PhET Interactive Simulations

This week, we are covering types of reactions and balancing equation in Chemistry. The PhET (Physics Education Technology) Interactive Simulations really help my students understand the basis of why equations must be balanced, helping them relate back to the idea of Conservation of Matter.

There are over 100 simulations on their website, all are FREE! Many of the older ones, such as Gas Properties, require Java and can only run on a computer. The newer ones, such as Balancing Chemical Equations, have been converted to HTML5.

The simulations are not limited to Chemistry topics. There are also simulations for Biology, Physics, Earth Science, and Math.

Mobile app versions are available for iOS and Android devices for a nominal fee.

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Gene Expression


DNA Interactive

DNA Interactive (, in conjunction with DNA Learning Center, is an amazing resource with interactive activities for students: Timeline of discoveries in genes and molecular biology, how DNA and its structure provide the basis for genes and gene expression. The animations on DNA replication, transcription, and translation are SUPERB. I started using these when they came out on DVD. I’m so glad they have these animations available on YouTube now as well. Here’s the one on DNA Transcription.

Teachers can register for a free account with access to resources: teacher’s guide, student worksheets, answer sheets.

One warning: the site does not work on the iPads since it requires Flash to work.

National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science

This is a great resource to find case studies for problem-based learning or for alternative assessments. I like giving students selected cases from this site as a teaching tool for my students.

Hemophilia: “The Royal Disease” is a great one to discuss sex-linked traits during the Genetics unit. My students are often intrigued by about hemophilia has affected the royal family.



HHMI BioInteractive

In my Biology curriculum, natural selection and evolution are heavily stressed. To help students understand these concepts, I use the HHMI BioInteractive on the Making of the Fittest. The lesson plan on Rock Pocket Mice is very good. My 9th grade Biology students enjoy learning about these furry little mice and how a change in the environment has changed their allele frequency over time. There’s a pre-test as well as a post-test to gauge student’s understanding.


PBS: Botany of Desire

The Botany of Desire is a book written by Michael Pollan. PBS has created a documentary based on the book to highlight how human have artificially selected for specific traits in plants for agriculture purposes.

There are interactive activities on the websites with lesson plans on the website.



Annenberg Learner: The World of Chemistry

The Annenberg Learner offers many resources for both teachers and students.

The World of Chemistry is a video series for High School or College Chemistry students. They can watch the video at their own pace to clarify concepts discussed in class. Although the series can be used on their own, I use it as a supplemental material to the Chemistry curriculum.




Google Slides is my go-to tool for creating presentations. It’s also a wonderful tool for my students to collaborate on a presentation. However, there is no way to record a presentation directly on Google Slides. Thus, I have my students export their Google Slides as a PDF, then upload the PDF to VoiceThread to record their presentations. It works well with face-to-face classes, but even better for online classes for the annotation and voice comment abilities.

Here’s an example of a student-created VoiceThread from my Global Health class in Fall 2015.





Evernote is my go-to note taking app. The company’s motto is “Remember everything”. I can create notes with text, pictures, PDF, etc. I can access these notes from anywhere with internet connection. I love the ability to tag each note with keywords for ease of search. I can also organize notes into folder. And I can share notes and folders with others for collaboration.
When I see an article I would like to read later, I use the Evernote Web Clipper (extension on Chrome) to save it to my Evernote account to read later.
I use Skitch on both the MacOS and iOS to annotate images or screenshots.
I use Scannable to quickly make digital copies, then save to Evernote.