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Making On-line Science Course Materials Easily Translatable and Accessible Worldwide: Challenges and Solutions


The PhET Interactive Simulations Project partnered with the Excellence Research Center of Science and Mathematics Education at King Saud University with the joint goal of making simulations useable worldwide. One of the main challenges of this partnership is to make PhET simulations and the website easily translatable into any language. The PhET project team overcame this challenge by creating the Translation Utility. This tool allows a person fluent in both English and another language to easily translate any of the PhET simulations and requires minimal computer expertise. In this paper we discuss the technical issues involved in this software solution, as well as the issues involved in obtaining accurate translations. We share our solutions to many of the unexpected problems we encountered that would apply generally to making on-line scientific course materials available in many different languages, including working with: languages written right-to-left, different character sets, and different conventions for expressing equations, variables, units and scientific notation.

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    Wikipedia’s editing model is not to be confused with their translation model which has fully independent entries.


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This work would not have been possible without the expert simulations created by The PhET Team, particularly its superb software developers Sam Reid, Chris Malley, John Blanco, Mike Dubson, and Jonathan Olson. PhET is supported by the National Science Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, The Excellence Research Center of Science and Mathematics Education (ERCSME) at King Saud University, JILA and the University of Colorado. ERCSME is funded by the Ministry of Higher Education in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, ERCSME is grateful for the Ministry of Higher Education and King Saud University for their continuous support.

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Correspondence to Wendy K. Adams.

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Adams, W.K., Alhadlaq, H., Malley, C.V. et al. Making On-line Science Course Materials Easily Translatable and Accessible Worldwide: Challenges and Solutions. J Sci Educ Technol 21, 1–10 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10956-010-9275-y

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  • Simulations
  • Science education
  • Research
  • Languages
  • Websites
  • Online resources
  • Translation