features and Criteria

6 Most important element--testing with students 1. Think aloud interviews (~200 hours) Explore with guiding question 2. Observations of use in lecture, recitation and lab, homework solving sessions. surprisingly consistent, always revealing

7 Experts- - really like. Students--Watch without interacting. Don’t like. Misinterpret. Example- of what revealed by interview studies. Radio waves. Initial startup.

8 Start with curve view, manually move electron. Very different result. Later move to full field view, manipulate, like, and understand. Correctly interpret. Why do you think starting this way works so much better? briefly discuss with neighbors, then will collect ideas

9 Why starting this way works so much better?

10 Matches research on learning. Cognitive demand. Novices don’t know what to focus on. treat everything equally important. Much more than short-term working memory can handle, overwhelming Construction of understanding. Why starting this way works so much better? Other important features: Visual model-electrons in transmitting and receiving antennas, display of waves Interactivity

11 Example illustrates important principle: students think and perceive differently from experts Good teaching is presenting material so novice students learn from it, not so looks good to experts! Violated by most simulations (and many lecture demonstrations, figures in texts,…) PhET sims almost never right the first time. Test and modify to get right.

12 Simulation testing microcosm of education research Routinely see examples of principles established in very different contexts. cognitive load construction of understanding build on prior knowledge connections to real world exploration and deep understanding  transfer motivation--factors affecting and connections to learning perceptions based on organizational structures, structures change and develop, changes perception. …

13 Pre-class or pre-lab Activity Lecture/classroom Visual Aids, Interactive Lecture Demos, & Concept tests Labs/Recitations Group activities Homework bits of examples of effectiveness in different settings Sims useful in variety of settings Need some structure--activities database advice and workshops Trish Loeblein

14 1. When the string is in position B, instantaneously flat, the velocity of points of the string is... A: zero everywhere. B: positive everywhere. C: negative everywhere. D: depends on the position. A B C snapshots at different times. Wave-on-string sim vs Tygon tube demo 2. At position C, the velocity of points of the string is... A: zero everywhere. B: positive everywhere. C: negative everywhere. D: depends on the position. Correct : 2002 demo: 27% 2003 sim: 71% Correct : 2002 demo: 23 % 2003 sim: 84% Follow-up Concept Tests: Lecture (Non-science Majors Course) Standing waves-- Sim vs. Demonstration show wave on string

15 Features that make a difference- experts hardly notice, BIG difference for novices 1. Green beads on string that show moves up and down, not sideways. 2. Speed set so novice brain can absorb and make sense of it. 3. Can do controlled changes, most in response to student requests. Sort out what makes a difference and why.

16 What else does simulation provide over usual figure and explanation in lecture or textbook? 1. see direct cause and effect relations 2. explicit visual models example-electromagnet, friction, gas, cck

17 N D. Finkelstein, et al, “When learning about the real world is better done virtually: a study of substituting computer simulations for laboratory equipment,” PhysRev: ST PER (Sept 2005) p < DC Circuit Final Exam Questions Standard Laboratory (Alg-based Physics, single 2 hours lab): Simulation vs. Real Equipment show cck

18 Intuitive interactivity vital Controls Intuitive when most like hand action –Grab-able Objects –Click and Drag –Sliders to change numeric values Representations –Cartoon-like features  scale distortion OK –Good at connecting multiple representations, but proximity and color coding helps (energy sktprk) f. A few important interface characteristics* *more than want to know in Adams et al. papers

19 Conclusions: Interactive simulations powerful new technology for learning science. But not automatically good. Phet.colorado.edu booth in APS show- play with, discuss. references on website under “research” Trish Loeblein

20 Surprising differences in motivation and learning engaged exploration vs. “performance mode” Before topic covered in class- actively interested and engaged in figuring out  answer After covering in class (same students, same topic!) struggle to remember what told or read, not use sim to explore and figure out, even with repeated encouragement! Frustrated and unsuccessful! (ed. research microcosm cont.--matches perfectly with results of Dweck psychology studies- “performance mode” )

21 1. Think aloud interviews (~200 hours) Explore with guiding question General results from student interviews* a. Surprisingly consistent responses, particularly on interface. b. Vocabulary very serious hindrance to learning and discussion-- see because simulation removes c. Animation  attention, but not thinking. Interactivity  thinking & learning. W. K. Adams, et al., A Study of Educational Simulations Part I - Engagement and Learning., A Study of Educational Simulations Part II - Interface Design.,

22 PhET’s Checklist for creating Effective Sims and Tutorials/Activities Is Sim or Activity …. 1)Aligned with learning goals? 2)Aligned with current research? 3)User-tested? Ease of use Correct Interpretation Engagement Achieves learning goals

23 Interesting results from interview studies* (cont.) d. the good, the bad, and the evil sim Good sim is extremely effective for wide range of students: understand difficult concepts, can explain & apply to real world situations. Bad sim- very little learned. Awkward distracting interface, boring, confusing. Evil sim--effective at teaching wrong things! e. Student testing critical! Interviews always reveal undesired perceptions or distractions in first versions!

24 many other examples of power of visual models all of quantum! (S. McKagan) quantum wave interference lasers Stern-Gerlach MRI tunneling … major impact on student thinking Rethinking how intro quantum mechanics should be taught. Key missing element.

25 Some general principles revealed for how people learn physics Cognitive load important--too much stuff overwhelming, Build up slowly works well. (Radio waves full view) Need to connect to prior thinking-- start using familiar elements (tire pump in ideal gas), build understanding Visual models vital (balloon and sweater, CCK,QM, …) Absorb and make sense only when ask questions and then seek answers. Animation without interactivity draws attention, but not exploration and understanding. Text and explanations usually ignored or misinterpreted unless seeking that particular point.

26 Integrating a sim on a topic (Lect. & HW) (Photoelectric Effect in Modern Physics) (S. McKagan, to be pub.) CourseQ1Q2Q3N UW w/o PT UW w/ PT % Correct Univ. of Wash.: Student learning of photoelectric effect deficient Developed & used Photoelectric Tutor (PT) Exam Q: What would happen to current reading if you: Q1: Changed metal. Why? Q2: Double intensity of light. Why? Q3: Increased  V across electrodes. Why? CU: Incorporated sim CU Fa CU Sp show photoelectric effect

27 Visual Models

28 Research Base Learning Goals Initial Design ~Final Design Redesign Interviews Classroom Use Development Process  Team for each sim faculty content expert(s) sci. ed./user expert(s) software engineer

29 Initial Design & General Approach Research base: Ed. Psych / Cog. Sci: How people learn Educational Software Design Student Conceptions in Physics PhET research findings

30 Assessment of Design: Usability – easy/intuitive Interpretation – correct/productive Engaged exploration Can students construct understanding of main ideas? Achieve learning goals? GeneralDesignGuidelines

31 Lecture – Interactive Lecture Demos Demo 4: Sketch position vs time and velocity vs time graphs for when Moving Man: walks steadily towards the tree for 6 seconds, then stands still for 6 seconds, and then towards the house twice as fast as before for 6 seconds Position time Velocity time 5 s10 s20 s15 s Thorton and Sokoloff, 1997

32 Velocity time Position time 5 s10 s20 s15 s Velocity time Position time 5 s10 s20 s15 s Velocity time Position time 5 s10 s20 s15 s AB C Velocity time Position time 5 s10 s20 s15 s D

33 Electromagnetic waves: Radio Waves sim Concept Tests and Peer Instruction Lecture – Concept tests The speed of the wave (signal) is measured as… a.how fast this peak moves to the right. b.how fast this peak moves up and down. c.could be a or b

34 Incorporating a suite of sims (Modern Physics for Engineers) CoursePrePost normalized gainN Eng. Sp Eng. Fa Eng. Sp05(30) Phys. Sp Phys. Fa Phys. Sp05(44) Quantum Mechanics Conceptual Survey Reformed with sims Traditional ~ 10 interactive simulations in lecture and homework (clickers, real life applications, conceptual homeworks)

35 Interactive Recitation Study Reformed large-scale introductory calculus-based physics course with Tutorials “CCK” (N=180)“Real” (N=185) vs. Keller, C.J. et al. Assessing the effectiveness of a computer simulation in conjunction with Tutorials in Introductory Physics in undergraduate physics recitations,", PERC Proceedings 2005

36 Interactive Recitation Study p=0.01 but end of semester exam, no observable difference


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