Fifth graders as app designers: How diverse learners conceptualize educational apps

Maya Israel, Matthew T. Marino, James D. Basham, Wenonoa Spivak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Instructional designers are increasingly considering how to include students as participants in the design of instructional technologies. This study provides a lens into participatory design with students by examining how students conceptualized learning applications in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) by designing paper prototypes of a learning application related to circuits and electricity. Eighty-nine fifth grade students, including students with learning disabilities and English language learners, participated in this study. Findings of this study indicated that all students conceptualized learning applications as a game and built scaffolds into the gameplay to encourage both content mastery and advancement in the game. Each of the paper prototypes that the students developed provided opportunities for progressive complexity of gameplay related to electricity and circuits as well as options for customization and building background knowledge. Finally, this article identifies implications of these results and considerations for future research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)53-80
Number of pages28
JournalJournal of Research on Technology in Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2013


  • App design
  • Mobile learning
  • Participatory design
  • STEM

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Computer Science Applications


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