Phet.colorado.edu is a site created by the University of Colorado at Boulder, CO. The site provides hundreds of research based simulations covering nearly all levels of math and science, including cutting edge graduate level science such as quantum computer design. This site provides simulations for nearly all math and science subjects as can be seen in the screen shot below:
In addition to the hundreds of amazing simulations featured on phet.colorado.edu, the site also facilitates an online community of teacher-users which enables science/math educators to collaborate on a sophisticated level. Teachers can create labs or projects based on particular simulations, and then share these ideas with others directly through the simulation website. Here is a screenshot of the “Teachers Ideas and Activities” page on the site:
The teacher section also contains a library of resources, workshops, webinars, and other materials to help educators learn how to use these simulations effectively.
All the simulations at this site are Java and Flash based programs, so these simulations require computing devices that are both Java and Flash enabled which I believe is not the case for some of the tablet devices currently on the market including the Apple iPad ($499 version). From the users perspective the site is very easy to master due to its excellent award-winning web design. In fact, the site can be used in three different ways: 1) Directly off the internet through any web browser, 2) By downloading the entire library of simulations, or 3) By downloading only the simulations you are interested in showing. This is all explained on the “How to Run Simulations” page as can be seen here:
It is very easy to navigate around this site. Every page has a full menu of links to the rest of the site on the left side of the screen, so you can get anywhere on the site from any page. Furthermore, there is a search widget at the top of every page that makes it incredible easy to locate a particular simulation with one click. For example, to find the simulation I will be using in my RILS project, I need only to enter the word “ramp”, and the simulation I will be using concerning the physics of inclined planes pops right up ready to use.
This site is owned and maintained by the University of Colorado at Boulder, and it is well funded by both private and public agencies and foundations. It is utilized throughout the world, and it has received much recognition and awards for excellence. I would say this site is here to stay for quite a while.
Phet.colorado.edu contains easy to use simulations that cover all grade levels K-12 and undergraduate – graduate level as well. The simulations cover every possible science course in some way or another. The content is constantly growing as educators around the world are encouraged to submit their own simulations as well. The collaborative side of this site enables teachers from around the world to create shared lesson plans free for educators any where to utilize and adapt to their own needs. In my opinion, this is the best feature of the site.
This site contains simulations that can be utilized by every science course in the K-12 curriculum; and the majority of the simulations can be utilized at the university level as well. In fact, as a high school teacher, I find most science sites to be mostly geared to the elementary and middle school levels. This is the best simulation site I have ever seen that focuses mainly on advanced level science appropriate for AP level high school courses and undergraduate college courses as well. As I mentioned earlier, even graduate students could benefit from these simulations. The site is also published in nearly 50 different languages, so the planets entire student body is literally the appropriate audience for this website. Very impressive indeed.
Since the simulations of this website are run directly from the users computers, there is no privacy issues within this site. Users can choose to publish and interact with other users through the site if they wish, but that is not a requirement for the usage of these simulations. Teachers can sign up for accounts and have their students do so as well, but those accounts are not necessary to utilize the simulations, and when they are used, they are only accessible to the account holder. This is a safe site.
Costs and Support:
Phet.colorado.edu is a free website for all users and it does not require anyone to open an account. This site is dedicated to being a free resource for educators around the world. The site does ask for user donations as can be seen in the screenshots above, but it is primarily funded by government grants and private foundations. These include the National Science Foundation, The William and Flora Hewitt Foundation, Microsoft, and the University of Colorado as well. The website lists more than 20 foundations supporting its efforts from around the world.