Animations and Simulations are a great way to engage students in learning of more complex concepts. Computer simulations can recreate all kinds of processes both physical and social (Marsh, 2008). Simulations allow students to get fully involved in learning and allows concepts to be more easily understood and gives students the feeling of being 'right there'. It can also be a great tool for teachers to explain a procedure or concept and give the students the opportunity to revisit the experiment/experience at a latter date.
I would however argue that students seem to, more and more, live in a simulated environment and in some cases miss out on the hands on experiences. What happened to the days when students got right in on the action and got their hands dirty? In my experience students love the gory details of dissecting a frog! Don't get me wrong, I do think animations and simulations have their advantages, when used appropriately!
Marsh, C. (5th Ed.). (2008). Studies of Society and Environment, Exploring The Teaching Possibilities. Frenchs Forest: Pearson Education Australia.