Teaching Arts Through Tech is a 3-part podcast series of interviews with individuals making contributions to the field of integrated arts and tech. Click here for part 1 with Jane Alexander and part 2 with Jessica Wilt.
My third interviewee was Dr. Kylie Peppler. Kylie is the director of the Creativity Labs and an Assistant Professor of Learning Sciences, both at Indiana University Bloomington. Her work examines the intersection of arts, education, and technology in creating engaging and relevant learning environments. Her philosophy is that educational experience needs to embody learning in order to make the connection and make it memorable.
Through the course of her research, Kylie has honed in on e-textiles as a key tool to accomplish educational goals. E-textiles (pictured above) are fabrics in which electronics can be embedded, and circuits are sewn rather than welded or snapped together. This creates a connection that is more flexible and easily worn than traditional circuitry.
In addition to being more physically effective, e-textiles are a proven method of closing the gender divide between boys and girls in tech. The chart below illustrates the current statistics:
E-textiles are created with Arduino, a platform based on the use of multi-purpose hardware and software designed for artists, designers, hobbyists, and others who wish to create an interactive object or environment. Coding can be used to further control inputs and responses from the hardware. The Arduino that Kylie uses is the Lilypad Arduino, which is specially designed to be used with e-textiles.
In addition to e-textiles, Kylie is an advocate for using interdisciplinary learning in all classroom settings. She has helped to develop something called the Design Playshop Model. This model recommends the use of quadrants to determine learning outcomes that encompass several educational fields, as well as skills needed to work together in real-life settings. These quadrants are determined by the educator and would vary from project to project. Below is an illustration of the four quadrants laid out in the example of e-textiles:
Several pieces of Kylie's research are published in formats that can either be downloaded for free or purchased for a low price. To download and read Kylie's report for the Wallace Foundation entitled "New Opportunities for Interest-Driven Arts Learning in a Digital Age", click here.
She also has four books available from MIT Press that talk more about learning through games, Scratch (a programming language designed at MIT to help young people build their own multimedia games), creating e-puppets, and e-textiles. To read summaries or purchase these books, click here.
A few recurring messages have arisen from this podcast series:
-When integrating subject matter, consult with and trust experts.
-The technology itself is not as important as finding a way to use technology in a manner that supports what you are trying to accomplish--a new gadget is only as good as the plan behind it.
-Regardless of whether it is STEM, STEAM, or the Maker Movement, the end goal is to create dynamic learning environments that can stimulate a level of excitement that spans subject matters and reaches across all ages.
Thank you to all of my interviewees who have taken part in this conversation over the past semester! If readers have any insights and would like to continue the conversation, I encourage you to do so in the comments below.