EXP: BodyVis: Advancing New Science Learning and Inquiry Experiences via Custom Designed Wearable On-Body Sensing and Visualization

PIs: Jon Froehlich, Tamara Clegg
University of Maryland College Park
Award Details

As technologies become smaller and more portable, the possibility of wearable computing becomes more and more realistic. This proposal takes advantage of this possibility to help elementary school aged children learn about anatomy and physiology by making clothing with sensors and displays to help kids see how their own bodies work. For example, a life-sized pair of lungs on a shirt might light up to show how air flows in and out of a child’s lungs in time with their own breathing.

The project has interconnected research and design activities. A formative inquiry phase will document what kids do and do not understand about their bodies through surveys, interviews, and a “body map” approach, while in-service elementary school teachers in a STEM education Master’s degree program will be probed as to learning goals for kids in this domain. An iterative, participatory and informant design process will then be used to refine e-textile shirts and associated learning activities in two contexts that host underserved youth: the CASA de Maryland, and the Boys and Girls Club of Hartford County. Co-design will also be undertaken with teachers. Finally, learning studies will be done on children in schools and informal settings to probe students’ pre-post gains in physiology and anatomy knowledge, and knowledge of how everyday activities change health and biological processes in the body. Video observation and logfiles will be used to study the learning activities themselves, and coded using Chinn and Malhotra’s framework for scientific inquiry. Finally, the technology designs themselves and relevant activities will be disseminated through the use of online portals such as Instructables, so that other educators can build or experiment with similar health education wearables.

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