Journal of Science Education and Technology

, Volume 27, Issue 6, pp 566–580 | Cite as

Learning Neuroscience with Technology: a Scaffolded, Active Learning Approach

  • Katrina B. Schleisman
  • S. Selcen Guzey
  • Richard Lie
  • Michael Michlin
  • Christopher Desjardins
  • Hazel S. Shackleton
  • August C. Schwerdfeger
  • Martin Michalowski
  • Janet M. DubinskyEmail author


Mobile applications (apps) for learning technical scientific content are becoming increasingly popular in educational settings. Neuroscience is often considered complex and challenging for most students to understand conceptually. iNeuron is a recently developed iOS app that teaches basic neuroscience in the context of a series of scaffolded challenges to create neural circuits and increase understanding of nervous system structure and function. In this study, four different ways to implement the app within a classroom setting were explored. The goal of the study was to determine the app’s effectiveness under conditions closely approximating real-world use and to evaluate whether collaborative play and student-driven navigational features contributed to its effectiveness. Students used the app either individually or in small groups and used a version with either a fixed or variable learning sequence. Student performance on a pre- and post-neuroscience content assessment was analyzed and compared between students who used the app and a control group receiving standard instruction, and logged app data were analyzed. Significantly, greater learning gains were found for all students who used the app compared to control. All four implementation modes were effective in producing student learning gains relative to controls, but did not differ in their effectiveness to one another. In addition, students demonstrated transfer of information learned in one context to another within the app. These results suggest that teacher-led neuroscience instruction can be effectively supported by a scaffolded, technology-based curriculum which can be implemented in multiple ways to enhance student learning.


Educational games Educational technology Neuroscience education Student learning 



We would like to thank Dr. Nelson Soken, Kyle Nelson, Todd Carpenter, and Adam Gordon for their contributions to this project. We would like to thank all teachers who participated in the piloting and study, and especially Jeff Thompson for his extensive feedback.

Funding Information

This research was funded by National Institutes of Health R44MH096674 to MM and JMD.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Conflict of Interest

HSS, ACS, and MM are employees of the company that owns the app and may benefit from its sale. KBS has multiple affiliations and was eventually hired as an employee of the company that owns the app.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Katrina B. Schleisman
    • 1
    • 2
  • S. Selcen Guzey
    • 3
    • 4
  • Richard Lie
    • 4
  • Michael Michlin
    • 5
  • Christopher Desjardins
    • 5
  • Hazel S. Shackleton
    • 1
  • August C. Schwerdfeger
    • 1
  • Martin Michalowski
    • 1
  • Janet M. Dubinsky
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Andamio GamesMinneapolisUSA
  2. 2.Department of NeuroscienceUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA
  3. 3.Department of Curriculum & InstructionPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA
  4. 4.Department of Biological SciencesPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA
  5. 5.Center for Applied Research & Educational ImprovementUniversity of MinnesotaSt. PaulUSA

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