Adventium Labs and the University of Minnesota (UMN) propose to develop a participatory educational toolkit and curriculum to teach neuroscience and mental health concepts via exploratory and investigative learning that integrates nervous system function with engineering, technology and mathematics concepts. iNeuron" models neuronal, synaptic, and circuit functions, and will provide an engaging, hands-on, problem-solving learning environment using mobile computing devices that are growing more common in classrooms. This project will combine development of 1) a flexible, multimodal software architecture integrating classroom level and distributed classroom learning environments hosted on multiple, interactive hand-held devices with centralized management and coordination and 2) an immersive story-based set of neuroscience challenges to teach key concepts by transforming a set of handheld electronic devices into functionally connected neurons. By engaging in solving these challenges, students will deepen their understanding of how their own brains control body and cognitive functions and change with learning. Subsequently, the students'understanding that they are in charge of changing their own brains is expected to motivate learners to apply themselves in school. We showed in Phase 1 that given the high motivational value associated with using up-to-date technology, an interactive neuroscience-based application for mobile devices (iNeuron) is an attractive and practical strategy for disseminating neuroscience concepts. Phase 2 builds upon this established foundation to further improve student learning outcomes. The results of the proposed research will deploy an easy-to-use, engaging, and teacher-customizable platform for teaching neuroscience curricula, including the new Next Generation Science Standards. Adventium has partnered with neuroscientists from the University of Minnesota and a software development company to develop a general-purpose framework to teach STEM subjects using a mobile device in the form of a teaching aid, providing collaborative technology-based environments to teach complex concepts. Phase 2 will deliver the iNeuron application running on iPods and iPads, a teacher dashboard application that allows teachers to customize content to classrooms and monitor while interacting with students as they complete challenges, and information presentation, interaction models, and game strategies that encourage effective and efficient learning.
This SBIR directly supports the Next Generation Science Standards and the NIH Neuroscience Blueprint goal of promoting neuroscience knowledge acquisition and application of that knowledge to one's own life by providing a robust teaching tool for exploratory and investigative learning integrating engineering, technology and mathematics concepts with nervous system function. Based on the successful proof-of-concept evaluation, the resulting educational tool will increase K-12 student and general public understanding of normal nervous system function as well as drug interactions, and mental and neurological disorders. It will directly support the NIH Blueprint and the following educational standards: National Science Education Standards, AAAS Project 2061 Benchmarks, Standards for Technology Literacy, National Educational Technology Standards, Principles and Standards for School Mathematics, and numerous state standards including those from California, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, and Texas. Additionally, the Next Generation Science Standards, to be released on April 12th 2013, will be supported by the newly created content in Phase 2.