Making Sounds with Arduino

The limited funding and job opportunities in the humanities field make it challenging for emerging scholars to pursue additional knowledge. As scholars must acquire extensive knowledge within their respective disciplines, they must also create coherent projects within an academic context. This situation creates difficulties for educators to learn and develop technology-related curriculum. However, there is a positive aspect to incorporating technology in the classroom.

Humanist teachers can explore intellectually stimulating digital pursuits and engage with students in writing classes who are interested in technological projects. Scholar David Rieder questions the predominant ranking of practices like close reading in the English discipline. In his project “Suasive Iterations: Rhetoric, Writing, and Physical Computing” (2017), Rieder argues that combining personal computing and rhetoric can create a shared space, moving away from outdated close reading practices that overlook the potential of technology.

Rieder suggests that technology can enhance a close reading experience rather than replacing it, and denying students access to the digital world isolates their academic work. While I, as a developing literary scholar, value close reading for critical thinking, I am intrigued by some of Rieder’s ideas and contemplate implementing them in the classroom. I believe it is essential for students and scholars to be open to his concepts.

By integrating Rieder’s theoretical ideas into classroom practices, we can find parallels between technology troubleshooting and essay writing, benefiting students struggling with conventional writing norms. Moreover, introducing personal computing in a writing classroom opens up opportunities for students to create impressive projects. Utilizing personal computing in the classroom setting can teach students valuable skills such as research, revision, and editing, even in hands-on projects rather than traditional textual work.

Learning Objectives

The primary goals of this project are to encourage students to rethink the writing process. In introductory rhetoric courses, many students come from diverse academic backgrounds and take rhetoric to fulfill their program’s core requirements. For students with STEM backgrounds, this lesson serves as an opportunity to recognize the connection between digital scholarship and the convergence of humanities and technology. The lesson is particularly beneficial for those who prefer a hands-on and technical approach to learning.

By bridging the gap between different learning styles, this project demonstrates to writers from non-humanities disciplines that they can approach writing with problem-solving in mind. Moreover, it highlights the value of writing within their chosen fields of study or areas of professional expertise.

In summary, the key objectives of this project include:

1. Familiarize students with the fundamentals of Arduino software.
2. Demonstrate the interplay between hands-on learning and writing, showcasing how they complement each other.
3. Encourage students to explore diverse applications of research, writing, and revision beyond the classroom setting.

Assignment Length

Students are expected to dedicate one to two class periods to work on this project. Additionally, a small portion of time outside of class should be allocated to complete a group writing assessment and engage in self-reflection.

Required Material

The necessary materials for this project include an Arduino Uno Kit, a computer, and the required software.

Skills Necessary

Instructors are required to possess a certain level of proficiency in Arduino software.

Access and Adaptability

This lesson emerged from Dr. Casey Boyle’s graduate seminar on “Accessible Rhetorics,” where both students and the instructor explored the concept of accessibility in and beyond the classroom.

In the book “Restricted Access: Media, Disability, and the Politics of Participation,” Elizabeth Ellcessor discusses how various professionals collaborate to transform communication and media technologies to enable access for individuals with disabilities. This work is typically carried out in fields such as rehabilitation, special education, and engineering, falling under the category of “assistive technologies.” The main goal of these research and design projects is to modify technology’s material and encoded forms to facilitate its use by people with disabilities (90).

When expertise from different fields, as highlighted by Ellcessor, converges, it can lead to the development of innovative assistive projects. By introducing access-based disability scholarship in a humanities-based classroom, students from diverse professional backgrounds can be empowered to explore how tools like Arduino Uno software can be utilized to create assistive technology solutions.

Assignment Description

This assignment will take place after students have completed some formal writing assignments, providing a refreshing break in the writing process to allow for reflection on research, writing, and revision. Students will work in pairs or small groups, and each group will be given an Arduino Uno Starter kit to make one of the kit’s piezo buzzers emit sound. Some groups may complete this task relatively quickly, so more advanced groups will have the opportunity to work on lighting up the light sensors or modifying the Arduino code to create different sound patterns.

Instructor Preparation

Familiarize with Arduino fundamentals.
Develop written assignment guidelines.
Identify parallels between writing and hands-on procedures.

Student Preparation

View the instructional video.
Refresh knowledge on Arduino Uno fundamentals.
Be ready to discuss the writing process.

In-Class or Assignment Instructions

Collaborate as a group to devise a strategy for activating the piezo buzzer.
Watch the instructional video both before and during the class session.
Participate in creating a concise written report.

Skills Workshop

In groups of three or four, students will have access to the DWRL’s Arduino Uno starter kit. They can utilize the Arduino software either on their personal computers or on the lab computers. Additionally, I will provide a PDF document titled “Getting Started with Arduino” by Massimo Banzi, the cofounder of Arduino, which will serve as a resource guide detailing the kit’s contents. This part of the lesson will be conducted as a preparatory activity at home before the class session.

Students will conduct a quick inventory to understand the purpose of each component in the kit, gaining a general idea of their functionalities. Moreover, they will watch an instructional video to learn how to utilize Arduino Uno computing devices along with the computer programming software.

Assessment Suggestions

Instructors have the flexibility to decide the scope of this assignment, which can either be a small standalone task or part of a larger, ongoing project exploring digital humanities and technology in writing classrooms.

Students will collaborate to create a group write-up detailing their experience with using the Arduino. This report should include technical information about the computing components and software code. They should briefly describe how they divided the work to make the piezo buzzer emit sound. The report should outline each member’s contributions, as well as the group’s successes and challenges during the process. Additionally, students should reflect on how the tinkering process relates to research, writing, and revision.

In separate reflective statements, students should address the challenges they encountered during the writing process and compare their experiences working with Arduinos to traditional essay writing, discussing whether it was more comfortable or challenging.

The instructor’s evaluation will not focus on whether the students successfully made a sound with the Arduino buzzer but rather on their ability to assess their accomplishments and setbacks in the process. The most critical aspect of evaluation lies in their thoughtful engagement and analysis of analogous features between the writing and tinkering processes, which will be at the core of the assignment’s rubric.

About The Author

Ibrar Ayyub

I am an experienced technical writer holding a Master's degree in computer science from BZU Multan, Pakistan University. With a background spanning various industries, particularly in home automation and engineering, I have honed my skills in crafting clear and concise content. Proficient in leveraging infographics and diagrams, I strive to simplify complex concepts for readers. My strength lies in thorough research and presenting information in a structured and logical format.

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