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Creating Effective Interactive Tools for Learning: Insights from the PhET Interactive Simulations Project

, , , , University of Colorado Boulder, United States

EdMedia + Innovate Learning, in Denver, Colorado, USA ISBN 978-1-880094-95-2 Publisher: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE), Waynesville, NC


For 10 years, the PhET Interactive Simulations project at the University of Colorado has been creating and researching interactive simulations for advancing science education. Each PhET simulation creates an animated, interactive, game-like environment in which students learn through scientist-like exploration. Here, we describe our current approaches to and perspectives on effective simulation design – approaches that are grounded in research on learning, informed by over 500 student interviews, and refined over the course of developing 115 simulations across multiple science topics. Applying these approaches has resulted in a suite of simulations that are freely available, integrated into diverse learning environments, used over 30 million times per year, translated into 67 languages, and transforming how students learn science. Many elements of PhET’s framework for effective design can be adapted and applied to a variety of learning tools.


Perkins, K., Podolefsky, N., Lancaster, K. & Moore, E. (2012). Creating Effective Interactive Tools for Learning: Insights from the PhET Interactive Simulations Project. In T. Amiel & B. Wilson (Eds.), Proceedings of EdMedia 2012--World Conference on Educational Media and Technology (pp. 436-441). Denver, Colorado, USA: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE). Retrieved March 25, 2019 from .


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  1. Exploring the Rules of the Game: Games in the Classroom, Game-Based Learning, Gamification, and Simulations

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    Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference 2017 (Mar 05, 2017) pp. 475–480

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