Convention Keynote to Focus on “Debugging by Design”


Can failure help students learn? That intriguing question will be addressed in a keynote presentation by the University of Pennsylvania’s Yasmin B. Kafai at the AECT Convention in Orlando.
Kafai’s talk will draw upon extensive research in 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). The talk 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.
“In education, we cherish success and fear failure,” said Kafai. “But not every learning experience is a success right away. By intentionally designing failure projects, students can deepen their understanding of concepts, enhance problem-solving skills, and cultivate a growth mindset.”
“We are delighted that Professor Kafai has agreed to present her work at our convention, which celebrates 100 years of AECT. Professor Kafai’s approach is counter-intuitive and incredibly innovative,” said Professor Joi L. Moore, AECT President-Elect. “Our convention attendees will have plenty to consider from this keynote and take with them for their research and teaching.”
“Professor Kafai’s research really provides context into the current and future problems, opportunities, and applications centered upon the study of technology’s impact upon human learning experiences and interactions which AECT seeks to continue to examine and lead research conversations around,” said AECT CEO, Nolan Gruver. 
Kafai is the 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.
Kafai 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.
The AECT International Convention will be held October 15-19 at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel in Orlando, Florida.  Early bird registration is open until July 31. More details are available at

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