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Textile Messages

Dispatches From the World of E-Textiles and Education

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Edited By Leah Buechley, Kylie Peppler, Michael Eisenberg and Yasmin Kafai

Textile Messages focuses on the emerging field of electronic textiles, or e-textiles – computers that can be soft, colorful, approachable, and beautiful. E-textiles are articles of clothing, home furnishings, or architectures that include embedded computational and electronic elements. This book introduces a collection of tools that enable novices – including educators, hobbyists, and youth designers – to create and learn with e-textiles. It then examines how these tools are reshaping technology education – and DIY practices – across the K-16 spectrum, presenting examples of the ways educators, researchers, designers, and young people are employing them to build new technology, new curricula, and new creative communities.
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6 Making Connections Across Disciplines in High School E-Textile Workshops

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At the end of the last day, John reflected on the process of making his first electronic textile project: “I didn’t know it took all this to light stuff up.”

Most of today’s technology designs make invisible or blackbox what makes them work. For everyday purposes, not knowing how your computer or software works might well be appropriate. Yet for educational purposes visibility might be more beneficial in promoting better understanding of functionality and access to computing (Buechley 2010; Eisenberg et al. 2006). In working with e-textiles, the process of making technology visible is both simple and complex at the same time. As the comment by John, a 14-year-old high school student, illustrates, it’s difficult to know what it takes to make lights work—simple at first sight but more complex upon closer inspection.

Working with e-textiles involves the multiple disciplines of computer science, engineering, and the arts as designers engage in crafting, coding, and circuitry that, as Ngai, Chan, and Ng argue in Chapter 2, can be difficult, if not cumbersome to understand for those new to e-textiles. Further, projects with multiple types of designs of circuitry, coding, crafting can go wrong in many ways (Resnick, Berg, and Eisenberg 2000). Identifying, debugging, and solving these problems are at the crux of being able to design functional e-textile designs. Indeed, Sullivan (2008) argues that solving functional design problems helps learners develop intricate inquiry skills that include an iterative feedback loop of observation, hypothesis generation,...

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