STEAM-powered computing education

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STEAM stands for STEM + Arts. According to Kylie Peppler (2013:38) “Incorporating novel, cross-disciplinary technologies such as e-textiles in computing education [STEAM] can broaden participation, particularly by women, and improve learning outcomes.”. “Taken together, emerging tools, materials, practices, and products at the intersection of the arts and the STEM disciplines could revolutionize computing education as well as have rippling impacts within each of these fields.” (p. 43)

According to the Stem to STEAM website (10/2013), “[...] innovation remains tightly coupled with Science, Technology, Engineering and Math – the STEM subjects. Art + Design are poised to transform our economy in the 21st century just as science and technology did in the last century. We need to add Art + Design to the equation — to transform STEM into STEAM.”

John Maeda (2013) argues that “Science, Technology, Engineering and Math – the STEM subjects – alone will not lead to the kind of breathtaking innovation the 21st century demands. Innovation happens when convergent thinkers, who march straight ahead towards their goal, combine forces with divergent thinkers – those who professionally wander, who are comfortable being uncomfortable, and who look for what is real.”

James Catterall (2013) points out that the "E" is missing in school curriculum, i.e. engineering education is for later. Therefore he (rightly) suggests: “If elementary and secondary students in STEAM programs were offered instruction, challenge, and opportunity in design, they may better understand, and personally integrate, science, mathematics and technology ideas in their views of the world and its problems. They might even aspire to engineering careers with a clearer sense of what they could contribute tosociety and to their own lives by doing so.” In other words, there can't be serious discussion about introducing STEAM without asking the question on how it should relate to design education.

Magloire and Aly (2013) report that “It was impressive how quickly participants were able to grasp concepts about electronics when it was blended with art. Participants were able to think and express themselves through art, in particular drawing.”


Drawing from their experience with e-textiles, Peppler (2013) have developed a series of eight guiding principles of STEAM-powered computing education:

  1. Choose open-ended, personal, and aesthetic tools and materials
  2. Make design thinking central
  3. Create authentic combinations of STEM and the arts
  4. Facilitate easy-entry, but challenging, designs
  5. Purposefully contrast multiple media, tools, and materials
  6. Involve a range of disciplinary experts
  7. Devise new assessments, pedagogy, and learning environments
  8. Document and showcase work


  • The Steam Journal, is a transdisciplinary, theory-practice, peer-reviewed, open access, online journal with a focus on the intersection of STEM and Art. The journal integrates perspectives from a variety of contexts and fields. (open access).
Teams, experiments


  • Peppler, Kylie; Diane Glosson, Yasmin Kafai, Deborah Fields, and Kristin Searle. 2011. Articulating creativity in a new domain: expert insights from the field of e-textiles. In Proceedings of the 8th ACM conference on Creativity and cognition (C&C '11). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 385-386. DOI=10.1145/2069618.2069708
  • Kafai, Yasmin B.; Kylie A. Peppler, Quinn Burke, Michael Moore, Diane Glosson: Fröbel's forgotten gift: textile construction kits as pathways into play, design and computation. IDC 2010: 214-217