Associate Research Professor
When not flying through the air during trapeze lessons or sewing with electricity, Dr. Deborah A. Fields seeks to understand and describe Connected Learning. She studies what happens at the intersection of children’s informal learning spaces, like home, school, friends and online.
She has pioneered the Craft Technologies at Utah State University, where students utilize microcontroller programming to create light-up reactive clothing, sewn electronic sensors, and interactive quilted game controllers.
She has published on children’s online media, such as virtual worlds and social networking, DIY, and computer science education sites. Deborah is an author of Connected Play: Tween Life in a Virtual World, (MIT Press, 2013) on kids’ online play. Related, she co-authored a critical review of children’s participation in social networking sites for the Joan Ganz Cooney Center.
Between 2013 and 2018, the Kids DIY Media Partnership looked at how and where children create and share media online, and at the designs, regulations, infrastructures, and technologies that underpin the platforms kids use. Our culminating report includes "best practices for design" with online DIY media sties where children can design and share their designs with others.
This book examines how kids play in virtual worlds, how it matters for their offline lives, and what this means for designing educational opportunities.
Stitching the Loop
An Electronic Textiles Unit in Exploring Computer Science
This new curriculum unit is full of resources for teachers to help students explore electronic textiles. They can make articles of clothing, accessories, or home furnishings with embedded electronic and computational elements.
E-textiles Curricular Unit & Guides
Fields, D. A., Kafai, Y. B., & Giang, M. T. (2017). Youth computational participation in the online Scratch community: Problematizing experience and equity in participation and programming. Transactions of Computing Education, 17(3), Article 15.
Exploring Computer Science
Fields, D. A.,Kafai, Y.B., Nakajima, T.M., Goode, J., & Margolis, J. (2018). Putting making into high school computer science classrooms: Promoting equity in teaching and learning with electronic textiles in Exploring Computer Science. Equity, Excellence, and Education, 51(1), 21-35. https://doi.org/
Deborah’s TEDx talk explores tween activism in virtual worlds. Deborah Fields illuminates the ways that kids responsibly confront social tensions that arise in social online worlds.
Deborah is currently interested in inspiring and advocating for children's creative expression with digital media, coding, and everyday craft materials.
She works to break down stereotypes regarding who can create with digital media and computing. This includes projects which create educational opportunities to design with sewable electronics or the popular programming environment, Scratch. This interest carries over into the growing phenomenon of child-generated digital content in online environments.
- The relationship between learning and engagement in making creative digital objects in both informal and formal contexts.
- Influences of identity, interests, and community on creative objects that children design and make.
- Virtual spaces that support STEM (science, technology, engineering & math) education in classrooms, clubs, and digital social environments.
- Best practices for designing sites for children’s DIY media and educating children about their rights and responsibilities in participating on those sites.
See C.V or Google Scholar for a comprehensive list of publications.
Books, Book Chapters, and Reports
Fields, D.A. & Kafai, Y.B. (2018). Games in the learning sciences: Reviewing evidence from playing and making games for learning. In Fisher, F., Hmelo-Silver, C., Reiman, P. (Eds.), International Handbook of the Learning Sciences. New York, NY: Routledge, pp. 276-284.
Kafai. Y. B. Fields, D. A. (2013). Connected Play: Tweens in a Virtual World. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Grimes, S. Fields, D. (2012). Kids online: A new research agenda for understanding social networking forums. New York. The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop.
Fields, D. A. & Grimes. S. M. (2018). Pockets of freedom, but mostly constraints: Emerging trends in children’s DIY media platforms. In Children, Media and Creativity: The International Clearinghouse on Children, Sweden: Nordicom, 159-172.
Fields, D. A., Kafai, Y.B., Nakajima, T.M., Goode, J., & Margolis, J. (2018). Putting making into high school computer science classrooms: Promoting equity in teaching and learning with electronic textiles in Exploring Computer Science. Equity, Excellence, and Education, 51(1), 21-35. https://doi.org/10.1080/10665684.2018.1436998
Fields, D. A., Kafai, Y. B., & Giang, M. T. (2017). Youth computational participation in the online Scratch community: Problematizing experience and equity in participation and programming. Transactions of Computing Education, 17(3), Article 15 doi> 10.1145/3123815
Fields, D. A. Enyedy, N. (2013). Picking up the mantle of “expert”: Assigned roles, assertion of identity, and peer recognition within a programming class. Mind, Culture, and Activity: An International Journal, 20(2), 113-131.
Fields, D. A. Kafai, Y. B. (2009). A connective ethnography of peer knowledge sharing and diffusion in a tween virtual world. International Journal of Computer Supported Collaborative Learning, 4(1), 47-68.
Fields, D. A. (2009). What do students gain from a week at science camp? Youth perceptions and the design of an immersive research-oriented astronomy camp. International Journal of Science Education, 31(2), 151-171.
Recent Referred Presentations
Fields, D. A. TEDx Talk (Oct 29, 2014). Tween activism in a virtual world.
Kafai, Y. B. Fields, D. A. (2014, June). Connected play: Mischievous cheating for serious gaming. Invited keynote presentation at the combined NSF Cyberlearning Summit and the Playful Learning Summit (at the Games + Learning + Society conference).
Fields, D. A., Giang, M. T., Kafai, Y. B. (2014, March). Broad trends in scratch.mit.edu. Invited presentation at the Scratch Data Summit. MIT Media Lab, Cambridge, MA.
Fields, D. A. (2014, February). Engaging Students at the Intersections of Learning, Interest, and Identification: An Ecological View of Design- and Inquiry-Based Education. Invited keynote address at the Korean Association of Science Education Conference. Daegu, South Korea.
Fields, D. A. (2013, September). Cheating, Gaming, and Kids’ Online Communities. Invited guest lecture for MOOC course on Coursera by Constance Steinkuehler Kurt Squire. 10,000 estimated participants.