Touch tablet devices (such as the iPad) and interactive whiteboards are rapidly being adopted by schools. However, we have been unable to identify any secondary-level educational materials for these technologies that address neurophysiology and all of the sensory systems as well as fully utilize the touch interface for learning. To address this need, the Genetic Science Learning Center (GSLC) at the University of Utah will utilize its award-winning expertise in developing effective, interactive, multimedia learning experiences to produce educational materials on the neurobiology of the five senses, designed specifically for touch interface devices. The materials will address middle and high school national science education standards for life science, including structure and function in living systems, cells, and the behavior of organisms. The goals of The Neuroscience of Our Senses project are to (1) educate secondary-level students and teachers about the neurobiology of the five sensory systems, and (2) prepare teachers to use The Neuroscience of Our Senses educational materials through workshops at the local, state, regional, and national levels and two national dissemination courses. The project will take advantage of the GSLC team's synergistic expertise in science, education, interactive media, visualization, programming languages, and evaluation, building on our 16 years of experience in producing highly successful online curriculum materials, as well as our recent experience in producing materials for touch interface devices. The materials will be produced using the GSLC's proven curriculum development process, which incorporates a participatory design approach that involves secondary life science teachers, scientists, and our project team. The materials will incorporate several levels of exploration and interaction, and as such will serve as an innovative model for inquiry-based, multimedia educational materials designed for touch interfaces. Web- based materials will provide (a) teacher resources including instructional strategies and lesson plans, (b) teacher professional development materials, (c) materials for presenting training workshops on the materials, and (d) resources for sign language interpreters. Together, five "mini-modules" will comprise at least two weeks of instruction. They will be available for iOS devices (e.g., the iPad), Android devices (e.g., the Motorola Xoom), and interactive white boards. A small-scale, randomized control trial will compare the efficacy of the materials to standard curriculum materials. Two dissemination summer institutes will prepare teachers to present workshops for colleagues in their districts or states. Workshops also will be presented at four regional and national science teacher conferences. Together, these dissemination efforts will prepare over 850 teachers from across the US to use the materials with their students. The materials will be freely disseminated via the Apple App Store and the Android Marketplace.

Public Health Relevance

The Neuroscience of Our Senses project will educate secondary students, teachers and other adults about the neurobiology of the five human sensory systems. The goal is for people to better understand (a) how their body functions and (b) how research is providing insights into this functioning that can lead to improved treatments for impairments in these systems.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
Education Projects (R25)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZDA1-GXM-A (12))
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Sasek, Cathrine
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University of Utah
Schools of Medicine
Salt Lake City
United States
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