Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Instructional Technology and Learning Sciences

Committee Chair(s)

Victor R. Lee


Victor R. Lee


Mimi Recker


Brett Shelton


Deborah Fields


Andrew Walker


David Smellie


Hybrid design technologies, a combination of physical crafting, construction or art, and computing, have the potential to broaden participation in computing by appealing to youth through existing interests and hobbies. Expanding participation in computing is important because computational thinking, for example debugging, is a set of skills fundamental for success in our society. Youth can participate in and gain exposure to multiple disciplines with various hybrid design technologies. Yet alternative high school students, those labeled failing and been moved from the conventional school to a facility that focuses on building adult skills and remediated instruction, are not often the beneficiaries of innovative learning environments. There is reason to believe that these students could benefit from a new way of learning with new hybrid technologies including learning about debugging, art and craft, technology design, and aspects of computer programming.

This dissertation investigates whether a novel hybrid technology can provide alternative high school students with new forms of access to computation and encourage participation in debugging. This dissertation will serve as a multi-faceted report of one cycle of design, implementation, analysis, and refinement of a hybrid technology intervention with a diverse, oft ignored, and challenging population. In this project, students at an alternative high school worked to create interactive pets, similar to some commercially available, popular toys and then shared them with the community. The pets were virtual, existing on the computer screen, and tangible, existing in the physical world. Students worked predominantly by reusing and modifying existing programming code. In the end, there were a number of encouraging results, such as observed instances of high engagement, success in dealing with programming bugs, and the connections some students made to computing and mistake making. There were also some areas in which the design and implementation could be improved for future iterations, namely through refinement of the activities and technologies to encompass a wider range of student interests, a more concentrated effort to cultivate a nurturing community of designers, and a more consistent fostering of motivation for and understanding of the final product and its intended audience.



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