BOXES is a workshop that introduces an alternative approach to teaching and learning computational thinking. Drawing on the design process for a contextual framework, the workshop emphasizes how softer materials can broaden entry points for new users. Generally, context is rarely addressed in introductory computing courses, but it can be a significant factor in reaching populations with different learning modalities. Design provides a rich contextual and functional basis for learners to map circuits. A paper substrate allows users to trace the path of electricity as it moves through the circuit before building it. Copper tape is an easily manipulated conductor that users apply to their pre-drawn schematic. Learners embed their circuits in individual boxes. Alone, they act as paper lamps. Together, they communicate with each other via magnetic switches under different rule sets, creating generative 3 dimensional interactive art forms. BOX makers can recombine their structures to fashion unique environments or pixelated displays.
I attended the littleBits workshop on Tuesday where I got the chance to test their toolkit and talk to two of the people behind the little scene (bad pun?). It was an informative experience both as a participant and observer of a workshop, especially as I am currently planning my own.
I also had a few conversations with the guys running the workshop regarding current planning to market/implement littleBits’ as an educational tool, which got me thinking about why it might hit a few roadblocks in this domain. It has a very low point of entry to create functioning circuits, but it was engineered to be simple. Its aim should then be to get new learners engaged and excited, but has essentially been designed to be a black box. This is one of the great paradoxes of these kinds of tools that requires walking a tender line. For me, littleBits was designed with novice designers in mind, not novice students. So in this regard it becomes a question of framing: I DO think that this is a great tool to teach interaction, experience, industrial, or product design. It fosters creativity, stimulates excitement, and seeks to engender a sense of community within its users. The workshop is a microcosm of that community, which is pretty freaking awesome.
I gave my presented my project from last semester, SnapToTrace, at the TEI 2012 Graduate Student Consortium on Sunday. I must say, it was somewhat of a dissonant experience to present after spending the last six months building a body of research on the foundation of its failings (though also a great exercise). However, it was also validating to hear criticism of this initial approach and specifically the delivery of my concept. It allowed me to see the strengths of my thesis as it currently stands and also the weaknesses where I need to focus, specifically on evaluation and assessment. Our GSC mentors just happen to have an expertise in this area and offered some invaluable advice moving forward with assessment “short cuts” that are more time sensitive and in some ways more applicable.
1) Case studies that are microanalyses of a particular set of behaviors, attitudes, and actions. I don’t think this type of pinpointed generalization is the best option in working to design inclusively for teachers of different backgrounds and who are teaching different levels of students. The variables are to many.
2) Only a post evaluation guided by a coding scheme that examines changes in terminology, attitude, and behavior.
3) Originality of ideas: if one of my main goals is to evaluate how effective this approach is in allowing educators to reframe concepts based on the materials and the context (design, collaboration, creativity, making), then one of my metrics could center on the intersection of different content domains and the ideas generated surrounding
The other major distinction to make is the difference between evaluating the toolkit and the learning that emerges from the toolkit. To do this, my initial thoughts are to implement a short pre-evaluation form and a post-evaluation in the form of video interview. The latter will use a qualitative coding scheme that is aligned with the initial data gather in the pre-evaluation. The video evaluation will also gauge the originality of ideas. Here is my light reading for the trek home from Creativity and Cognition 2009:
Creativity Factor Evaluation: Towards a Standardized Survey Metric for Creativity Support
Erin A. Carroll and Celine Latulipe (UNC Charlotte)
Richard Fung and Michael Terry (University of Waterloo)
I think this would actually be super helpful for a lot of us and will post to the minigroup – for instance, flow is referenced frequently as a major foundation for their framework (from a cursory glance at least).
More to come soon!
After the Arduino as ISP/ATtiny debacle of last week, last week’s prototype went back to Arduino as a solution while waiting for an actual AVRISP to arrive.
There is only one box here, but the magnets simulate the behavior the box would take on if another box was connected to it. More updates on this soon!
After too many breadboarded attempts, I decided to ease my life pain and make these little guys. SUPER helpful on all fronts, especially for complete debugging before introducing any copper tape.
BOXES is a workshop that introduces educators to alternative approaches to teach computing. Drawing on the design process for a contextual framework, the workshop emphasizes how softer materials can broaden entry points for new users. Generally, context is rarely addressed in introductory computing courses, but it can be a significant factor in reaching populations with different learning styles. Design provides a rich contextual and functional basis for learners to map circuits. A paper substrate allows users to trace the path of electricity as it moves through the circuit before building it. Copper tape is an easily manipulated conductor that users apply to their pre-drawn schematic. Learners embed their circuits in individual boxes. Alone, they act as paper lamps. Together, they communicate with each other via magnetic switches under different rule sets, creating generative 3 dimensional interactive art forms. Content will be delivered through a web-based platform in an Instructables-style format, but will be distinguished through a series of reflection questions.
***The last sentence is still in the works!
Here is a link to a new page with an instruction to drawing out the circuit diagram.
The goal of this prototypes was to program the ATtiny85 and ensure that it could run off a 3 volt battery/build a functioning “one brain” box. It integrates the DIY magenetic button from the previous prototype: when the magnet connects the two strips of copper tape, it tells the ATtiny to turn the LED high.
I ended up soldering the chip and LED though in the future I will find alternative solutions; I believe hot glue will be a good friend in the future.
I had massive problems programming the ATtiny in the Arduino 1.0 environment. I tried an ATtiny85 and 2313 numerous times to no avail, until switching back to the Arduino 0022 version. I also tried various cores which leads me to believe that 1.0 is not the most robust version for this yet.
There is some weird noise that turns the LED on and off without the switch, which I am assuming is due to (1) my janky resistor hot glue job or (2) connections on the “board.”