Skip to main content

Welcome, you are visiting ECTL

ECTL Profile

EAGER Maker: Developing High-Tech, Low-Cost Making Projects to Enhance Computational Teaching and Learning


This project is supported by the STEM+Computing (STEM+C) program, which advances applied research integrating computational thinking and computing activities within disciplinary science, technology, engineering, and mathematics teaching and learning in early childhood education through high school (preK-12). The Developing High-Tech, Low-Cost Making Projects to Enhance Computational Teaching and Learning (ECTL) will design a new genre of low-cost, high-tech maker projects to help students work across physical and digital designs to expand their computational thinking practices into new directions. The project objectives are to: 1) build knowledge and pedagogical practices that create new entry points for young people to explore digital computation; 2) develop culturally relevant digital making projects that advance equity-oriented Science. Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) and computational practices for youth and communities whose member are underrepresented in STEM; and 3) identify future areas of research and development that will expand civic, cultural, and scientific participation. Rather than giving educators the digital designs of computer scientists and asking them to implement new projects in afterschool settings, ECTL will design digital making projects that recognize community expertise. This expertise combined with that of artists, computer scientists, and learning scientists will allow the project team to develop new high-tech/low-cost projects to advance the computational thinking practices of young people in working-class communities of color. This project builds on the computational practices rooted in histories of making activities within marginalized communities and will introduce new digital computing practices into their existing material-rich making programs. Guided by project research, ECTL will design activities using low-cost, high-tech tools like craft cutters and e-textiles in combination with familiar objects, tools, and activities that educators are already using in their maker programs. The project will use a low cost/high tech approach to explicitly connect students' cultural worlds to digital computational thinking practices that are not expensive, flashy, or laboratory-like. Project research findings and practical educational resources, such as activity/educator guides to low-cost/high-tech projects, will be widely shared with researchers and educators.
ECTL is designed to ensure that transformative learning in the digital maker movement is equitable and incorporates the ingenuity of working class communities of color in the design and expansion of computational thinking education initiatives. The project will first study how computational practices are already supported in maker programs, and then complement existing practices with the use high-tech/low-cost digital technology to create a new genre of culturally sustaining digital maker projects. Three research questions will guide the development process: 1) How do young people learn computational thinking practices through activities that connect to cultural practices and creative play with high-tech, low cost materials in three afterschool programs? 2) How do educators enhance young people's computational thinking practices using high tech low cost materials in existing afterschool settings? 3) How do artists, educators, computer scientists, and researchers work together to develop new projects that draw out young people's computational thinking and deepen practices over time? Each cycle of research and design will begin in the three afterschool settings where researchers will observe and collect video data of computational practices that educators are already supporting through the development maker projects in their afterschool settings. The next phase will be video analysis of these computational thinking practices emerging in each site. Teams of afterschool educators and their research partners will analyze and present examples, challenges, and creative breakthroughs they capture in their local site. The final phase of each cycle will culminate in workshops with research + practice partnerships, artists, and computer scientists to develop and prototype digital maker projects that build on existing practices with a focus sharper focus on culturally sustaining digital designs. ECTL will contribute to the literatures on distributed cognition and collaborative learning by focusing on the understudied ways in which cultural practices and identity development, how race, class, and gender identities can be can be leveraged as resources, The project will add to the limited but growing research on in the design and implementation of high-tech low-cost maker projects.