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Stitching the Loop: An E-Textiles Curriculum for Exploring Computer Science

Sat, April 6, 2:15 to 3:45pm, Metro Toronto Convention Centre, Floor: 800 Level, Room 801A

Abstract

OBJECTIVES: Over the past decade educational implementations with e-textiles have shifted from small experimental workshops with technology designers (Buechley & Eisenberg, 2008) to researcher-led work in informal or individual classroom settings. These efforts have built rich knowledge about what is possible with e-textiles and how to support and investigate deeper learning, identity, and participation. Building on this rich knowledge base we can now shift efforts to empowering teachers to lead and co-develop e-textiles activities in public school classrooms (Fields et al, 2018; Tofel-Grehl & Searle, this session; Barker et al., this session). In this poster, we share results from our three-year development of our Stitching the Loop e-textile curricular unit with 15 teachers in introductory high school computer science (CS) classes.

PERSPECTIVES: Three equity issues—broadening access, diversifying representation (by privileging non-dominant makers, techniques, and artifacts), and deepening participation—formed the impetus for developing a curriculum for e-textiles that could take place in CS classrooms. To address these three issues we focused on a series of interest- and aesthetic-driven projects (broadening access) that built on each other in depth of knowledge (circuitry, coding, crafting). We worked with teachers already experienced with Exploring Computer Science (ECS), an equity-focused and inquiry-based introductory computer science course taught in public high school classrooms all over the country (Goode, Chapman, & Margolis, 2012). Professional development emphasized celebration of mistakes, “aesthetics first” design, and understanding student perspectives of computing and e-textiles.

METHODS: After two years of piloting and revising the curriculum with two, then four teachers, in Spring 2018 fifteen teachers from 13 schools implemented the unit. Classrooms included 400+ students from racially diverse schools with 60-95% of students from socioeconomically disadvantaged families at each school. We collected pre/post interviews with teachers, pre/post surveys with students, and detailed rubrics of students’ final projects and their portfolios. These two types of data allowed us to look at 1) the range of ways that teachers put the unit into action and 2) how students responded in regards to interest (surveys) and performance (graded rubrics on projects).

FINDINGS: Overall students responded positively to the unit (i.e., statistically significant results on competency, fascination with CS, and self-reported knowledge when comparing pre/post data), with some variation between classes on other measures of interest. We also observed that student performances and perspectives varied widely, partly based on whether teachers had prior experience teaching e-textiles. A closer view of teachers’ values, time and space limitations, and their own personal experiences of e-textiles provides a better understanding of how (and why) they varied the curricular implementation by changing projects, student collaborative configurations, and student crafting time.

SIGNIFICANCE: Our curriculum implementation applies e-textiles at scale in ways that promote depth, engagement, and diversity of computing practices with students. Understanding the practical aspects of teacher implementation provides insight into the challenges teachers face in putting e-textiles into practice in CS classrooms. Connecting this with student performance and interests gives further understanding of the effects of different types of changes.

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