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Peer Review

Flash Animations for Physics



Overall Numeric Rating:

4 stars
Content Quality: 4 stars
Effectiveness: 4 stars
Ease of Use: 5 stars
Reviewed: Jun 19, 2012 by Physics
Overview: This is a broad collection of approximately one hundred Flash simulations and animations of physics topics, concepts, and systems. Topics include classical mechanics, electricty & magnetism, fluid mechanics, chaos, optics and modern physics. Each animation provides a visual description of the topic covered and, in most cases, explanatory text. Some of these resources are simple animations and others are more interactive virtual experiments or tutorials.
Type of Material: Flash simulations and animations, with tutorial text.
Recommended Uses: Classroom demos, reviews and tutorials. Some animations can be used as virtual labs.
Technical Requirements: Flash player, Flash 6 or higher.
Identify Major Learning Goals: Students can visualize fundamental physical concepts and processes.
Target Student Population: This material ranges from high school materials to resources appropriate for junior and senior level physics majors.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills: As these are supplemental resources. Previous introduction to the topics through classes or texts is required.

Evaluation and Observation

Content Quality

Rating: 4 stars
Strengths: These Flash animations provide clear visual representations of a broad range of topics in physics. Many of these are computer representations of common physical concepts with, in most cases, short explanations of the physics being displayed. Many of the resources provide simple controls for the user to explore the simulation.

Some of these resources are longer, multi-page tutorials explaining a concept in more detail. These step through explanations with short, readable pages and integrated illustrations.

The breadth of materials is a notable strength of the collection. Topics range from basic introductory mechanics through non-linear systems and quantum mechanics. Some of the high points are the animations illustrating micrometer and oscilloscope operations, the quantum mechanics examples (especially the Bell's theorem animation), and the relativity animations.

Concerns: The Boyle's law animation is unclear, showing a change in the shade of a gas in a cylinder as the cylinder is compressed.

In the motion animation, it is difficult to see any change in the motion of the image of the car as a function of the acceleration when the acceleration is positive. The effect of the acceleration is clear when it is negative.

Many of these animations have little interactivity for the student. They are strictly animated illustrations.

Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool

Rating: 4 stars
Strengths: Most of the animations here would be excellent for classroom demos or incorporation into on-line course materials. Some of the interactive ones (e.g. projectile motion) could also be used for student assignments.
Concerns: Many of the animations contain little explanatory text. Instructors will therefore need to provide the context for student use of these simulations to help ensure that the students grasp the important aspects of the physics. Also, there is a wide variety of types of resources, ranging from simple illustrations to multi-page tutorials. Instructors wishing to assign these materials to their students should check the appropriateness for their class.

Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty

Rating: 5 stars
Strengths: The animations are very well produced, clear, and easily run. Graphs are excellent, the controls are very intuitive and work flawlessly. Most file sizes are small.
Concerns: Finding an animation on a particular topic requires scanning through a long list, although the break down by topic and the titles make this relatively easy to do.