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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.


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