Using Models in K12 Education

Using Computer Models in K-12 Education

Karen E. Irving, PhD, Department of Teaching and Learning, The Ohio State University

Steven I. Gordon, PhD, The Ohio Supercomputer Center


Computer models can play an important role in science and math education by providing students with visual representations of complex scientific phenomena.  Models allow students to conduct virtual experiments which provide insights into the behavior of objects at many scales - from atomic or molecular scales up to ecosystem and astronomical scales.  Exercises that use inquiry-based learning provides students with the opportunity to explore on their own and gain a deeper understanding of the materials they are learning.

As part of the efforts for the XSEDE education program ( we have created several example exercises using computer models to explore scientific phenomena that could be used as part of a methods or science education course for pre-service teachers.  We have selected a few examples from a wide array of available simulations available on the Internet.  The examples come from three different collections of science models: the Phet collection at the University of Colorado, ExploreLearning, and the Molecular Workbench.  Phet and the Molecular Workbench models are available for free.  ExploreLearning is a commercial site which allows previews of their models but requires a license to fully use the site.  There are many other sources of related materials many of which can be found on the list here:

We are seeking partner institutions that are interested in using these materials in their teacher education programs.  Feedback on the materials is welcome and can be sent to Steven Gordon at the Ohio Supercomputer Center (

Introduction and Chemistry Examples

Physics Examples

Ecology Examples