There are many great digital simulations out there that can help students visualize scientific phenomena. One of the original repositories of such simulations is that offered by the University of Colorado under the moniker ‘PhET’
The concise description of the project comes from the PhET site itself;
‘Founded in 2002 by Nobel Laureate Carl Wieman, the PhET Interactive Simulations project at the University of Colorado Boulder creates free interactive math and science simulations. PhET sims are based on extensive education research and engage students through an intuitive, game-like environment where students learn through exploration and discovery.’
The collection continues to grow and many of the original flash based simulations have now been converted to html 5 so that they will run all on all kinds of devices.
A quick overview of what these simulations are and how they can be used in the contemporary STEM classroom can be seen in the video below.
Of course, these simulations are not meant to replace traditional hands on experiments but are an effective supplement to traditional activities in order to augment understanding.
One great use of these simulations is to use them to elicit and interpret students thinking about scientific concepts. By asking students to hypothesize about the outcome of changing variables, these simulations can act as very expedient formative assessment probes.
One of my absolute favourites has to be the quasi-legendary ‘John Travoltage’ simulation – enjoy!