With links to resources
Buechley, L., Eisenberg, M. and Elumeze, N. (2007) Towards a Curriculum for Electronic Textiles in the High School Classroom. In Proceedings of the Conference on Innovation and Technology in Computer Science Education (ITiCSE), Dundee, Scotland, June 2007.
Buechley, L., Elumeze, N., Dodson, C., and Eisenberg, M. (2005). Quilt Snaps: A Fabric Based Computational Construction Kit. In Proceedings of IEEE International Workshop on Wireless and Mobile Technologies in Education (WMTE), Tokushima, Japan, November 2005.
Buechley, L. and Hill, B. M. 2010. LilyPad in the Wild: How Hardware’s Long Tail is Supporting New Engineering and Design Communities. In Proceedings of Designing Interactive Systems (DIS), Aarhus, Denmark, 199-207.
Eisenberg, M., Buechley, L., and Elumeze, N. (2004). Computation and Construction Kits: Toward the Next Generation of Tangible Building Media for Children. In Proceedings of Cognition and Exploratory Learning in the Digital Age (CELDA), Lisbon, Portugal, December 2004.
Eisenberg, M. and Buechley, L. (2008). Pervasive Fabrication: Making Construction Ubiquitous in Education. Upcoming in Journal of Software. (Invited submission)
Klemmer, S. and Landay, J. (2009). Toolkit Support for Integrating Physical and Digital Interactions. Human-Computer Interaction, vol 24, pp.315-366.
Marcu, G., Kaufman, S.J., Lee J.K., Black, R.W., Dourish, P., Hayes, G.R., Richardson, D.J. Design and Evaluation of a Computer Science and Engineering Course for Middle School Girls. In Proceedings of SIGCSE, 2010.
Rusk, N., Resnick, M., Berg, R., & Pezalla-Granlund, M. (2008). New Pathways into Robotics: Strategies for Broadening Participation. Journal of Science Education and Technology, vol. 17, no. 1, pp. 59-69.
Schweikardt, E. and Gross, M. (2009). Designing Systems to Design Themselves. In Proceedings of SIGCHI, Boston, Massachusetts, USA, April 2009.
Wyeth, P.  How Young Children Learn to Program with Sensor, Action, and Logic Blocks. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 17:4
Here is the link to my syllabus for a middle school program on soft circuits. It is still in an early malleability stage and its evolution will be closely tied to my major studio final project. Below is the course description:
Talking Lights and Stretching Sound
An Introduction to Physical Computing and SoftWear for Middle School Students
Mondays from 3 – 5pm
2 West 13th Street, Rm 1006
Course Description and Objectives
In this course, middle school students will explore the possibilities of physical computing through soft components to offer students a large toolkit to draw from in implementing their designs. There will be a focus on interaction design, computational concepts, and craftsmanship. This course will be held largely in a workshop format with opportunities for group learning and individual work.
By the end of this course, students will:
Does Not Compute: An Investigation into Computational Points of Entry for Middle/High School Students
For my final project, I am going to compose a curriculum aimed at introducing middle to high school students to basic electronic, programming, and design concepts through soft circuits and a create a body of compiled and personal research surrounding this sphere.
As of right now I am still in the process of fully flushing this out, but I will include some or all of the following:
This final project is the intersection of two recent conceptual preoccupations and a recent experience at a girl’s after school session at Quest to Learn. The first preoccupation centers directly on the mystification, or demystification, of technology. The second is the idea of a point of entry, specifically regarding technology.
As for the third, I have recently been interning at Quest to Learn’s Short Circuit after school program. I usually go on Thursdays when the dominant population are 6th and 7th grade boys, along with one girl who I have been working with a variety of independent projects on. Over spring break, however, I had the chance to help plan and run the Girlz Jam (I have class at this time otherwise, much to my chagrin) in which a group of ten 7th grade girls come together for a 2 hour after school session centered around a weekly topic. I should mention that the goal of this program is specifically to encourage female after school participation by creating a shared creative space, especially since at this time in development, blurry elementary school gender lines begin to focus quite sharply.
While I have had experience running after school before, this session was quite unfocused and largely dictated by the girls with the organizers acting more like herders. First and foremost, I must say that after school is hard – students have just had a long day of school and really just want to listen to music and text their friends. Secondly, teaching soft circuits is extremely difficult: it requires a rewiring of your brain around both sewing and circuitry, not an easy feat especially for those who are novices to both. In spite of this, the potential was palatable enough for me to continue thinking about it for the past five days, and brought back previous work I had done in curriculum design and interaction design in spaces of learning. For me, the design problems that arise in these areas are fascinating. Combine that with the masochistic satisfaction of working with soft circuits and e-textiles, the intersection of these domains is endlessly stimulating.
The “WHY” and Audience
Based on countless studies and statistics, bodies of research, and simple observation or questioning, computation is a realm that most of the population feels estranged from, largely due to (as I will posit for a thesis) a psychological barrier resulting from lack of exposure or disinterest in the components that they traditionally associate with programming and physical computing.
It feels trite to state the following, but its significance cannot be underscored enough: students must have more exposure to and experience with working with various technologies. This is for a variety of reasons that we have all heard before – international competition, job preparation, etc – but for this project, I will assume these as established propositions and posit that engaging youth with this type of process is innovative in its inherent ability to unlock creative potential by challenging preconceptions of materials, processes, and the cultural milieu traditionally associated with them.
Further Concepts to Incorporate
I would like this project to have an open source focus. Open source movements are in full swing and are going to play a massive role in defining culture, economics, politics – life in general – in the coming years. Following from this, as technology has become more and more accessible, a significantly large portion of the public have undergone a transformation from consumer to producer. (I would like to note, however, that these roles are not binary and there is much grey space to be exploited in between.) By making youth more aware of the individual and collective benefits of open source and the communities surrounding it, they will be more likely to actively contribute, thereby both sharing knowledge and reinforcing their own.