Peppler, K. & Glosson, D. J Sci Educ Technol (2013) 22: 751. doi:10.1007/s10956-012-9428-2
Central to our understanding of learning is the relationship between various tools and technologies and the structuring of disciplinary subject matter. One of the staples of early science education curriculum is the use of electrical circuit toolkits to engage students in broader discussions of energy. Traditionally, these concepts are introduced to youth using battery packs, insulated wire and light bulbs. However, there are affordances and limitations in the way this toolset highlights certain conceptual aspects while obscuring others, which we argue leads to common misconceptions about electrical circuitry. By contrast, we offer an alternative approach utilizing an e-textiles toolkit for developing understanding of electrical circuitry, testing the efficacy of this approach for learning in elective settings to pave the way for later classroom adoption. This study found that youth who engaged in e-textile design demonstrated significant gains in their ability to diagram a working circuit, as well as significant gains in their understanding of current flow, polarity and connections. The implications for rethinking our current toolkits for teaching conceptual understanding in science are discussed.