Currents, Loops, and Stitches: E-textiles and Conceptual Growth in Crafting, Computing, and Circuitry.

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Victor Lee, Deborah Fields


For over a decade, e-textiles have been lauded as a way to introduce learners to computer programming and electrical engineering by allowing learners to leverage do-it-yourself and crafting skills (Searle, Kafai & Fields, 2010). However, we have very limited research on what knowledge, if any, develops from working with e-textiles. To that end, we present a study of a university course called Craft Technologies, which was developed to engage non-engineering, non-computer science major students by creating a vast array of e-textile projects throughout the semester. Participants in this study completed a pair of semi-structured, clinical interviews at the start and end of the course. Additionally, participants made weekly blog posts about the making process of their class projects, which captured growth in understanding of circuitry and computing, as well as improvements in crafting. Through analysis of the interviews and the blog posts, participants demonstrated conceptual growth across each of the target areas, often connecting two or more areas together. As an example, students would make aesthetic, crafting decisions in order to maintain the integrity of the electrical circuits on their projects. This study demonstrates that not only can e-textiles introduce novice learners to computer programming and electrical engineering, but that there are substantial increases in students' understanding of crafting, circuitry, and computing.

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