Playtime Online: Creatively Computing: How To Help Students Understand Everyday Technologies Through DIY Tinkering


About This Episode

Although many students today dabble with digital objects complex and simple, they oftentimes don’t know how to use or hack these technologies in ways other than how they’re prescribed. But what if students had the tools to explore creative uses for both digital and physical objects?

Quest to Learn’s innovative Short Circuit studio is fostering DIY tinkering at the intersection of design, technology, and art. From circuits to fabric to computers to pipe cleaners, students are learning to understand—and create their own—everyday technologies.

Join Playtime Online Wednesday, March 6 from 12–1PM EST to learn about physical computing and why it’s important for young people to think creatively, critically, and iteratively. The discussion will be joined by instructors and students from the Short Circuit program.

Tune in and discover:

  • How to make physical computing accessible to young people
  • Where to find free resources to help you get started and plan lessons for your own Short Circuit program
  • The exciting student projects developed, and their takeaways

Short Circuit guides

Episode Highlights

7:10 What is Short Circuit?
9:15 “[E-textiles] make a lot of things transparent that were previously invisible about electronics. I think it’s really fun to … see this beautiful and aesthetic side of what normally people envision as robotics.”
16:58 How physical computing contributes to kids’ everyday learning
19:24 Teaching physical computing youth learners
33:11 Short Circuit in action
“You teach some foundational concepts and try to get a few simple things working and then you let them loose. You have to let them explore and tap into what they want to do.”

56:59 Is it too late for adults to benefit from the same approach for a professional development setting?
58:08 Do you find that kids in your SparkFun workshops end up going beyond the kits and the direction booklet?
59:06 How many students are in the Short Circuit program? Is there an ideal number?

Twitter hashtag: #playtimers

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Don Miller
Don is the Informal Learning Developer at Institute of Play. He serves as the Director of Playpower, a non-profit organization that brings low-cost learning games to developing countries. Don has also taught as an adjunct professor of creative coding and multimedia at the City University of New York.

Syed Salahuddin
Syed is a Co-Founder of the first independent and permanent arcade, Babycastles. He is also an Instructor at Quest to Learn’s after school program, Short Circuit and an adjunct professor at the NYU Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences and NYU Polytechnic.

Kylie Peppler
Kylie is an Assistant Professor in the Learning Sciences Program at Indiana University, Bloomington. An artist by training, Peppler engages in research that focuses on the intersection of arts, media, new technologies, and informal learning. Kylie seeks to better understand and support literacy, learning, and the arts in the 21st Century.

Toni Pizza 
Toni is a conference assistant and the NYU Game Center student liaison. Toni is an MFA candidate at NYU in the inaugural Game Design program at Tisch and a volunteer with Quest to Learn’s after school program, Short Circuit. At present she is focusing on becoming a design-ninja in both tabletop and digital realms.

Ben Leduc-Mills
Ben is a Ph.D. student in Computer Science at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He is an educator and hacker at SparkFun Electronics, an open-source hardware company. Ben believes that advances in physical computing and personal fabrication, represent a sea change in how novices can learn and use computation.