The Physics Education
Technology Project
Kathy Perkins &
the rest of the PhET Team
University of Colorado at Boulder
http://phet.colorado.edu
PhET Project
Physics faculty:
Michael Dubson
Noah Finkelstein
Kathy Perkins
Carl Wieman (Director)
Postdocs:
Sam McKagan
Linda Koch
Teacher collaborators:
Trish Loeblein
Staff:
Krista Beck
Linda Wellmann
Ph. D. students:
Wendy Adams
Chris Keller
Noah Podolefsky
Pat Kohl
Danielle Harlow
Programmers:
Ron LeMaster
Sam Reid
Chris Malley
Michael Dubson
Website:
Chris Maytag
~5-6 full time equivalents
PhET Funding
NSF
Kavli Foundation
Hewlett Foundation
University of Colorado
Alfred Nobel
Outline
• Introduction to PhET
• Design Process and Role of Research/Assessment
• Research and Assessment of
Design:
• User interface: interpretation / effectiveness
• For learning & engagement in exploration/discovery
Use:
• Where and how: lecture, lab, recitation, homework
• Assessment: When these work (and don’t)
Physics Education Techno
Project
• Suite of interactive simulations (~60)
• Covering intro physics, modern physics, bit of
chemistry
• Research-based and user-tested
• Free! Online or downloadable. (~70 Mbytes)
• Easy to use and incorporate in class
Show website
http://phet.colorado.edu
Accessibility
Universal, web-based languages Java or Flash
3 ways to run sims:
• directly from web
• download whole website to local computer for offline use
• (new) download selected sims for offline use
• In last year:
1 Million sims launched;
50,000 site downloads
Easy to translate into other languages
• Mirror site in Spanish
Ease of use
 Flexible use
• Pick and choose which sims to use
• Customize use to your environment
 Facilitate effective use with Activities Database
• Community of users share ideas/activities
• Over 50 PhET and user-contributed activities
Design Process
Learning
Goals
Initial Design
~Final Design
Research Base
Classroom
Use
Interviews
Redesign
b
Interviews
Learning
Goals
Initial Design
Initial Design &
General Approach
Research Base
Research base:
• Ed. Psych / Cog. Sci: How people learn
• Educational Software Design
• Student Conceptions in Physics
• PhET research findings
Initial Design &
General Approach
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
Fun and engaging w/ open-style play area
Highly interactive
Dynamic feedback. Interaction links to animation.
Explore and discover (constructivist)
Connection to real world
Explicit visual & conceptual models (that experts use)
Productive constraints
K.K. Perkins, et al, “PhET: Interactive Simulations for Teaching and Learning Physics”,
Physics Teacher (Jan 2006)
Visual Models
Research Base
Interviews
Assessment
of Design:
Redesign
Interviews
• Usability – easy/intuitive
• Interpretation – correct/productive
• Engaged exploration
General
Design
Guidelines
• Can students construct understanding of
main ideas? Achieve learning goals?
Paper to be submitted: Wendy Adams et al.
Research Base
Interviews
Redesign
Interviews
Assessment
of Design:
Interviews
• Think-aloud style
• Either no guidance or limited to one or two
conceptual questions.
• 30 to 60 minutes (1-3 simulations)
• 4-6 interviews per version of simulation
Research Base
Interviews
Redesign
Interviews
Assessment
of Design:
Findings from Interviews
• Intuitive Controls
– Click and Drag
– Grab-able Objects
• Representations
– Cartoon-like features
• Limited Text - Students do not read
• Start-up for engagement
– Little or no animation
– “Wiggle me’s”
Full listing of guidelines
will be in Adams et al.
Research Base
Use of Sims:
Classroom
Use
 Well honed tool for learning
 Doesn’t guarantee its
effectiveness:
Depends on context
Frames of Context
Course (Level & Goals)
Setting (Lecture/Lab)
Task / Activity
Student
Research Base
Use of Sims:
Classroom
Use
Pre-class or pre-lab Activity
Lecture/classroom
Visual Aids, Interactive Lecture
Demos, & Concept tests
Labs/Recitations
Group activities
Homework
Frames of Context
Course (Level & Goals)
Setting (Lecture/Lab)
Task / Activity
Student
Assessment of Use
Study the comparative use and
performance of students in:
• Labs
• Lectures
• Recitation
• Homework
Assess:
• student learning
• student enjoyment
• student valuation
Circuit Construction Kit
(Chris Keller)
Traditional Laboratory
(Alg-based Physics):
Simulation vs. Real Equipment
C C irc t u is
E x a m Questions
Q u e s t io n s
DCDCircuit
Exam
Fraction C orrect
1
0 .9
C C K (N = 9 9 )
0 .8
T R AD (N= 1 3 2 )
0 .7
0 .6
vs.
0 .5
0 .4
0 .3
0 .2
0 .1
0
q1
q2
q3
Q u e s tio n
cn tl
p < 0.001
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 010103 (Sept 2005)
Laboratory (Alg-based Physics):
Build a real circuit and describe it
Challenge:
• Build real circuit
• Make break
• Explain what
happens and why?
Laboratory (Alg-based Physics):
Build a real circuit and describe it
Timing
Explanation
25
Percent of Students
Time (min)
20
15
10
5
0
Score
100%
3
2
1
0
80%
60%
40%
20%
TRAD CCK
0%
TRAD
CCK
Interactive Recitation Study
Reformed large-scale introductory
calculus-based physics course with Tutorials
vs.
“CCK” (N=180)
“Real” (N=185)
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
Interactive Recitation Study
Conceptual Understanding (near term)
D C C irc u it Q 's o n M id te rm Exa m
1
CCK
0 .9
Real
F ra ctio n C o rr ec t
0 .8
0 .7
p=0.01
0 .6
0 .5
0 .4
0 .3
0 .2
0 .1
0
3
4
8
12
Q u e s tio n s
13
14
Avg
Interactive Recitation Study
Conceptual Understanding (longer)
DC Circuit Q's on Post-BEMA
1
CCK
Real
0.9
Fraction Correct
0.8
0.7
0.6
0.5
0.4
0.3
0.2
0.1
0
8
9
10
11
12
17
Questions
* and added 3 DC questions (32-34; McDermott),
BEMA- Ding, L. et al. Phys Rev: ST PER (2006).
32
33
34
Avg
Context dependence?
• Different populations
Alg-based vs. Calc-based
• Different activities
Traditional vs PER-based
• Different courses
Instruction: More traditional vs More interactive
HW/Exams: More traditional vs More conceptual
Our Research Goal:
• Assess use across these sorts of dimensions
• Characterize and understand. Identify where use is effective at
improving learning
Lecture (Calc-based w/ peer instruction)
Sims vs. Pictures/Words/Demo
Influence on Environment & Learning
vs.
Lecture (Calc-based w/ peer instruction)
Sims vs. Pictures/Words/Demo
Influence on Environment & Learning
Pictures/word/demo
CCK vs. pictures/word/demo
100
100
Silent
Post Discussion
80
Percent Correct
Percent Correct
80
60
40
60
40
20
20
0
0
Lect 1 Lect 2
No sim No sim
c
Lect 1 Lect 2
CCK No CCK
Lecture (Non-science Majors Course)
Sims vs. Pictures/Words/Demo
Influence on Environment & Learning
Wave-on-string sim vs Tygon tube demo
Follow-up Concept Test:
A
B
C
snapshots at
different times.
When the string is in position B, instantaneously flat, the
velocity of points of the string is...
Correct :
A: zero everywhere.
B: positive everywhere.
2002 demo: 27%
C: negative everywhere. D: depends on the position.
2003 sim: 71%
Follow up question: At position C, the velocity of points of
the string is...
Correct :
A: zero everywhere.
B: positive everywhere.
2002 demo: 23 %
C: negative everywhere. D: depends on the position.
2003 sim: 84%
Integrating a sim on a topic
(Photoelectric Effect in Modern Physics)
University of Washington:
• Studied student learning of photoelectric effect
• 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 DV across electrodes. Why?
CU:
% Correct
Incorporated sim
Course
Q1
Q2
Q3
N
UW w/o PT
65
40
20
26
UW w/ PT
75
85
40
36
CU Fa05
88
85
84
189
CU Sp06
78
84
79
182
Assessing Student Views
Redesigned Laboratory
(Alg-based Physics):
Labs
Date
Topic
1
Aug. 22
Electric Charge
2
Aug. 29
Potential & Fields
3
Sept. 17
Circuits 1, Voltage
4
Sept. 26
Circuits 2, Current
5
Oct. 3
Magnets
6
Oct. 17
Intervention
Alternating Current
7
Oct. 25
EM Waves
8
Oct. 31
Lenses & Optics
9
Nov. 14
Diff, Interf, Lasers
10
Nov. 28
Spectroscopy
Assessing Student Views
Pre-Lab Questions
1. I thought this lab was _____ USEFUL for learning
about...
(very, pretty, somewhat, barely, not at all)
2. I thought this lab was ____ ENJOYABLE for a
physics lab.
(very, pretty, somewhat, barely, not at all)
Assessing Student Views
Average (1=Not-at-all to 5=Very)
Perceived Utility
Usefulness of Labs
5
4.5
4
3.5
3
2.5
2
1.5
1
1
2
3
4
5
Labs
6
7
8
9
Assessing Student Views
Average (1=Not-at-all to 5=Very)
Enjoyment
Enjoyment of Labs
5
4.5
4
3.5
3
2.5
2
1.5
1
1
2
3
4
5
Labs
6
7
8
9
Assessing Student Views
Whole course integration
Perceived Utility of sims for learning
(1=Not useful; 5=A great deal…)
Physics of Everyday Life: 3.7
Modern Physics for Engineers: 4.0
“Great sims, I can't imagine QM without them.”
Conclusions
Get PhET: http://phet.colorado.edu
• PhET: suite of interactive sims, free, easy to use.
• Assessment is critical for evaluating effectiveness of
design and use any tools.
• Findings from the design of PhET sims may be useful
for others designing online tools.
• While sims are designed for productive/effective
learning, critical to attend to how we use them.
• Research needs to identify, characterize, and
understand what makes use of PhET sims effective at
improving learning and how this depends on context.
Extra slides below
So what’s in activity design?
PhET Team Approach to Curriculum Design:
Guided Inquiry Approach
Does the activity …
• Address all of your learning goals?
• Require active thinking?
• Require sense making / reasoning?
• Build on prior knowledge?
• Connect to real world?
• Help students monitor their understanding?
Lecture – Demo complement
Show
balloons
Electrostatics – Traditional balloon demos
- Charge transfer, Coulomb attraction, Polarization
Simple,
but effective
Thorton and Sokoloff, 1997
+
0
time
-
Velocity
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
Lecture – Interactive Lecture Demos
+
0
-
time
0
time
Position
Position
+
A
Position
time
5s
10 s
15 s
20 s
+ C
0
Velocity
0
time
Position
Velocity
+
time
+
0
-
time
5s
10 s
15 s
20 s
+ D
0
time
-
+
0
time
5s
10 s
15 s
Velocity
Velocity
-
-
0
-
-
-
+
B
20 s
+
0
-
time
5s
10 s
15 s
20 s
Lecture – Concept tests
Electromagnetic
waves:
Radio Waves sim
Concept Tests
and
Peer Instruction
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
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Revisiting our practices: