Make-to-Learn: Broadening Participation and Deepening Learning Through Making
Incorporating novel, cross-disciplinary technologies, such as e-textiles, in science education can broaden participation, particularly by women, and improve learning outcomes. Despite several national initiatives to diversify participation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, the underlying culture of STEM education remains relatively stagnant, with a curriculum that continues to emphasize areas historically aligned more closely with male interests than women’s. Fortunately, contemporary culture is rife with new tools and materials that are spurring shifts in the ways we interact with technology. One example that has gained international prominence over the past five years is electronic textiles (or "e-textiles"): fabric artifacts that include embedded computers and other electronics. Instead of focusing on practices such as soldering and desoldering, this computing genre involves sewing, quilting, crocheting, knitting, and other techniques that have traditionally been the domain of seamstresses, knitters, and crafters. Perhaps because of these ties, women make up a resounding majority (65 percent) of this burgeoning informal community. Our efforts at Indiana University to broaden STEM participation in youth communities leverage e-textiles as an alternative approach to STEM education. Recent findings indicate that introducing such novel, cross-disciplinary technologies can broaden participation, particularly by women. This approach to STEM through hands-on making also additionally improves learning outcomes for all students and thus has ramifications that extend beyond the issue of gender in computing.
An artist by training, Kylie Peppler engages in research that focuses on the intersection of arts, technology and interest-driven learning. Much of Peppler’s current thinking around making and interest-driven learning is highlighted in her report for the Wallace Foundation, New Opportunities for Interest-Driven Arts Learning in a Digital Age (2013), which showcases how today’s youth learn on their own time and according to their own interests through digital production tools and social media. Peppler also collaboratively designed curricula with the National Writing Project—a four-volume series called Interconnections: Understanding Systems through Digital Designs (MIT Press)—that investigates how designing digital stories, e-fashion, e-puppetry, and video games in and out of school can help youth connect to core systems thinking concepts emphasized in the Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards.
A primary focus of her work is on an emerging community of makers creating computational textiles (or e-textiles)—textile artifacts that are computationally generated or that contain embedded computers like the LilyPad Arduino—which capture youths’ pre-existing interests in new media, fashion, and design while supporting learning and creativity in computer science, arts, design, and engineering. Her recent research findings indicate that introducing such novel, cross-disciplinary technologies can broaden participation, particularly by women, as well as improve learning outcomes.
"Make-to-Learn: Broadening Participation and Deepening Learning Through Making,"
Discussions on University Science Teaching: Proceedings of the Western Conference on Science Education: Vol. 1
, Article 2.
Available at: https://ir.lib.uwo.ca/wcsedust/vol1/iss1/2