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In education, we cherish success and fear failure. But not every learning experience is a success right away. In fact, making mistakes and then learning from them is the norm rather than the exception. This talk is about finding a different, more productive stance which can turn failure into success for learning. Drawing upon research in secondary computer science education, specifically in the context of designing and programming wearable and machine learning applications with electronic textiles (clothing that connects sensors and actuators via sewing circuits with conductive thread), Yasmin B. Kafai will present the idea of "Debugging by Design." This instructional approach involves students actively designing failure projects for others to fix, collecting, and celebrating their mistakes, and learning from each other in the process. By intentionally designing failure projects, students can deepen their understanding of concepts, enhance problem-solving skills, and cultivate a growth mindset. Additionally, this approach can be extended to explore machine learning applications as failure artifacts, fostering ethical considerations and mitigating biases. As machine learning becomes increasingly pervasive in various domains, it is essential to understand its limitations and potential biases. By embracing failure as an opportunity for growth, we can create a positive and supportive learning environment and illustrate how failure can become a path to success in learning.

Yasmin B. Kafai is Lori and Michael Milken President’s Distinguished Professor at the Graduate School of Education, University of Pennsylvania, with a courtesy appointment in Computer and Information Science. She is a learning designer and researcher of online tools, projects and communities to promote coding, criticality, and creativity. With colleagues at MIT, she developed the programming language Scratch and researched participation in clubs, classrooms, and communities. More recently, she has investigated the use of electronic textiles to introduce computing, engineering, and machine learning to high school students and teachers as part of the nationwide Exploring Computer Science curriculum. She has written several books, among them “Connected Code: Why Children Need to Learn Programming,” “Connected Gaming: What Making Videogames Can Teach Us About Learning and Literacy,” and recently edited with N. Holbert and M. Berland “Designing Constructionist Futures: The Art, Theory, and Practice of Learning Designs” — all published by MIT Press. Kafai earned a doctorate in education from Harvard University while working at the MIT Media Lab. She is an elected Fellow of the American Educational Research Association and the International Society for the Learning Sciences.


A talk by Yasmin B. Kafai, University of Pennsylvania, on how to turn failure into success for learning.

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