Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group


First Advisor

Yasmin B. Kafai

Second Advisor

John L. Jackson, Jr.


By providing access to hands-on activities and the physical and digital tools necessary to complete them, maker activities encourage cross-disciplinary, interest-driven learning and problem solving in schools. However, maker movement efforts to broaden participation into computer science have largely ignored Indigenous populations. In this dissertation, I examine how electronic textiles (e-textiles) materials connects to the heritage craft practices found in many Indigenous communities. By design, e-textiles materials combine low-tech craft practices like sewing with high-tech engineering and programming. Framing learning computing within these two distinct but overlapping cultural contexts provides youth will a familiar context in which to learn something new (programming), promotes positive identity development, and fosters connections across multiple dimensions of youth’s lives. At the core of this work is design-based research into the development and implementation of a three-week electronic textiles unit in gender-segregated Native Studies class with American Indian youth (12-14 years old) at a charter school located on tribal lands in the Southwest. This unit was implemented four times over the course of the school year. Findings highlight how different groups of students (American Indian girls and American Indian boys) engaged with e-textiles activities and how their perspectives on computing developed through participation in the unit. In addition, the teacher’s perspective on integrating digital technologies in the Native Studies classroom is explored within the context of contemporary Federal Indian educational policy and practice. This work makes three significant contributions to ethnography, computing education, and American Indian education. First, it proposes a new methodology through the integration of ethnography with design-based research and critical Indigenous research approaches. Second, it contributes to the emerging field of culturally responsive computing by exploring what happens when computing moves beyond the screen and into the tangible realm. Third, it furthers our understandings of the role of digital technologies in American Indian education, with a particular focus on how making activities might contribute to increased educational sovereignty for Indigenous peoples throughout the United States.

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