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A Crafts-Oriented Approach to Computing in High School: Introducing Computational Concepts, Practices, and Perspectives with Electronic Textiles

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In this article, we examine the use of electronic textiles (e-textiles) for introducing key computational concepts and practices while broadening perceptions about computing. The starting point of our work was the design and implementation of a curriculum module using the LilyPad Arduino in a pre-AP high school computer science class. To understand students’ learning, we analyzed the structure and functionality of their circuits and program code as well as their design approaches to making and debugging their e-textile creations and their views of computing. We also studied students’ changing perceptions of computing. Our discussion addresses the need for and design of scaffolded challenges and the potential for using crafts materials and activities such as e-textiles for designing introductory courses that can broaden participation in computing.
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... Working with tangible tools, materials, and artifacts using traditional and digital fabrication techniques plays a crucial role in knowledge-creating learning through invention processes (Blikstein, 2013;Kafai et al., 2014;Kangas et al., 2013;Riikonen et al., 2020a). In invention pedagogy, the material approach through crafting and making is present throughout the whole process, enabling and often triggering the implementation of all the other technological competencies of the project. ...
... Students can embed a compact microcontroller board in their invention to make it "intelligent." Some boards are specifically designed to allow easy attachment to fabric materials by sewing to create so-called e-textiles (see e.g., Kafai et al., 2014). Their programs can use the onboard or separately attached sensors to monitor the surroundings, control movement through servo motors, and communicate with the user using LEDs, buzzers, and speakers. ...
... Some resources focus on integrating science through physical computing to teach concepts related to the function of a four-chambered heart (TI, 2017a), plant physiology (Sacay & Molisani, 2016), irrigation systems (TI, 2017b), automated farming (Simpson, 2017), smart greenhouses (Jackson et al., 2022), and composting ecosystems (Chakarov et al., 2021). Additionally, some resources have focused on integrating physical computing from a T&E lens, addressing applications such as smart home devices (Love, Tomlinson, & Dunn, 2016), manufacturing systems (Brinkmeier & Kalbreyer, 2016), autonomous vehicles (Love & Bhatty, 2019), micro electric vehicles (Bartholomew et al., 2020), e-textiles (Kafai et al., 2014;Litts et al., 2017;Lui et al., 2020;Peppler, 2016;Strimel et al., 2019), the engineering design process (Love & Griess, 2020), and robotics (Berland & Wilensky, 2015;Schulz & Pinkwart, 2016). Physical computing learning experiences have been shown to be appropriate in elementary (e.g., Love & Griess, 2020;Plaza et al., 2018;Strimel et al., 2019), middle school (e.g., Berland & Wilensky, 2015;Cederqvist, 2021;Chakarov et al., 2021;Jackson et al., 2022;Love & Bhatty, 2019;Peppler, 2016;Sentance, Waite, Hodges, MacLeod, & Yeomans, 2017) and high school (Brinkmeier & Kalbreyer, 2016;Kafai et al., 2014;Litts et al., 2017;Lui et al., 2020;Sacay & Molisani, 2016;Schulz & Pinkwart, 2016;TI, 2017aTI, , 2017b settings. ...
... Additionally, some resources have focused on integrating physical computing from a T&E lens, addressing applications such as smart home devices (Love, Tomlinson, & Dunn, 2016), manufacturing systems (Brinkmeier & Kalbreyer, 2016), autonomous vehicles (Love & Bhatty, 2019), micro electric vehicles (Bartholomew et al., 2020), e-textiles (Kafai et al., 2014;Litts et al., 2017;Lui et al., 2020;Peppler, 2016;Strimel et al., 2019), the engineering design process (Love & Griess, 2020), and robotics (Berland & Wilensky, 2015;Schulz & Pinkwart, 2016). Physical computing learning experiences have been shown to be appropriate in elementary (e.g., Love & Griess, 2020;Plaza et al., 2018;Strimel et al., 2019), middle school (e.g., Berland & Wilensky, 2015;Cederqvist, 2021;Chakarov et al., 2021;Jackson et al., 2022;Love & Bhatty, 2019;Peppler, 2016;Sentance, Waite, Hodges, MacLeod, & Yeomans, 2017) and high school (Brinkmeier & Kalbreyer, 2016;Kafai et al., 2014;Litts et al., 2017;Lui et al., 2020;Sacay & Molisani, 2016;Schulz & Pinkwart, 2016;TI, 2017aTI, , 2017b settings. Waite's (2017) Although physical computing activities have been found to be applicable across the K-12 spectrum, they are less common at the elementary level due to the advanced technical knowledge and skills inherently required for physical computing activities (e.g., programming and electronic sensors), budgetary restrictions, and lack of preparation among many elementary educators to teach the full breadth of concepts associated with physical computing lessons (Pye Tait, 2017). ...
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... Open-ended projects allow students to develop a personal relationship with the physical artifact they create [21]. We prioritize the ability for students to personalize their projects in deeply personal and meaningful ways by emphasizing student designs as a precursor activity upon which we situate future knowledge construction [16]. Focusing on learner identities within computing has been shown to promote a richer understanding of learning and teaching in CS education [20]. ...
Conference Paper
In July 2021, Computer Science (CS) standards were officially added as a subject area within the K-12 Montana content standards. However, due to a lack of professional development and pre-service preparation in CS, schools and teachers in Montana are underprepared to implement these standards. Montana is also a unique state, since American Indian education is mandated by the state constitution in what is known as the Indian Education for All Act. We are developing elementary and middle school units and teacher training materials that simultaneously address CS, Indian Education, and other Montana content standards. In this paper, we present a unit for fourth through sixth grades using a participatory design approach. Through physical computing, students create a visual narrative of their own stories inspired by ledger art, an American Indian art medium for recording lived experiences. We discuss the affordances and challenges of an integrated approach to CS teaching and learning in elementary and middle schools in Montana.
... Physical computing systems are becoming more accessible for use in primary and secondary education classrooms because of user-friendly interfaces and decreasing costs (Anastopoulou et al., 2012;Blikstein, 2013;Blikstein and Moghadam, 2019). Generally, physical computing offers an alternative set of introductory activities to engage students in computing and broaden their definition of computer science as a discipline (Kafai et al., 2014). For example, electronic textiles (e-textiles) provide an opportunity to integrate computer science and art through the fabrication of textiles (such as clothing) enhanced with electronics (Buechley et al., 2008;Peppler, 2013). ...
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