Exploring Digital Fabrication in Elementary School Education
This study will explore the effects of Paper Pocket Pets approach on students' creativity and their ability to learn digital fabrication and programming.
Paper Pockets Pets, before and after construction.
Paper Pocket Pets
Paper Pocket Pets is an approach that focuses on children’s creativity to explore digital fabrication and programming in a playful manner. Rather than following an example step by step, we hope that children will create their personal pets with different behavior inspired by Stigberg et al.'s work.
Stigberg et al. explored how to introduce digital fabrication to children by designing activities that foster their creativity and personal expression. They formulated two goals:
- the activities should be meaningful to children; it should be something they are interested in, eager to learn and willing to invest time on
- the activities shall combine digital fabrication with traditional crafts to enhance existing practices, providing a sense of achievement early in the process, as well as enabling in-depth exploration and appropriation further on.
Their resulting idea is Paper Pocket Pets, a set of activities to create personal interactive toys that children can carry along with them. They were inspired by interactive pets already on the market, such as Tamagotchi, Fingerlings, and Hatchimals. These are small interactive toys that can fit in the pockets of their owners. However, they have limited possibilities to be personalized or adapted during use, so risking becoming boring for the children after some time and ending up in a drawer. Paper Pocket Pets offers the possibility for children to create the interactive toy from scratch, allowing for creativity, personalization and change over time.
Creating Paper Pocket Pets involves four different activities:
- paper folding or other traditional crafts to create a pet;
- fabrication of the pet’s shelter (a platform where the pet lives on);
- fabrication of the pet’s electric components such as LEDs;
- and programming the pet’s behavior.
Digital skills a part of Scandinavian school curriculums
Digital skills have become a core part of Scandinavian school curriculums. Digital skills include the use of digital tools, and the teaching of programming languages and digital fabrication skills. In mathematics classes, students learn computational thinking and programming; while in technology classes, students learn about technical solutions that use electronics and how they can be programmed. These new activities can bring powerful ideas, literacies, and expressive tools to children. However, in our earlier research at a Swedish primary school, we observed frequently the “keychain syndrome”, that is students learned how to use a digital tool by following a given example, but they did not appropriate these tools for use in other contexts.
Aim of the study
This study is a case study of problem based learning introducing digital fabrication and programming in an elementary school, and includes 7-9th grade technology classes at a Swedish primary school and at a German primary school. We will explore the effects of paper pocket pets approach on students' creativity and their ability to learn digital fabrication and programming. We aim to provide a set of implications for future research and the toolkit as well as lesson plans as a resource for teachers.
The project starts autumn 2019 and is scheduled to end in 2020.