Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Science Simulations

I read an article a few months ago in The Physics Teacher that claimed students can often learn much more from working on a simulation than they can from an actual hands on experience. I was skeptical. My typical approach to teaching is to have as many labs as possible. Some I do as simulations but most are actual hands on.

This week we've been doing basic current and voltage investigations in my physics class. We've been working with batteries, meters, wires, and Christmas tree bulbs. The early investigations went really well so I decided to add more complex circuits.

As the complexity increase, the students were having a much more difficult time than they should have based on their earlier work. So, remembering back I decided to try a simulation. It went much better today. The students were able to spend more time thinking about how stuff works rather than fighting to get it to work. Simulations can't and should replace all labs, and next year I will still start with the Christmas tree bulbs, but I'll switch to the simulation sooner.

Here are some of the sites I frequent for simulations. There are lots more out there.

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