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Simulation & Modeling Tools

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Free online physics, chemistry, biology, earth science and math simulations from the University of Colorado, Boulder. The college is working to convert everything over from Java to HTML5.

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ExploreLearning Gizmos

ExploreLearning has borrowed sound learning features from the video game world, such as collaboration and multiplayer, to guide their "gizmos" or math and science simulations. The content collection for K-14 is so comprehensive that other curricula would supplement rather than supplant these modeling tools. The graphics are pleasing without being overly complex. It is a subscription service but the fees, in contrast to other online collections, are very reasonable.

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The Tracker Video Analysis and Modeling Tool allows students to model and analyze the motion of objects in videos. By overlaying simple dynamical models directly onto videos, students may see how well a model matches the real world. Interference patterns and spectra can also be analyzed.

How Do Sinkholes Form?

Here's an example of modeling a large, real world problem using a simple set up that can fit on a table.

Erosion can occur in the subsurface as well as the the surface of the earth. If just the right factors come together in the subsurface, some very interesting things can occur, including sinkholes.

What sort of simulations can you and your students think up?

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the Physics Classroom

The Physics Classroom hosts Physics Interactives, a set of free, on-line simulations written in HTML5. We especially like the Roller Coaster sims. Each sim includes classroom activities and notes. Hint: to start a sim, click on "Launch Interactive".

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Use Simulations To Help Students Learn

Simulations have the potential to engage students in "deep learning" that empowers understanding as opposed to "surface learning" that requires only memorization. Simulations can be paused, giving time for students to assess what's going on. It brings the "real world" into the classroom without expense or safety issues. And simulations invite students to become participants. Read more in this interesting post.

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Education Arcade

Education Arcade is all about transforming kids into creators and explorers. They provide fun and accessible ways to explore real and virtual worlds, experiment with technology and use games to build math and science skills. The games, simulations and tools are designed with the educator in mind. You can use this technology to create powerful learning environments.

The Demise of Java

Java programming language logo
Originally, most on-line simulations were written using Java. Java is the programming language with the coffee cup logo. And Java programs were called applets. Unfortunately, serious security issues have cropped up, and most browsers and anti-virus programs now block Java programs no matter how hard you try.

Flash was a good alternative. But it too had security issues and is no longer available.

HTML 5 logo
Browsers today are much smarter than they were when Java and Flash were created. All modern browsers and most tablets & smart phones will run HTML5 & JavaScript (no relation to Java) simulations with no problems. Look for simulations tagged as HTML5 or with HTML 5 red shield logo.

For K12, in particular, these new visualization tools are a boon for understanding complex phenomena.

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