Functional Aesthetics for Learning: Creative Tensions in Youth E-Textiles Designs

Document Type

Conference Paper

Journal/Book Title/Conference

The Future of Learning: Proceedings of the 10th International Conference of the Learning Sciences (ICLS 2012), Volume 1, Full Papers


J. Aalst, K. Thompson, M.J. Jacobson, & P. Reimann

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First Page


Last Page



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.

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