Eisenberg, M. and Jacobson-Weaver, Z. 2018. The Work of Children: Seeking Patterns in the Design of Educational Technology. In D. Sampson (ed.) Digital Technologies: Sustainable Innovations for Improving Teaching and Learning. New York: Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-73417-0_5
The vast majority of research in educational technology focuses, justifiably, on what might be described as “short-term” (or perhaps “medium-term”) questions: how to improve an existing software system, how to assess a particular classroom innovation, and how to teach some current subject matter in a more effective fashion. From time to time, however, it is worth stepping back from such questions and taking a longer view of children’s technology: what are the larger patterns by which certain technologies become associated with children’s work? In this chapter, we examine a broad thematic pattern through which “adult” (or “professional”) technologies become progressively associated with children’s activities. As an example of how this analysis can be put to use for future design, we describe early steps in an effort to adapt a particularly powerful manufacturing technology (“pick-and-place”) for children’s crafts.
Eisenberg, M. Transhumanism and Education: Embodied Learning in an Era of Altered Bodies. In ICLS 2018: Proceedings of the 13th International Conference of the Learning Sciences. London, UK. June 23-27, 2018.
In the past decade, both cognitive science and the learning sciences have been significantly altered by an increased attention to the theme of embodiment. Broadly speaking, this theme complements (or pushes back against) the notion of purely abstract, “disembodied” cognition and emphasizes the role of physical interaction with the environment in the course of learning and development. A common, if usually implicit, assumption in this work is that learners’ bodies are more or less constant from one era to another: after all, human senses, limbs, physiology, and the basic parameters of cognition are part of an ongoing evolutionary human endowment. This assumption, while historically reasonable, is likely to need reconsideration in the near future, as a variety of “transhumanist” technologies (enhanced senses, bodies, and internalized interfaces with the outside physical environment) become more prevalent in children’s lives. This paper discusses several foundational issues and questions that are poised to emerge, and to challenge our enduring ideas about children and education, in the foreseeable future.
Oh, H.; Hsi, S.; Eisenberg, M.; and Gross, M. 2018. Paper Mechatronics: Present and Future. In IDC ’18: Proceedings of the 17th ACM Conference on Interaction Design and Children. https://doi.org/10.1145/3202185.3202761
Creative iterative development over the past several years has generated an extensive set of computational tools, learning resources, and materials in the realm of paper mechatronics – an educational craft and design approach that weaves computational and mechanical elements into established traditions of children’s construction with paper. Here, we both reflect upon our past and recent work of paper mechatronics, then look to the near- to medium-term future to speculate upon both the emerging trends in technology design and expanding learning potential of this medium for children along material, spatial, and temporal dimensions. We summarize lessons learned through various children’s workshops with our materials; and we use these lessons as a foundation upon which to create a wide variety of novel tools and activities in educational papercrafting. We speculate upon the frontiers of this work based on current convergences and shifts in tangible creative computational media.
Schneider, M. J. 2020. Pin Status: An Arduino Debugging Library for High School Students. ACM Student Competition Paper. Abstract to be published in Proceedings of the Technical Symposium, Organized by the ACM Special Interest Group on Computer Science Education (SIGCSE). Portland, OR, March 11-14, 2020. (Conference cancelled due to Covid19). https://dl.acm.org/doi/10.1145/3328778.3372712
When learning to code a student must learn both to create a program and then how to debug said program. Novices often start with print statements to help trace code execution and isolate logical errors. Eventually, they adopt advance debugger tools such as breakpoints, “stepping” through code execution, and “watching” variables as their values are updated. Unfortunately for students working with Arduino devices, there are no debugger tools built into the Arduino IDE. Instead, a student would have to move onto a professional IDE like Atmel Studio or acquire a hardware debugger. Except, these options have a steep learning curve and are not intended for a student who has just started to learn how to write code. We are developing an Arduino software library, called Pin Status, to assist novice programmers debug common logic errors and provides features specific to the e-textile microcontroller, Adafruit Circuit Playground Classic.
Schneider, M.; Hill, C.; Gross, M.; Eisenberg, A.; Blum, A. 2020. A Software Debugger for E-textiles and Arduino Microcontrollers In Proceedings of FabLearn 2020. New York, NY. Oct. 10-11, 2020. https://dl.acm.org/doi/10.1145/3386201.3386222
Most students who learn to write code for Arduino microcontrollers will start within the Arduino IDE, but the official Arduino IDE does not currently provide any debugging tools. Instead, a student would have to move on to a professional IDE such as Atmel Studio or acquire a hardware debugger in order to add breakpoints or view their program’s variables. But each of these options has a steep learning curve, additional costs, and can require complex configurations. Based on research of student debugging practices[3, 7] and our own classroom observations, we have developed an Arduino software library, called Arduino Debugger, which provides some of these debugging tools (ex. breakpoints) while staying within the official Arduino IDE. This work continues a previous library, (redacted), which focused on features specific to e-textiles development boards. The Arduino Debugger library has been modified to support not only e-textile boards (LilyPad, Adafruit Circuit Playground) but most AVR and ARM based Arduino boards. We are also in the process of testing a set of Debugging Code Templates to see how they might increase student adoption of debugging tools.
Hill, C.; Schneider, M.; Gross, M.; Eisenberg, A.; Blum, A. 2020. A Wearable Meter That Actively Monitors the Continuity of E-Textile Circuits as They Are Sewn. In Proceedings of FabLearn 2020. New York, NY. Oct. 10-11, 2020. (virtual conference)
The e-textile landscape has enabled creators to combine textile materiality with electronic capability. However, the tools that e-textile creators use have been adapted from traditional textile or hardware tools. This puts creators at a disadvantage, as e-textile projects present new and unique challenges that currently can only be addressed using a non-specialized toolset. This paper introduces the first iteration of a wearable e-textile debugging tool to assist novice engineers in problem solving e-textile circuitry errors. These errors are often only detected after the project is fully built and are resolved only by disassembling the circuit. Our tool actively monitors the continuity of the conductive thread as the user stitches, which enables the user to identify and correct circuitry errors as they create their project.
Chris Hill, Michael Schneider, Ann Eisenberg, and Mark D. Gross. 2021. The ThreadBoard: Designing an E-Textile Rapid Prototyping Board. In Proceedings of the Fifteenth International Conference on Tangible, Embedded, and Embodied Interaction (TEI ’21) (virtual conference). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, Article 23, 1–7. DOI:https://doi.org/10.1145/3430524.3440642
E-textiles, which embed circuitry into textile fabrics, blend art and creative expression with engineering, making it a popular choice for STEAM classrooms [6, 12]. Currently, e-textile development relies on tools intended for traditional embedded systems, which utilize printed circuit boards and insulated wires. These tools do not translate well to e-textiles, which utilize fabric and uninsulated conductive thread. This mismatch of tools and materials can lead to an overly complicated development process for novices. In particular, rapid prototyping tools for traditional embedded systems are poorly matched for e-textile prototyping. This paper presents the ThreadBoard, a tool that supports rapid prototyping of e-textile circuits. With rapid prototyping, students can test circuit designs and identify circuitry errors prior to their sewn project. We present the design process used to iteratively create the ThreadBoard’s layout, with the goal of improving its usability for e-textile creators.
Michael Schneider. 2022. Where’s the Bug? Helping Students Find Errors in Physical Computing. In Proceedings of the 53rd ACM Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education V. 2 (SIGCSE 2022). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, 1084. https://doi.org/10.1145/3478432.3499059
Popular platforms for teaching physical computing like the LilyPad Arduino and Adafruit Circuit Playground have simplified programming and wiring, enabling students to quickly engineer physical computing projects. But enabling students to rapidly design and build is a double-edged sword: Students can create functioning prototypes without fully understanding the underlying principles. With limited knowledge and experience, students struggle to locate and fix bugs, or errors, in their projects. Absent appropriate debugging tools, students rely on their instructor for locating errors, or worse, turn toward destructive tactics such as tearing apart and rebuilding their project, hoping the bug fixes itself. Students need tools targeted to their ability that scaffold debugging and help them locate bugs in the mixed hardware/software environment of physical computing. I developed Circuit Check to scaffold the debugging process for students. It enables students to observe real-time sensor data and test hardware components through a novel adaptation of the traditional breakpoint for physical computing.
Michael Schneider. 2022. Scaffolding the Debugging Process in Physical Computing with Circuit Check. In Proceedings of the 15th International Conference on Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL). June 6-10 2022. Virtual Conference.
Physical computing projects provide rich opportunities for students to design, construct, and program machines that can sense and interact with the environment. However, students engaging in these activities often struggle to decipher the behavior of hardware components, software, and the interaction between the two. I report on the experiences of middle school students using a software tool, Circuit Check, designed to scaffold the debugging process in physical computing systems. Through think-aloud problem-solving exercises, I found Circuit Check facilitated rich instructor-student discussions. Incorporating these preliminary observations, I discuss design considerations for physical computing tools that support productive struggles and student sense-making.