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Connected Code: Why Children Need to Learn Programming

Yasmin B. Kafai and Quinn Burke • The MIT Press (2014)

Coding, once considered an arcane craft practiced by solitary techies, is now recognized by educators and theorists as a crucial skill, even a new literacy, for all children. Programming is often promoted in K-12 schools as a way to encourage “computational thinking”—which has now become the umbrella term for understanding what computer science has to contribute to reasoning and communicating in an ever-increasingly digital world. In Connected Code, Yasmin Kafai and Quinn Burke argue that although computational thinking represents an excellent starting point, the broader conception of “computational participation” better captures the twenty-first-century reality. Computational participation moves beyond the individual to focus on wider social networks and a DIY culture of digital “making.” Kafai and Burke describe contemporary examples of computational participation: students who code not for the sake of coding but to create games, stories, and animations to share; the emergence of youth programming communities; the practices and ethical challenges of remixing (rather than starting from scratch); and the move beyond stationary screens to programmable toys, tools, and textiles.

 

Connected Play: Tweens in a Virtual World

Yasmin B. Kafai and Debbie A. Fields • The MIT Press (2013)

Millions of children visit virtual worlds every day. In such virtual play spaces as Habbo Hotel, Toontown, and Whyville, kids chat with friends from school, meet new people, construct avatars, and earn and spend virtual currency. In Connected Play, Yasmin Kafai and Deborah Fields investigate what happens when kids play in virtual worlds, how this matters for their offline lives, and what this means for the design of educational opportunities in digital worlds. Available here.

 

Textile Messages: Dispatches from the World of e-Textiles and Education

Leah Buechley, Kylie A. Peppler, Michael Eisenberg, and Yasmin B. Kafai, Editors • Peter Lang (2013)

This volume reports 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. Vignettes throughout the book provide illustrative examples of what this means in practice: handbags that store and play back knitting patterns, traditional embroideries that glow and sing, and dresses that register and respond to our movements like wearable companions. Available here.

 

The Computer Clubhouse: Constructionism and Creativity in Youth Communities
Yasmin B. Kafai, Kylie A. Peppler, and Robbin N. Chapman, Editors • Teachers College Press (2009)
Foreword by Barton J. Hirsch and Rosaline Hudnell

This book is about the Computer Clubhouse—the idea and the place—that inspires youth to think about themselves as competent, creative, and critical learners. So much of the social life of young people has moved online and participation in the digital public has become an essential part of youth identities. The Computer Clubhouse makes an important contribution not just in local urban communities but also as a model for after-school learning environments globally. The model has been uniquely successful scaling up, with over 100 Clubhouses thriving worldwide. Showcasing research by scholars and evaluators that have documented and analyzed the international Computer Clubhouse Network, this volume considers the implications of their findings in the context of what it means to prepare youth to meet the goals of the 21st Century. Available here.

 

Beyond Barbie and Mortal Kombat: New Perspectives on Gender and Gaming
Yasmin B. Kafai, Carrie Heeter, Jill Dennder and Jennifer Sun, Editors • MIT Press (2008)

Beyond Barbie and Mortal Kombat brings together new media theorists, game designers, educators, psychologists, and industry professionals, to look at how gender intersects with the broader contexts of digital games today. The contributors (including some from the earlier volume,) discuss the rise of massively multiplayer online games; the experiences of girl and women players in gaming communities; the need for different perspectives in game design; and gender concerns related to emerging serious games (games meant not only to entertain but also to educate, persuade, or change behavior). Available here.

 

Constructionism in Practice: Designing, Thinking, and Learning in a Digital World
Yasmin B. Kafai and Mitchel Resnick, Editors • Lawrence Erlbaum Associates (1996)

The digital revolution necessitates, but also makes possible, radical changes in how and what we learn. This book describes a set of innovative educational research projects at the MIT Media Laboratory, illustrating how new computational technologies can transform our conceptions of learning, education, and knowledge. The book draws on real-world education experiments conducted in formal and informal contexts: from inner-city schools and university labs to neighborhoods and after-school clubhouses. Available here.

 

Minds in Play: Computer Game Design for Children’s Learning
Yasmin B. Kafai • Lawrence Erlbaum Associates (1995)

Video games more than any other media have become an essential part of contemporary children’s culture. Whereas most research efforts have concentrated on discussing the effects of game playing, Minds in Play takes a close look at games as a context for learning by placing children in the roles of producers rather than consumers of games. Kafai follows a class of sixteen fourth-grade students from an inner-city public elementary school as they were programming games in Logo to teach fractions to third graders. In this context, programming became a medium for children’s personal and creative expression: in the design of their games children engaged their fantasies and built relationships with other pockets of reality that went beyond traditional school approaches. Available here for free!