McKagan et al - arxiv.org 2007

Developing and Researching PhET simulations for Teaching Quantum Mechanics
arxiv.org posting

S. B. McKagan, K. K. Perkins, M. Dubson, C. Malley, S. Reid, R. LeMaster, C. E. Wieman
(Submitted on 27 Sep 2007)

Quantum mechanics is difficult to learn because it is counterintuitive, 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 17 simulations on quantum mechanics designed to improve learning of this difficult subject. Our simulations include several key features that 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 describe research demonstrating their effectiveness in helping students overcome well-known difficulties, build vivid mental models of quantum phenomena, and understand key concepts. We also share some insights about student thinking we have gained from our research on quantum simulations.

Comments: submitted to American Journal of Physics
Subjects: Physics Education (physics.ed-ph)
Cite as: arXiv:0709.4503v1 [physics.ed-ph]