Advances in PhET Interactive Simulations: Interoperable and Accessible
Over more than a decade, the PhET Interactive Simulations project has created a suite of interactive simulations (sims) that support learning of science and mathematics content through exploration and discovery. Here we describe the state of the art in interactive science simulations, historical innovations that enabled this state, and current initiatives to advance the field.
Recently, the PhET project has engaged in two initiatives, PhET-iO and accessible PhET sims. PhET-iO increases the interoperability of sims and supports increased customization such as selection of available controls and starting conditions of the sim. PhET-iO also supports expanded integration of sims into interactive e-textbooks and virtual lab notebooks. Access to backend data streams from PhET-iO allows for the development of rich performance tasks suitable for innovative assessments that measure the learning of science practices and allow for adaptive feedback. These capabilities create new ways to positively influence science pedagogy and create targeted and adaptive learning environments for students.
Accessible PhET sims are addressing the need to ensure that all students, including students with disabilities, are allowed equitable access to high-quality learning experiences. Creating accessible interactive learning tools requires the development of new infrastructure to support communication between the simulations and assistive devices. PhET’s efforts in accessibility include new features that enable sim use by students with mobility or vision impairments or learning disabilities. These features include keyboard navigation, auditory descriptions, and sonification. These features support students with disabilities and provide new opportunities for all students to engage with science content.
KeywordsInteractive learning Engagement Representation Science classroom Configuration e-Textbook Assessment Disabilities Collaborative learning Multimodal HTML5
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