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Cupcake cushions, scooby doo shirts, and soft boomboxes: E-textiles in high school to promote computational concepts, practices, and perceptions


Abstract and Figures

In this paper, we present and discuss the use of electronic textiles (e-textiles) for introducing key computational concepts and practices and broadening participation and 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 class. To understand students' learning of concepts, practices, and perceptions of computing, we focused on the structure and functionality of circuits and program code and their design approaches to making and debugging their e-textile creations, and on their views on computing by examining pre-post interviews. Our discussion addresses the challenges and potential of using e-textiles materials and activities for designing introductory courses that can reach a broader student population.
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Cupcake Cushions, Scooby Doo Shirts, and Soft
Boomboxes: E-Textiles in High School to Promote
Computational Concepts, Practices, and Perceptions
Yasmin Kafai, Kristin Searle, Eliot Kaplan*, Deborah Fields**, Eunkyoung Lee, & Debora Lui
University of Pennsylvania *The Westminster Schools **Utah State University
3700 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104,,,,,
In this paper, we present and discuss the use of electronic textiles
(e-textiles) for introducing key computational concepts and
practices and broadening participation and 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 class. To understand students’
learning of concepts, practices, and perceptions of computing, we
focused on the structure and functionality of circuits and program
code and their design approaches to making and debugging their
e-textile creations, and on their views on computing by examining
pre-post interviews. Our discussion addresses the challenges and
potential of using e-textiles materials and activities for designing
introductory courses that can reach a broader student population.
Categories and Subject Descriptors
K.3.0 [Computers and Education]: General
Electronic textiles, education, K-12
In the past decade, many efforts have focused on broadening
access to and participation in computer science education to
address the generally low number of students interested in CS and
the underrepresentation of women and minorities in the US [21].
Some have developed programming tools to simplify the
mechanics of learning to program thus helping young, novice
programmers to become more fluent and expressive with new
technologies [17]. Others have examined the social and cultural
barriers that impede participation [18] or focused on the use of
new activities like game and story design to recruit more girls and
women into computing [8; 10; 13]. Efforts are also underway to
create networks of opportunities through statewide alliances
between schools, afterschool programs and college outreach [3].
New developments of tangible construction kits such as the
Lilypad Arduino [4] include sewable microcontrollers, sensors
and actuators, to teach programming and engineering concepts.
While e-textile construction kits are similar in many functional
aspects to robotics construction kits that connect to engineering
and computing, they use soft materials rather than motors and
gears, and bring in crafting techniques such as sewing that
historically have a more feminine orientation. In previous work
[14], we described youth’s learning with e-textiles in an after
school environment as taking place at the intersections of crafting,
coding, and circuitry, which allowed us to capture the
interdisciplinary nature of e-textile designs. Here, we extend these
descriptions to current developments in computational thinking
[21] using a framework developed by Brennan & Resnick [2] to
make it relevant for in-school application.
In this paper, we report on the design and implementation of a 10-
week e-textile module we conducted with 15 high school students
(16 - 18 years) as part of a pre-AP CS class. We analyzed
students’ completed artifacts, design approaches (and how they
evolved over time), and reflective interviews guided by the
following research questions: (1) How were computational
concepts and practices reflected in the design of students’ e-
textiles? (2) What changed in students’ perceptions of computing?
In the discussion, we highlight what we can learn from our
experiences about developing new introductory courses in K-12
There are many compelling examples of how computing curricula
can not only provide a rich introduction into computational
concepts and practices but also generate personally relevant
contexts, provide bridges to real-world applications, and connect
to larger groups of students. Successful approaches on the college
level have used programming multimedia applications [12],
testing game designs [10], or designing mobile apps [22]. On the
K-12 level, robotics [1], interface designs [23], game design [13]
and storytelling classes [16] have been also successful in
broadening students’ participation in and perceptions of
However, curricular extensions that build on arts and crafts
oriented activities and materials have received far less attention.
The recent development of commercially available e-textile
construction kits such as the LilyPad Arduino and others provides
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the missing connection between craft-based activities and
computing [6]. But so far, most activities have focused on
afterschool programs, leaving the ‘more serious’ programming to
traditional activities. In order to expand the portfolio of available
computing curricula, we developed and implemented an e-textile
unit as one component of a pre-AP CS class in high school.
Bringing e-textiles into the classroom requires us to articulate
what exactly that is that students are engaged in and how their
learning relates to what is valued in computing. In previous work
[14], we conceptualized youth’s learning with e-textiles as taking
place at the intersections of crafting, coding, and circuitry, which
allowed us to capture the interdisciplinary nature of e-textile
designs. Equally important is to establish a connection to
computational thinking that Wing [21] described as the “ability to
engage in problem solving, designing systems, and understand
human behavior” (p. 6). Brennan & Resnick [2] distinguished
between computational concepts, practices and perspectives to
highlight the multiple dimensions of computational thinking.
Computational concepts refer to elements such as sequences,
loops, parallelism, events, conditionals, operators, and data
structures that are present in many programming languages.
Computational practices refer to activities such as being
incremental, reusing and remixing, testing and debugging, and
modularizing and abstracting that designers use to create
programs. While some aspects of concepts and practices appear to
be easily applicable to what is being accomplished in making with
e-textiles, it is not clear how the interdisciplinary elements such
as the circuitry and crafting will be being accounted for in
students’ learning.
Computational perspectives such as expressing, connecting, and
questioning refer to worldviews that designers develop as they
engage with digital media. Computational perspectives connect to
a core concern in broadening participation that focuses on
learners’ perceptions of computing, how students define
computing, where they see applications for computing, and how
they see themselves within the field and future careers. Studies
that have examined students’ perceptions of computing [8; 27]
often hear descriptions such as “being boring or tedious”, “only
for smart students”, “antisocial”, and “lacking creativity.” The
classroom implementation we conducted affords us the
opportunity to re-examine these perceptions because of the
particular positioning of e-textiles within a larger computing
culture. By design, e-textiles are a hybrid, combining traditionally
masculine activities such as engineering and computing with
traditionally feminine activities such as crafting and sewing. We
were interested in whether learning with e-textile materials could
indeed broaden not only participation but also perceptions of
computing. Taken together, the focus on computational concepts,
practices, and perspectives allows us to examine students’
understanding of core CS concepts, the generative thinking
practices students developed through the process of bringing their
e-textile designs to fruition, and students changing perceptions of
computer science.
3.1 Participants
A class of 15 students (7 girls and 8 boys) ages 16-18 years from
a public high school participated in a 10-week (19 meetings) e-
textiles module as part of their elective computer science class.
The students reflected the demographic makeup of the school:
49% African American, 8% Latino, 7% Asian/Pacific Islander,
34% White, and 2% Other. Because the school is a public science
and technology magnet school, each student is issued a laptop.
Students in the class had spent September to March working with
programming in Alice and many had also taken a physics course
where they programmed robots, but students had no prior
experience with e-textiles. The course met twice a week for 65
minutes per session. While the course was implemented twice,
with 15 different students each, in this paper we report only on the
second implementation from March to May 2012. The designer
and teacher of the course was one of the co-authors (Kaplan), a
fourth-year undergraduate majoring in digital media design with
an interest in becoming a computer science teacher. He created
curricular materials and had two years of experience teaching
after-school e-textile workshops but had little classroom teaching
experience. He developed the e-textiles curriculum (described in
more detail in 4.1) and taught it as part of his senior capstone
project for his education minor. Additionally, a graduate student
(Searle) with prior experience in both e-textiles and teaching
collected observational data. She aided students with e-textile
design, construction, and coding as needed and documented
research in field notes and interviews.
3.2 Analysis of E-Textile Projects
We documented students’ design processes through collection of
hand drawn “blueprints” of designs, hourly photographs of their
e-textile designs, and copies of their Arduino code. We then
created portfolios for each student where we combined the
elements described above to provide a more complete portrait of
the learning of computational concepts and practices as students
moved through the process of creating their e-textile artifacts. To
understand students’ learning of computational concepts, we
examined circuit designs, code and final artifacts to evaluate how
students used input/output, digital and analog connections, control
flow, and structures such as sequences, conditionals, loops,
operators, and variables in Arduino. Then, to get a grasp on
students’ learning of computational practices, we inductively
identified different approaches to computing evident in our
observation notes about students’ design processes and within
students’ designs themselves. We classified these approaches as
incremental practices (developing a little bit, trying out), reusing
and remixing practices, and testing and debugging practices.
3.3 Analysis of Interviews
In order to understand students’ computational perceptions, we
analyzed pre/post interviews in which students reflected on their
e-textile designs as indicators for how they saw computation as a
medium for expression. We conducted substantive (30+ minutes
each), semi-structured pre- and post-interviews with 11 of the 15
students in which we asked students how their project had
changed from their early ideas to completion, what they were
most proud of and what was most challenging, what they felt they
had learned about computer science in the process, whether their
ideas about computer science had changed, and whether the
project had influenced their future goals. All interviews were
logged and then analyzed [7] focusing on the three aspects:
personal relevancy of computing, potential study and career path
in computing, and expanded understanding of computing at large.
4.1 Design of e-Textile High School Class
The design of the e-textile class initially followed an outline
proposed by Buechley and colleagues [5] that structured the
course into six units focusing on circuit designs, code, and
materials. While we used some of these units in our course (such
as learning about circuits and code), we decided to design
activities around students’ completion of individual e-textiles
projects that included four or more LEDs (light-emitting diodes)
and two or more electrically conductive patches. Table 1 provides
an overview of the focal daily class activities and materials (e.g.,
sample designs, starter projects, debugging activities, design
consultations, flexible lessons and assessments) that proved to be
instrumental in communicating key ideas and helping students
complete their projects.
Table 1: Overview of e-Textile Class Activities
Days Activity Description
1 -3
Circuits &
Sewing with
Brief review of electricity (how it works, using
a flashlight, introducing basic notations);
Students make simple circuits using alligator
clips, a battery, a switch, and 1 LED followed
by learning how to sew with conductive thread
to create their first soft circuits. Finally, in
pairs or small groups, students work through a
series of simple circuit debugging activities.
4 - 5
with Arduino
& LilyPad
Instructor demonstrates on screen how to
program LEDs on the ProtoSnap board.
Students then program in pairs, turning on
multiple LEDs and exploring various blinking
patterns and other actuators (e.g., vibe board
and sound buzzer). Variables introduced at the
end of day 4.
6-8 Basic E-
Schemes &
Introduction of computational circuit diagrams
showing two conductive patches and four
LEDs connected to the LilyPad. Students
generate their own designs, focusing first on
their chosen aesthetic and later on the logistics
of circuitry and coding. “Design
Consultations” were required before
construction could begin; a course instructor
or expert research team member met
individually with students to finalize their
design diagrams.
9 - 18 Culminating
Coding, &
Students implement their designs, first cutting
pieces of conductive and non-conductive fabric
and ironing these on their project. Then
students sew electrical components together to
the LilyPad, testing each line with alligator
clips and/or a multimeter. Short lessons on
code concepts are interspersed amidst longer
periods where students work on their
individual projects. More complex coding
concepts are introduced on an individual basis
as they are relevant to students’ projects.
Students iteratively test and debug their
designs, developing solutions to address them.
Some students add new components on toward
the end.
19 Final
Students demonstrate and explain their e-
textile project.
In completing their e-textile projects, students demonstrated the
ability to customize designs in ways that were both functional but
also aesthetic, with a personal touch. Projects had to follow
certain guidelines, namely to include a LilyPad microcontroller, 4
LEDs, and at least 2 conductive patches that, when pressed at the
same time, acted as a sensor of electrical resistance. It was the
freedom within these design requirements that afforded creativity
for students’ designs in terms of what they made and how they
made this, which in turn led to deeper learning [11]. In addition,
we provided a template for students showing how these
components could be connected together and required one-on-one
design consultations to help them finalize their circuit designs.
Yet, the diversity of students’ projects surprised us; these
included a stuffed octopus, a soft boombox, a cupcake pillow, a
Scooby Doo shirt, and a Jamaica-themed shirt. Students’ adapted
the template to the requirements of their own projects. For
instance, in making his soft boombox, Lloyd created two sets of 5
LEDs in parallel circuits that interacted with two conductive
patches and a sound buzzer. In his Scooby Doo t-shirt, Will used
4 positive patches that each acted as separate sensors when
connected to a central negative patch. These and other
innovations required intricate circuit topology both for efficiency
(e.g. using a common negative thread to connect multiple LEDs)
and insulation (i.e., keeping positive and negative lines from
touching). Variations of circuitry further led to innovative coding
in order to determine the conditions and effects of the size of the
conductive patches, which provided different ranges of resistance
(from 800-1000, from 450-1000, etc.), the number of patches that
allowed for multiple inputs, and the numbers and placement of
LEDs and other actuators. Thus, the design constraints allowed
for creative variance that provided unique technical challenges for
each students. Additionally, this creative freedom helped students
feel a great deal of ownership in designing their projects,
something we discuss further in section 4.3.
4.2 Computational Concepts and Practices
Another way to understand the complexity and learning in making
e-textile artifacts, is to examine more closely how students
approached making them, their computational practices, and what
they included in terms of computational concepts. Before any e-
textile can be programmed, it needs to have functional circuits
that connect sensors and actuators to the LilyPad Arduino. All
students accomplished this in their e-textile designs. However, the
actual circuit diagrams varied significantly. Students differed in
how many pieces they connected, what kind of circuits they used
to accomplish their desired efforts, and most importantly, how
they coordinated functionality with their aesthetic requirements.
How much functionality drove aesthetics and vice versa, is
difficult to gauge, but it was a constant tension in students’ design
processes, complicated further when coding demands were
integrated that required particular circuit designs [14].
Many of the initial circuit blueprints had some mistakes and
demonstrated a lack of efficiency. For example, students did not
make connections between negative pins and devices, crossed
negative and positive lines, made redundant circuit lines, or
lacked efficiency in connecting positive or negative lines (i.e.,
making many independent lines instead of strategically utilizing
continuous ones). However, we observed that all students
developed final designs that were refined and efficient,
customized to their aesthetic requirements and the functionalities
they implemented through coding. For instance, in making her
cupcake pillow, Trinity changed her initial circuit design to
minimize redundancy. Instead of having negative lines from five
LEDs criss-crossing her design, she directed them all to one large
negatively charged patch which acted as a common ground. She
also re-ordered the positives lines from the 5 LEDs such that they
made more sense spatially. Her final design was more symmetric,
made better use of space, and was more efficient to sew (see
Figure 1). Similarly with his octopus, Marty came up with a
clever design solution, replacing 8 independent lines from the
LilyPad to 8 LEDs by making the back of his stuffed octopus one
large conductive patch that acted as a continuous negative line to
the LilyPad and the 8 LEDs. Other students utilized parallel
circuits in order to connect multiple LEDs that they wanted to
behave similarly or expanded their projects to include additional
components like speakers or extra LEDs. Of course, these
changes affected each student’s development of code for his or
her project.
If 2 patches touched,
- each LED ring blinks
on and off in turn while
sound buzzer plays
“Super Mario’s theme”
Else if two patches
squeezed, each LED ring
blinks on and off in turn
without music.
Else, all LEDs off.
If two patches
- all LEDs fade in
and out.
Else, all LEDs
turned off.
If two conductive
patches touched,
- each LED blink on
and off in a counter-
clockwise direction
Else, all LEDs e turned
Figure 1: Selection of student e-textile designs: Lloyd’s
boombox, Trinity’s Cupcake Cushion, Giuliana’s Sunflower
While each project had different layouts and programmed
behaviors, the Arduino program code for these final projects all
incorporated key computational concepts such as sequences,
loops, conditionals, operators, and variables. First, to set up the
digital or analog pins on the LilyPad Arduino that connected input
or output devices, students had to understand the relationship
between the layout of their electronic circuit and the program
code. Second, students had to define output of four or more LEDs.
Some students added a speaker to their circuits and remixed the
starter code (which we provided) to make sound. To accomplish
these tasks, students learned how to include delay functions to
adjust how long an LED stayed on or to synchronize LED lights
with the beep sounds. Third, students had to code output
behaviors for the sensors that connected to the two or more
conductive patches. This required the use of conditional
statements and loops with variables for storing input values. Some
programs featured more complex functionality using multiple
conditional statements.
Students engaged in various computational practices to design
circuits and code, but mostly in an iterative cycle of imagining
and designing and constructing a little bit, then trying it out, and
then developing it further when they designed circuits and code.
While we provided two basic starter code examples, all students
had to customize the code to work with their particular physical
designs. We found that all students were able to use and remix
starter code examples to create specific behaviors for their circuit
designs. In this process, students needed to test and debug the
code to make sure that their projects worked as expected.
Debugging e-textiles is a complicated process, more so than
debugging regular program code, because not only the code but
also the circuit design or crafting can cause bugs that need to be
fixed. It is these interdependencies [14] that engage students in
complex problem solving.
4.3 Perceptions of Computing
Relevancy of Computing. Previous studies have found that
students often see computing as irrelevant to their own lives [9;
24]. In pre-interviews, most students revealed that coding
remained a mystery removed from their everyday interactions
with computers. Carlton expressed a common theme when he
said, “I'm sure computers are lovely, but it's not something I'd like
to delve into.” This sentiment was shared by other students who
stressed a disconnect between their everyday lives, future career
aspirations, and computer programming. Megan described
wanting to go into a career in international relations and said, “I
think that I'd use computers, but it's not like I'll be doing coding
or anything.” We highlight this gap between the perceived need
for computing in current and future lives, in particular because it
is still prevalent even in science and technology magnet high
In post-interviews conducted after the e-textiles module, students
demonstrated a shift towards viewing computing as more relevant
to their identities, their daily lives, and their career choices.
Students stressed that e-textiles provided the opportunity to use
computing as an outlet for personal creativity, or customizability.
Many students (7 out of 11) focused on the aesthetic
customizability of a project. Lloyd, for instance, said that he had
been tuning out in the course prior to the e-textiles module but
contrasted this with his positive engagement in making a soft
boombox. Describing his project he said, This is music, it’s a
boombox. A boombox expresses how I feel....Music is my
identity.” Fewer students (4 of 11) focused on behavioral
customizability noting that they could shape not only how a
project looked but also how it technically functioned.
In addition, more than half of the students (6 of 11) articulated
how their e-textiles projects could fit in with or be used in their
everyday lives and, by extension, recognized other devices they
used in their daily lives that were programmed (cell phones, for
instance) or could be programmed (a doorbell). For instance,
Megans’s project allowed her to transform an “ugly” shirt from
her uncle into a useful object, which she can both use to scare her
younger siblings and as a Halloween costume. Abeni and Trinity
initially conceived of their projects as gifts for others. Keenan and
Lloyd both described how they wanted to include their e-textile
projects within their personal trophy collections as proof of their
Ability to See Oneself as a Computer Scientist. While all the
students saw themselves as fairly competent in using technology
on a daily basis—this self-assessment should not come as a
surprise since all of them elected to be part of a science and
technology magnet school—there were still substantial
differences in how their perceptions of themselves as
programmers shifted. A large group (7 out of 11) was initially
intimidated or even completely disinterested in programming but
felt greater competency after the class, expressing a sense of
accomplishment, or even surprise about the fact that ‘I did this.’
Giuliana initially described herself as someone who was not good
at programming but after the class she talked about her project
(and specifically learning to write in Arduino) as a huge
accomplishment, “I think it's just this moment like, "I did it!
Finally... Yup. I'm that cool. I programmed a shirt to light up.... I
think it's just that moment of accomplishment.”
The remainder of the interviewed students (4 out of 11) felt more
expertise in programming at the beginning, but after class felt
more validated in this expertise after having demonstrated their
increased ability to identify and solve programming problems
with e-textiles. Reflecting on the class Raven described how
exciting it was to speak the same language, “Like we're talking in
terms that I've never thought I would never speak… And I'm like,
‘I'm understanding everything that you're saying’, which is really
nice.” She connected her ability to understand problem solving
and computing with being part of a larger community, with which
she now shares a common vocabulary and understanding. Some
students like Will, who self-identified as someone who knew
about programming before class, proclaimed that they now more
clearly understood the connection between programming an e-
textiles project in class to programming in other situations, like
video games at Activision.
Perceptions of Computing as a Field. Most students also gained a
better idea of the field at large, initially conceptualizing
computing as something contained only “within the screen” but
expanding it after class to see included tangible, real world
objects. This perception was most clearly connected to the unique
e-textiles projects themselves; almost all students noted that the
class was more “hands-on” and that you could really “touch” the
products you were working on (as opposed to computer programs
in Alice). Trinity liked the e-textiles took programming "outside
of [the] computer", while Megan pointed out, “we can touch it,
we can feel it, we know what's going on”. Several students also
described the tangibility of the project with respect to how they
could more easily ‘show off’ their projects to their friends and
family once it was done. When asked what she would do with her
project, Abeni replied, “Hang it in my room. So when my friends
come in, they can touch it. My parents don't know about this, so...
it's really cool.” Some students even went further by relating
projects to professional applications in the real world. In some
cases, this meant seeing their individual projects as being on a
trajectory toward professional e-textile projects, such as LED
sneakers for children or costumes worn by celebrity musicians.
We see the introduction of e-textiles into high school curriculum
as part of a larger effort to broaden the portfolio of available
materials, activities, and pedagogies in CS education in K-12. Our
findings indicate that the class was successful in promoting a rich
array of computing concepts and practices while at the same time
broadening perceptions of computing. Designing e-textiles
addressed many of the reservations that youth often have
expressed about computing: it integrated multiple disciplines of
computing, engineering and crafting, had real-world relevance
since it involved repurposing and augmenting everyday items, and
allowed for creative expression through the creation of personal e-
textile artifacts within given design constraints [24]. It was the
unique combination of all these aspects, not a single one alone,
that accounted for the success. Through our analysis of the
students’ perceptions of computing before and after the e-textiles
class, we demonstrated how creating e-textiles artifacts shifted
their perspectives on computing. Students expanded in their
thinking about relevancy of computing to their personal lives,
understanding of themselves as computer scientists, and their
understanding of computing as a field. Admittedly, we have
downplayed the role of crafts and the physical techniques of
creating soft computational circuits in order to emphasize more
traditionally valued academic learning in circuitry and coding.
Yet these aspects are intricately related to the particular
development of circuits and code in e-textiles [14].
While we didn’t have the room to describe in much detail the
various curricular activities beyond the final culmination e-textile
project, we believe these played an equally important role in
helping students to learn computational concepts and to engage in
computational practices. Like robotics workshops, we did
structure the e-textile class around the activity of designing a final
artifact as its ultimate outcome. But we also made generous use of
a series of smaller stepping stone starter and debugging projects
along the way that provided additional experiences for students to
understand the complexities of particular design aspects. For
instance, starter projects with a simple circuit that includes an
LED, battery, and switch provided introductions to conductive
sewing. Students learned sewing techniques as well as key rules
of thumb: (1) connect positive to positive and negative to
negative, (2) do not sew through both the positive and negative
ends of a component, and (3) do not cross positive and negative
threads/lines. Alternatively, debugging projects [15], presented
students with problems in circuit or code design of finished e-
textile projects. For instance, one debugging project tested
students’ knowledge of short circuits while in another they had to
correctly connect a series of positive and negative lines to create a
functional circuit, and in yet a third they had to alter the
connections to obtain the desired behavior when a button switch
was pressed. As students worked through the debugging projects
they were asked to complete a series of questions about each
circuitry problem.
All high school students were equally engaged in the various
aspects of crafting, circuitry and coding and this should perhaps
be counted as the biggest success. Many of the other curricular
innovations such as game design and robotics workshops are
often heavily geared towards male students because of how the
professional communities are structured. In designing e-textiles,
we found present what Resnick and Silverman [19] called the
“wide walls” of construction kits that allow for diverse set of
interests to expressed in programmable activities. But rather than
to work in the “existing clubhouse” we opened a new one, or new
doors, to stay with the metaphors of low floors, high ceilings, and
wide walls that are often used in thinking about creating
computational construction kits for beginners. Making personal
and portable computational projects with materials that connect to
everyday experiences and mundane activities such as crafting and
sewing provided a new window to see the general and personal
relevance of computing.
This work was supported by a collaborative grant (0855868) from
the National Science Foundation to Yasmin Kafai, Leah Buechley
and Kylie Peppler. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or
recommendations expressed in this paper are those of the authors
and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science
Foundation, the University of Pennsylvania, Utah State
University, or The Westminster Schools.
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... Significant work has also gone into the development of curriculum to support adoption of the LilyPad Arduino [14,16,43,58,59,116] . This work affirms how highly I valued developing curriculum to support the LilyTiny hardware. ...
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The field of computer science has long been plagued by issues of diversity – in particular, attracting and retaining those historically marginalized in computing contexts. This is a great loss to the field, to the future of innovation, and to society. Perhaps most importantly, it is an incalculable loss to those populations excluded from pursuing a passion for computing in the first place. This dissertation chronicles a collection of projects aimed at broadening perceptions of computing, who is participating in computing, and what kinds of artifacts are created with computing. These projects leverage extensive fieldwork in the educational domains of computational craft and open source contribution; they entail (1) course design at the college level and (2) tool and curriculum design for a more open-ended audience of hobbyists and educators. The contribution of this dissertation is documentation of these design processes, along with my subsequent reflections, recommendations, and analysis. First, I share my experience designing two courses developed while on faculty at Berea College: Craft of Computing, which aims to attract a diversity of first- and second-year students to computing, and Open Source Software Engineering, which seeks to retain a diversity of upperclassmen through graduation and into computing careers beyond. Second, I revisit my own prior work in e-textiles tool/curriculum design, sharing long-term impact analysis for the LilyTiny sewable microcontroller and accompanying workshop guide. Evidence so far suggests that my forays into college course design successfully piqued students' interest in new domains, while positively influencing their confidence, identity, and sense of belonging. Analysis of the LilyTiny and accompanying workshop curriculum is also promising; it shows that an inexpensive and stable tool, coupled with freely available instructional resources, can indeed achieve widespread adoption in a market suggestive of novice and educational use.
... This has been evidenced by a much larger proportion of the LilyPad Arduino market share being female purchasers when compared to the classic Arduino -and by an emerging design community at the intersection of aesthetics, craft, and computation [4]. Signifcant work has also gone into the development of curriculum to support adoption of the LilyPad Arduino [1,3,11,14,15,34]. This work afrms how highly we prioritized developing curriculum to support the LilyTiny hardware. ...
... An increased interest in L&I skills has appeared during the last years, as these are recognised to be the skills that prepare students "for a more complex life and work environment in the twenty-first century" (Stork, 2020, p.44). In general, research supports that Making activities can help to develop important skills such as creativity, innovation, problem-solving, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration, which constitute L&I skills (Timotheou & Ioannou, 2021a, Bevan et al., 2015Denner et al., 2012;Kafai et al., 2013;Moriwaki et al., 2012;Harnett, et al., 2015;Harris et al., 2016). An example of a study that presented evidence of the development of L&I skills through Making was conducted by Alden (2016) in a secondary school; by engaging in e-textile activities, the participants (21 students) seemed to develop a set of skills that included critical thinking and problem-solving. ...
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With the Maker movement increasingly adopted across K‐12 schools and non-formal makerspaces, students are being given more opportunities to engage in Making activities using tools such as robots, electronics, arts, and crafts. Making activities are thought to help students develop twenty-first-century skills, especially communication and collaboration, creative thinking and problem solving, all of which come under the umbrella of learning and innovation (L&I) skills. The overall research question driving the study is: how do students develop L&I skills in Making contexts? To understand how students develop these skills we need frameworks and coding schemes which can help with skills’ identification and analysis. Finding such analytical tools with applicability in Making contexts has proven challenging. In Phase A, the present study proposes an analytical framework and coding scheme—the L&I skills in Making analytical framework and coding scheme—for the identification and analysis of L&I skills in Making contexts, informed by existing twenty-first-century skills frameworks as well as data from an empirical investigation with young learners. In Phase B, the applicability of the coding scheme is checked with a portion of the empirical data while evidence is presented for the identification and analysis of L&I skills in dialogic interactions during the Making activities. The study extends previous findings supporting that Making activities might be able to support students in developing twenty-first-century skills, but most importantly, has a unique contribution to the literature supporting researchers who are looking for an analytical framework and coding scheme to identify and analyse students’ L&I skills in Making contexts.
... Other studies were more concerned with the perceptions and perspectives on computing itself. Kafai et al. (2013) found that students expressed personal relevancy of computing at large after participating in a 10-week e-textile curriculum module workshop. In our review, a total of 19 studies examined personal feelings and perceptions as part of the outcomes. ...
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[Available at:] Many computer applications receive information about external events and produce responses. Such applications include web server software, many services used via Internet browsers, as well as most graphical user interfaces in devices from mobile phones and home appliances to general-purpose computers and industrial applications. The development of such applications is often called event-driven programming (EDP). Despite the continuously increasing importance of event-driven applications in the modern society, only a little published experimental research has been targeted at teaching and learning EDP. This dissertation addresses this research gap. The dissertation has two major parts, of which the first one addresses understanding EDP. As an introduction, it reflects on the difficulty of defining the term event-driven programming and continues by presenting a mapping review regarding published research on teaching and learning EDP. From there, it proceeds to explore students’ perceptions of concepts such as a button, an event, and an event handler. This discussion is based on three studies that involved questionnaires and exercises for students of two online courses. A few questions included reading program code, and in one exercise, the participants were asked to answer using a concept map. The analysis of these answers revealed fundamental misunderstandings regarding EDP and user interfaces. Based on them, the dissertation offers practical suggestions for improving the teaching practice. The second major part of the dissertation addresses teaching EDP from two perspectives. First, it explores contextualization of teaching EDP and focuses on tools and exercises of an approach called media computation. Second, it presents a prototype of a tool that can be used for visualizing high-level concepts in many online learning materials. This tool supports logging users’ actions, plays well together with version control systems, has a relatively low learning curve for teachers of computer science, as well as is open source and free to use. The tool was evaluated in a small-scale pilot study, which demonstrated its suitability for its intended usage environment.
Computational thinking allows us to solve complex problem in a certain way, which has been taught in traditional computer science program in university. With the advanced digital computing technology, new visual programming tools have been developed to allow children at early age to explore the concept and practices of computational thinking, which could develop their multifaceted skills. In this study, it aims to report an exploratory study of two pioneer primary schools in Hong Kong on introducing computational thinking through coding. This study uses qualitative approach with classroom observations, field notes and group interviews (n = 14). We also develop a child-centered interview protocol to find out the perception of children in learning how to code. The results show that children are generally engaging in computational thinking activities and believe that this learning context can develop their multifaceted skills such as problem solving skills and creativity.
Computational thinking allows us to solve complex problem in a certain way, which has been taught in traditional computer science program in university. With the advanced digital computing technology, new visual programming tools have been developed to allow children at early age to explore the concept and practices of computational thinking, which could develop their multifaceted skills. In this study, it aims to report an exploratory study of two pioneer primary schools in Hong Kong on introducing computational thinking through coding. This study uses qualitative approach with classroom observations, field notes and group interviews (n = 14). We also develop a child-centered interview protocol to find out the perception of children in learning how to code. The results show that children are generally engaging in computational thinking activities and believe that this learning context can develop their multifaceted skills such as problem solving skills and creativity.
Computational thinking allows us to solve complex problem in a certain way, which has been taught in traditional computer science program in university. With the advanced digital computing technology, new visual programming tools have been developed to allow children at early age to explore the concept and practices of computational thinking, which could develop their multifaceted skills. In this study, it aims to report an exploratory study of two pioneer primary schools in Hong Kong on introducing computational thinking through coding. This study uses qualitative approach with classroom observations, field notes and group interviews (n = 14). We also develop a child-centered interview protocol to find out the perception of children in learning how to code. The results show that children are generally engaging in computational thinking activities and believe that this learning context can develop their multifaceted skills such as problem solving skills and creativity.
This article builds on prior work that aims to measure computational learning (CL) during middle school. Since game computational sophistication (GCS) has been used as a proxy for a student’s engagement in CL we build on their model to more completely describe the relationship between different types of building blocks of computer games and GCS. In doing so, we present a single quantitative measurement for GCS. Our model, called GCS 2.0 , has face validity for 39 games, each programmed by a pair of middle school children. We choose four of these games, two with high GCS and two with low GCS, and discuss the computational building blocks found in each game. We do this to help the reader better understand our measurement of GCS and its relationship to CL.
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Many countries that recognise the importance of Computational Thinking (CT) skills are implementing curriculum changes to integrate the development of these skills and to introduce programming into formal school education. In countries such as the United Kingdom, Lithuania, Finland, Korea and Japan, initiatives and policies are made to introduce the development of CT skills and programming in the schools. This chapter provides an in-depth analysis of policies of CT in the education of one particular country, namely Singapore. We review Singapore’s approach to its implementation of CT education by first describing various initiatives in Singapore for Preschool, Primary and Secondary schools. Unlike several countries that have decided to implement computing as compulsory education, Singapore has taken a route of creating interest amongst children in computing in age-appropriate ways. Singapore’s pragmatic approach of relying on an ecosystem is characterised by allowing schools the choice to opt-in, nurturing students’ interest in computing, upskilling teachers in computing and a multi-agency approach.
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Various aspects of computational thinking, which builds on the power and limits of computing processes, whether they are executed by a human or by a machine, are discussed. Computational methods and models are helping to solve problems, design systems, and understand human behavior, by drawing on concepts fundamental to computer science (CS). Computational thinking (CT) is using abstraction and decomposition when attacking a large complex task or designing a large complex systems. CT is the way of thinking in terms of prevention, protection, and recovery from worst-case scenarios through redundancy, damage containment, and error correction. CT is using heuristic reasoning to discover a solution and using massive amount of data to speed up computation. CT is a futuristic vision to guide computer science educators, researchers, and practitioners to change society's image of the computer science field.
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Mitchel Resnick ( MIT Media Lab Brennan, K., & Resnick, M. (2012). Using artifact-based interviews to study the development of computational thinking in interactive media design. Paper presented at annual American Educational Research Association meeting, Abstract Computational thinking is a phrase that has received considerable attention over the past several years – but there is little agreement about what computational thinking encompasses, and even less agreement about strategies for assessing the development of computational thinking in young people. We are interested in the ways that design-based learning activities – in particular, programming interactive media – support the development of computational thinking in young people. Over the past several years, we have developed a computational thinking framework that emerged from our studies of the activities of interactive media designers. Our context is Scratch – a programming environment that enables young people to create their own interactive stories, games, and simulations, and then share those creations in an online community with other young programmers from around the world. The first part of the paper describes the key dimensions of our computational thinking framework: computational concepts (the concepts designers engage with as they program, such as iteration, parallelism, etc.), computational practices (the practices designers develop as they engage with the concepts, such as debugging projects or remixing others' work), and computational perspectives (the perspectives designers form about the world around them and about themselves). The second part of the paper describes our evolving approach to assessing these dimensions, including project portfolio analysis, artifact-based interviews, and design scenarios. We end with a set of suggestions for assessing the learning that takes place when young people engage in programming.
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In this paper, we present ten guiding principles for designing construction kits for kids, informed by our experiences over the past two decades:* Design for Designers* Low Floor and Wide Walls* Make Powerful Ideas Salient -- Not Forced* Support Many Paths, Many Styles* Make it as Simple as Possible -- and Maybe Even Simpler* Choose Black Boxes Carefully* A Little Bit of Programming Goes a Long Way* Give People What They Want -- Not What They Ask For* Invent Things That You Would Want to Use Yourself* Iterate, Iterate -- then Iterate AgainWhile these principles apply especially to the development of construction kits, we believe that they could be useful for everyone who designs new technologies for kids.
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The question we raise in this paper is why some women choose not to go into computing. What motivates their rea-sons for selecting their major and occupational goals? We interviewed twelve first year women who are not majoring in Computer Science and found half had pro-social goals for their careers. When asked if participants thought that people working in computing are helping people, some told us that they hadn't thought about it before or they thought that maybe computing helped people indirectly through "busi-ness" aspects. We showed them pictures where technology obviously helped people, such as sign language translation for the deaf. Most were really interested in these pictures, and given the opportunity, thought that they would be in-terested in participating — they just never thought of com-puting or technology as helping people.
Most research in programming and engineering focuses on students' understanding of functionality as a way to gage their learning, leaving aside aesthetic dimensions. In our work with the LilyPad Arduino, an e-textile construction kit with controller, sensors and actuators that can be embedded via conductive thread and programmed in fabric and garments, we examine how functional aesthetics can play a productive or sometimes unproductive role in learning. Drawing from observations and interviews with 35 high school youth that created e-textile artifacts, we identified three different approaches ranging from giving up on desired designs to making something functional or not finishing or getting a design to work because of unwillingness to give up on aesthetics. We see the third approach, finding a new design that both meets aesthetic desires and matches affordances of the technologies, as particularly promising approach and discuss how aesthetic dimensions can provide important connections in learning.
We examine high school students' designs with the LilyPad Arduino, an electronic textile (e-textile) construction kit used for designing programmable garments. Each kit contains a microcontroller, sensors and LED and other actuators that can be embedded in textiles. We conducted three workshops with 35 high school youth between 14-15 years in a science museum to document, describe and develop a framework for analyzing student learning. The analyses of workshop interactions, students' artifacts and reflections indicate how the fabrication of stitches, circuits and code reveals the underlying structures and processes of craft, engineering and programming in tangible and observable ways and renders visible how technology is designed and built. We discuss how this situated nature of e-textiles artifact production provides a promising context for student learning and generates new instructional designs of workshops and computational construction kits.
Since the early 1960's, researchers have built a number of programming languages and environments with the intention of making programming accessible to a larger number of people. This article presents a taxonomy of languages and environments designed to make programming more accessible to novice programmers of all ages. The systems are organized by their primary goal, either to teach programming or to use programming to empower their users, and then, by each system's authors' approach, to making learning to program easier for novice programmers. The article explains all categories in the taxonomy, provides a brief description of the systems in each category, and suggests some avenues for future work in novice programming environments and languages.