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Icon for: Seokbin Kang


University of Maryland

BodyVis: Advancing New Science Learning and Inquiry Experiences via Custom D...

NSF Awards: 1441184

2016 (see original presentation & discussion)

Grades K-6, Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12

The Cyberlearning and Future Learning Technologies Program funds efforts that will help envision the next generation of learning technologies and advance what we know about how people learn in technology-rich environments. Cyberlearning Exploration (EXP) Projects explore the viability of new kinds of learning technologies by building examples and studying their possibilities for fostering learning as well as challenges to using them well. 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.

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Discussion from the NSF 2016 STEM For All Video Showcase (10 posts)
  • Icon for: Jenna Marks

    Jenna Marks

    Doctoral Student in Cognitive Studies in Education
    May 17, 2016 | 10:02 a.m.

    This is fascinating! I have done some work in the past on embodied cognition and deep, meaningful learning and your designs seems like an excellent example of putting this research to use.

    While tinkering with your tools will definitely be educational and engaging for students to notice and begin to think about how different pieces of their body function, I can’t help but think that a curricular component is needed to really solidify this information. Have you thought about or have you developed any curriculum to use alongside the technology?

  • Jon Froehlich

    May 17, 2016 | 08:55 p.m.

    Hi Jenna,

    We completely agree. Throughout our design process we have worked with in-service elementary school teachers to help shape our technology and co-design learning activities for our prototypes. In addition, one College of Education PhD student team member (who has since graduated) was a former teacher. She helped bring a crucial pragmatic perspective to the work and also helped create explicit links to Next Generation Science Standards. However, there is still much to do, many possibilities to explore, and we are always looking for helpful suggestions. :)

    Thanks for your comments,

  • Icon for: Pati Ruiz

    Pati Ruiz

    Dean of Studies
    May 17, 2016 | 10:07 a.m.

    BodyVis and SharedPhys are great approaches to engaging children in learning experiences while integrating STEM, movement, and even making. These cognitive and interactive tools seem to really engage learners.

    How are you making sure all learners are benefiting from them? Is this something that you hope to deploy in classrooms or in informal learning environments like museums or maker space? Also, are learners participating in the creation of these tools? Will they eventually?

  • Jon Froehlich

    May 17, 2016 | 08:47 p.m.

    Great questions Pati.

    Re: how can we ensure that all learners are benefiting from our prototypes. I think that this is a challenge for any emerging technology due to access and cost issues. Our project is no different. However, we have tried to engage a diverse set of children and teachers in our design process to make sure that different perspectives are represented in our designs.

    An additional way to scale-up access is to democratize who can create BodyVis-like tools, as your post suggests. Our team has brainstormed ways in positioning children not just as users of e-textile/wearable learning platforms but also as makers. We’re excited with this possibility—this constructionist perspective resonates strongly with our team :)—and we have discussed it informally in our co-design groups with teachers but have not yet pursued it.

    In terms of deployments, as early work, we’re interested in exploring our prototypes in a range of contexts and learning environments. Thus far, we have largely focused on informal learning environments (e.g., after school programs) but we are working with local school districts to implement our tools into science curriculum. For the informal learning evaluations, we have performed six BodyVis and six separate SharedPhys study sessions with 130 children aged 5-13.

  • Icon for: Pati Ruiz

    Pati Ruiz

    Dean of Studies
    May 18, 2016 | 10:57 a.m.

    Thank you for all of that information. It sounds like you are doing some great work in this space and it really looks like the children you work with are enjoying both of your tools. I will be following your project to see what you learn!

  • Icon for: Avron Barr

    Avron Barr

    May 17, 2016 | 08:16 p.m.

    Very creative work and an enjoyable video. Thank you. Did you have any trouble keeping all the equipment working (wifi, augmented reality, sensors, bluetooth, visualization, …)? Any other challenges you had to overcome? What’s your next step?

  • Jon Froehlich

    May 17, 2016 | 08:59 p.m.

    Thanks for your questions Avron—they reveal, perhaps, firsthand experience with the challenges of integrating technology into learning environments. :)

    The short answer is: yes. We have had many technology issues along the way from wires shorting to batteries draining and Bluetooth disconnecting. However, we pilot test and stress test our prototypes multiple times before our actual deployments with children. So, we have largely been fortunate that no major tech disasters have occurred.

    Two brief stories worth sharing:

    For one SharedPhys deployment site, we had to bring our own projector, our own large-screen display, and a ladder for the projector to sit on in addition to all our other equipment. This was difficult to fit in our car, as you might imagine. :)

    The chest-worn physiological sensors that we are using are not designed for children (but instead for athletes and soldiers), so we have gone through a few iterations of modifying the straps to properly fit children’s bodies (a tight fit is necessary to properly sense data and to prevent the sensors from moving during all of the activities that the prototypes encourage).

  • Megan Smith

    May 18, 2016 | 08:36 p.m.

    As a former second grade teacher, I see huge potential in this project! Studying the body is so abstract for young students because they can’t actually see what they’re learning. BodyVis gives them a very concrete understanding of the roles and functions of their inner organs.

    What was the inspiration behind this project? Is this something that you’re hoping to extend to additional schools and/or districts?

  • Jon Froehlich

    May 19, 2016 | 03:38 p.m.

    Thanks so much for your interest Megan.

    The original inspiration for this project was an e-textile project called Warning Signs developed by Nien Lam and Sue Ngo: http://nienlam.com/post/114985415378/warning-signs. I use this project in my teaching (e.g., http://cmsc838f-s15.wikispaces.com/). During a class discussion, a student, Leyla Norooz, thought that this type of approach could be the basis for an exciting new way to learn about the body—others agreed, and so she started working on it for her MS thesis project.

    We are currently working with the Prince George’s County school system to evaluate BodyVis and SharedPhys in the classroom. We are always looking for other partners as well. :)

  • Jon Froehlich

    May 19, 2016 | 03:39 p.m.

    If you would like to find out more about these projects, here are some recent academic publications:

    - BodyVis: http://www.cs.umd.edu/~jonf/publications/Norooz...

    - SharedPhys: http://www.cs.umd.edu/~jonf/publications/Kang_S...

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