Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.


Emerging technologies, such as virtual reality, haptics, and 3-dimensionality, provide novel opportunities to allow students to investigate scientific phenomena by fostering perceptions of virtual presence, the feeling of being sensorially immersed and authentically interacting within a computer-generated virtual learning environment (VLE). Neurotypical learners are largely represented in VLE research on science learning, with fewer with neurodivergent learners, such as students with ADHD. This descriptive case study sought to address the dearth in the literature on neurodivergent students’ experiences, with emerging technologies, for learning science. Specifically, the case describes the extent to which neurodivergent learners experience the affordances of VLEs for science learning, as compared to their neurotypical peers, in: zooming, spatially orienting and rotating objects, viewing multiple representations and abstract processes in real-time, as well engaging in risk through multiple trials. Five middle grades students (diagnosed with ADHD) were assessed and observed using a tool (zSpace) that combines emerging technologies to learn cardiac anatomy and physiology. Students’ utterances of virtual presence and technological affordances were coded, and frequency counts and percentages were calculated, both individually and collectively. The results found that students most described sensory (41%), control (30%), and realism (26%) constructs with fewer reports of holding their attention (3%). Analyses of cardiac assessments found gains in scores for spatial rotation and viewing abstract processes, no change in score in viewing multiple representations, and a decrease in scores for spatial orientation. This case study provides unique insight into the needs of neurodivergent learners when using emerging technologies for science learning.