Developing and Researching PhET simulations for Teaching Quantum Mechanics Documents

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Developing and Researching PhET simulations for Teaching Quantum Mechanics 

written by Sam B. McKagan, Katherine Perkins, Michael Dubson, Chris Malley, Sam Reid, Ron LeMaster, and Carl E. Wieman

Quantum mechanics is difficult to learn because it is counter-intuitive, hard to visualize, mathematically challenging, and abstract. The Physics Education Technology (PhET) Project, known for its interactive computer simulations for teaching and learning physics, now includes 18 simulations on quantum mechanics designed to improve learning of this difficult subject. Our simulations include several key features to help students build mental models and intuitions about quantum mechanics: visual representations of abstract concepts and microscopic processes that cannot be directly observed, interactive environments that directly couple students' actions to animations, connections to everyday life, and efficient calculations so students can focus on the concepts rather than the math. Like all PhET simulations, these are developed using the results of education research and feedback from educators, and are tested in student interviews and classroom studies. This article provides an overview of the PhET quantum simulations and their development. We also describe research demonstrating their effectiveness and share some insights about student thinking that we have gained from our research on quantum simulations.

Published April 1, 2008
Last Modified July 18, 2010