To become familiar with the use of interactive learning methods, such as simulations, for student learning in science. To evaluate and critique the advantages and disadvantages, strengths and weaknesses, of a particular simulation of interactive learning program for student use.


Write a 4-7 page description, analysis, and critical evaluation of one interacting learning program in science (or a group of closely related programs), for student use.


"Interactive" for purposes of this assignment means that the user provides input information to the program and the program responds in a way that is specific to this input. Usually this means that the user can input a range of different options or choices, and the program responds differently for each possible input.

In a "simulation" the program simulates or mimics the behavior of some real natural system or process, usually in a simplified or idealized way. The user's input control some parameters or variables that are relevant to the behavior of the system or to the course of the process, and the simulation shows the effect of these different possible conditions or causes or variations in the system's behavior. E.g. in a simulation of a planet's orbit around the sun, the user could input an initial position, speed, and direction of motion for the planet (or asteroid, comet, or spaceship in free fall) and the program would then compute the orbit and display the motion around the sun (or off into space!).

Some simulation programs are available on the WWW. Some run by JAVA, which requires Windows95 or a later version of the Macintosh system. Others do not have this requirement. Some use animations, which may require downloading a program that runs the proper type of animation (e.g. Shockwave). Many more simulations are available on CD-ROMs or disks. Some can be downloaded from the internet. Among the most famous simulations are the very simple ones included in the Microsoft Encarta CD-ROM Encyclopedia, and the very complex game-like ones from Maxis Corporation, such as SimLife and SimAnt. Intermediate in complexity are ones included in the Dorling Kindersley Eyewitness Encyclopedia of Science and David Macauley's _The Way Things Work_ (intended for younger students, but still interesting at all levels). Your major department at Brooklyn College may also have a collection of interactive and simulation software for science.

Links to information on interactive software for science learning

Notes and Warnings !

To use or try out many of the demos you will find by linking to these websites, you will need to download and run the programs. Usually these are DEMO programs, short simplified versions of the full programs. You should always scan a downloaded program for VIRUSes before activating (running, executing) it. There is more risk with programs that are not from major companies. A Shareware program is one that you can usually try out for free, but are expected to pay a registration fee for if you continue to use it. Some shareware programs will stop running after a certain period of time unless you register and pay for them, but they are usually cheap and bargains. A Freeware program is really free, and some of them are very good, but some are not and can crash your computer (no harm, just start over). Freeware programs are also the most likely sources of viruses, so check them carefully before running them.

When you download a program, it may be in executable form: program.exe, or it may be in compressed form (usually Some compressed.exe programs will expand themselves when you execute them into several files, one of which is the actual program.exe and the others will be supplementary information. Some programs need to be installed, and do not run just by clicking on them. A compressed program can only be expanded into the actual running program.exe by means of a special utility program (usually winzip.exe for Windows); this program is free and can also be downloaded from the internet. It is worth having on your computer.

Finally, when downloading programs, always check that you have the right VERSION for your own computer's operating system (Windows95, Windows 3.1x, or Macintosh). Even if there is no virus or bug in a program, it will crash your system if it is the wrong version. Usually this causes no harm, but you must restart your computer and never run that wrong version again.