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Physical scienceOn our Teaching tips: Physics blog we demonstrate in a series of short and concise video tutorials how freely available online tools can be used to support teaching a number of Term 3 Physical science topics.

In the tutorials you’ll see what a lesson, chart or test using the online tool could look like, how to set it up yourself, how to share it with your learners and how you could best apply it in your teaching.

The tutorials include:


Our Teaching tips blogposts and tutorials are created by University of Johannesburg 4th year and Honours BEd students who specialise in ICT Support for Schools.  


phetA simulation is an imitation of the real or actual process. PhET Interactive Simulations is a free online application which models real life ideas or processes which are too abstract for the human mind to imagine or visualize.

In physics, learners find a lot of the topics to be abstract, such as the concept of electricity and how current flows or even how to balance chemical equations. This is because they have never had an encounter where they are able to visualize these ideas, because they do not understand the microscopic level of nature when they can only see the macroscopic level of it.

PhET Interactive Simulations gives learners the platform to see the abstract ideas in their microscopic views and make sense of them as well as play around with them for better understanding.  The application is useful in situations where schools do not have science labs or have limited resources to perform the experiments for meaningful teaching and learning to take it. It can also be used to reinforce the content the learners seem to be struggling with.

Teachers need to be aware that the visual representations of the PhET Simulations do not fully represent the natural phenomena and should explain this to the learners. For example, in the PhET Simulation for electricity, when one is conducting a circuit, the wires in the circuit are straight and the circuit can be organised in a specific shape where in reality the circuit looks more complicated.

Please click on the image to watch the video tutorial how to use PhET Interactive Simulations to teach balancing chemical equations. The tutorial is prepared and presented by University of Johannesburg 4th year BEd student Tshenolo Menwe.


Screen Shot 2018 05 29 at 2.37.32 PMNitro Type is a free, real-time competitive typing game, pitting racers against each other in an all-out, nitro-fueled drag race. It is developed by

The fun tool integrates educational content with high-intensity gaming to keep students engaged and wanting to learn more.  

Learners improve their typing skills while competing in fast-paced races with their classmates or with typers from around the world.

Please follow this link for the Nitro Type tutorial in which University of Johannesburg 4th year BEd student MJ Mpelane explains how she uses the typing game in the classroom.



Working togetherAs teachers we hope to engage learners in our subjects’ content in such a way that they do and submit their homework in time. And then we get disappointed to see the learners doing homework at the last moment at school and in other teachers’ classrooms.

For my Economics class I decided to try a different approach and to make use of Padlet. This is a collaborative teaching and learning tool, where a teacher is able to create a board where learners can post on and be able to see what the others have also contributed. The teacher creates the board and gives the learners the link and they click and post .

The task I had given the class was to share their ideas and thoughts on an economic issue that had been happening in South Africa, and told the learners to find articles to support their case and share them with the class.

I created a board on Padlet for the students to post ideas and support their case and set a time limit: any posts after the specified time would be considered null and void. Using Padlet helped in getting their responses in time and to check whether they understood the current issues in economics.


Hulisani (23) BEd Honours student at the University of Johannesburg in STEM Education. 


blockerI believe that smartphones and tablets, with internet connectivity and text messaging services could be a source of distraction for students as opposed to a learning tool.

This happened when I was teaching email etiquette in my CAT class. The tablets were new and the learners were much excited about their tablet devices. It was difficult for me to monitor my students to determine whether they are utilizing educational apps on their tablets or visiting social media sites.

That is why I decided to use filtered browsing on the devices to cut down on distractions.

I downloaded ‘Block Site’ from the Chrome Web store ( then I clicked on “Add to Chrome”. The extension was installed to Chrome and its icon displayed on the right of the address bar. In the extension, I clicked on settings, and then I typed the web addresses that I wanted blocked.

In my next lesson with them, learners tried to access their social media webpages and only got an error message. The learners focused on my lesson and soon were engaged in it. 

My tip: Filtered browsing really helped.


Thami, 23, Honours student at the University of Johannesburg in STEM Education.


iPhone 5 Volume Mute Button ReplacementIn one of my young learner classes, a video-based lesson did not go according to plan because the speakers were not working. I decided not to panic and work with what was available.

I grouped the young learners and had them predict what the dialogue was, based on the video. They wrote the dialogues, then read their dialogues along with the silent video. Students were then given the transcript to check their predictions.

Strangely, this technical mishap turned the lesson into a more interesting one, where the students' imaginations and creativity were tested.


Khanyisile, 46, grade 10 – 12 CAT teacher at Vorentoe High School


Active learningIn a recent lesson with a Grade 11 class a learner "disrupted" the class by telling me that the content I was dealing with was inappropriate because the examples provided in the content were irrelevant.

This puzzled me as a teacher but I tried to understand where the learner was coming from. The learner meant that some of the examples we were using were difficult for them to understand because they were not related to the learners' context.

This helped me to always take into consideration the learners' contexts and create a platform for them to voice their concerns. Had I been another teacher not promoting active learning in the class I would not have learnt this. In addition, allowing learners to provide you with examples that they relate to makes it easier for you as a teacher to see how well learners are able to grasp the concepts dealt with.


Naledi, Soweto, 22, Life Sciences teacher, studying B.Ed. Honours in Curriculum Studies (UJ)


faces on the wallI believe in rewarding learners when they do well, but it gets to be quite heavy on my own pocket. So I took on a task to find ways of rewarding learners in a different, less costly manner.

I first encouraged my learners to start reading more. Then I gave them random tests on their reading at the beginning of my class. The highest achiever in the test I made “face of the class” for the duration until the next test and I put their image on the classroom wall.

This encouraged the learners to read more so they could see themselves on the wall. My class looked like a creative arts class with a lot of nice images all over the classroom.

Tshidi, Pretoria, 33, Life Orientation grade 7 teacher


mobile learning on the rise in asia 1600x810 300x300Going for practical teaching at a school that is technology inclined is fascinating for both teachers and the learners. Having been to 2 schools already that encourage the use of technological tools in the classroom, it is always exciting to find new ways of teaching the learners and having to deal with minor technological glitches.

I went to a private school for practice teaching, and found that each class had a projector mounted onto the ceiling; some worked, some didn’t, it happens. The teachers made use of them (in the classes where the projectors worked), some didn’t see the need to make use of them so they would borrow theirs to the other classes where the projectors didn’t work.

But now the problem came that my mentor teacher’s projector had started giving her problems the week before I had to start with my practicals and all the projectors in use, this then forced her to make use of the whiteboard and textbook to teach.

She gave me the platform to teach the following day, so in preparation of the next day’s work I decided to create my own slides and make use of PowerPoint Live Online Presentation. The school being technology inclined, it had Wi-Fi throughout the yard, that allowed the students to connect even when outside as they also made use of e-books.

I came prepared on that day, my slides prepared, activities prepared, and throat cleared. I asked the learners to connect to the Wi-Fi on their devices and follow the link given to them by me. They did as I asked, and everyone was then connected to the slides, and back to their normal way of teaching, but even better I had control of their devices whilst teaching and we were all on the same page. They could also download the slides once I was done.

Oh did I impress my mentor teacher!

Kenneth, Germiston, 28, English major, studying at UJ final year (4th year)