Education Opinion

For Ed. Tech to Actually Work, It Has to Embrace Neuroscience

By Matthew Lynch — January 22, 2018 3 min read
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In the growing world of educational technology, the question is often explored whether these applications work for students. The answer is, they can when they take into account how people learn. Products designed with the understanding of the cognitive mind will outperform their competitors. What do edtech developers actually need to consider to succeed?

The Science of Learning

Neuroscience is the study of how the human nervous system develops, its structure, and function. The subcategories of computational, cognitive, cultural, linguistic and developmental neuroscience focus on different pathways in learning. We can derive a greater understanding of how our minds develop, what influences higher education functions, and how to better retain information from the science behind learning.

Embracing Research in Edtech

The combined knowledge we have available from neuroscience research can be applied to practical learning. It is the job of educators and companies to understand the importance of neuroscience studies. Some of the most significant contributions science has given education are as follows.


The importance of elaboration in learning is firmly rooted in scientific research. This concept says that connecting new ideas with existing ideas helps us remember them. Additionally, using multiple ways to discuss new information creates stronger ties in the brain. Using mind maps, connecting learning through games, and group discussion are all means to increase data retention.

Spaced Learning

Paying particular attention to how lessons, revisions, and tests are spaced can help students overcome the forgetting curve and retain new information. This concept is known as spacing and is supported by research into how our brains hold onto memory.

Retrieval Practice

In education, the primary focus is usually giving information to students. Science, however, says we should give more attention to getting information out of students’ minds. The reason for this shift is the acknowledgment that long-term memory benefits from more challenging learning practices. Tasks that require our brains to search for information actually help build long-term knowledge.

For those companies which incorporate the principles of better learning into their products, the possibilities are endless. The conclusions provided by the Edtech Efficacy Research Academic Symposium suggested that developers take a more hands-on approach towards studying the efficacy of their products. Committing to better research can increase the application and use of education technology in classrooms around the world.

Creating Better Tech

Since the use of technology in schools continues to grow, reaching 74 million students in 2017, the responsibility to understand and incorporate neuroscience research into edtech is enormous. Developers need to embrace the research and work to improve learning for students across the board. It’s important that companies aren’t touting science-based learning without full comprehension of the information.

A good jumping-off-point for developers looking to improve the products they offer to educators are Smart Sparrow’s five principles for learning design. The directives ask edtech companies to consider how their tools will benefit education and students. From there, more in-depth concepts, like those employed by Pearson, need to guide product design to follow research trends.

As a whole, the edtech industry needs to commit to understanding and implementing neuroscience into their products. Through applied sciences, we can improve student learning on a grand scale.

What applications embody the integration of neuroscience in edtech? We want to hear your opinions and experience.

The opinions expressed in Education Futures: Emerging Trends in K-12 are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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