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In an era of increasing interconnectedness, knowledge — and power — belongs to those who understand the nature of the interdependent systems that organize the world — and have the skills to change those systems. The books in the Interconnections collection offer K-12 educators a curriculum toolkit for supporting systems thinking with a design-based approach to learning that aligns with current Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards while still being relevant to youth interests in digital culture.

Each book teaches systems thinking concepts and skills in the context of a specific digital media platform and includes an average of six design challenges or learning projects. This innovative, design-based approach is useful for both in- and out-of-school settings, and was developed collaboratively by designers and educators from Indiana University’s Creativity Labs, Institute of Play, the Digital Youth Network, and the National Writing Project.

“Young people growing up today will surely be called upon to address thorny problems that cut across global, interconnected systems: the environment, the economy, the global infrastructure. Few skills will be more important than the capacity to see, understand, and innovate systems. The Interconnections collection, created through a collaboration among scholars, curriculum developers, and teachers across the National Writing Project, provides approaches to teaching systems thinking through activities that also build literacy and support Common Core Standards and career-readiness. This ‘both-and’ approach is a demonstration of what forward-looking curriculum must be in a digital age.”
—Elyse Eidman-Aadahl, Executive Director, National Writing Project, University of California, Berkeley
“The books in this collection offer wonderful activities for engaging young people in new ways of making, helping them learn to express themselves creatively with new technologies. But even more important, they engage young people in new ways of seeing, helping them develop new perspectives for understanding the world—and understanding themselves.”
—Mitchel Resnick, LEGO Papert Professor of Learning Research, and Director, Lifelong Kindergarten group, MIT Media Lab

The Books

Gaming the System

Gaming the System
Designing with Gamestar Mechanic

Katie Salen Tekinbaş, Melissa Gresalfi, Kylie Peppler, and Rafi Santo

Gaming the System demonstrates the nature of games as systems, how game designers need to think in terms of complex interactions of game elements and rules, and how to identify systems concepts in the design process. The activities use Gamestar Mechanic, an online game design environment with a systems thinking focus.

For more information on Gamestar Mechanic:



Script ChangersScript Changers
Digital Storytelling with Scratch

Kylie Peppler, Rafi Santo, Melissa Gresalfi, and Katie Salen Tekinbaş

Script Changers shows the ways that stories offer a lens for seeing the world as a series of systems. It provides opportunities for youths to create interactive and animated stories about creating positive change in their communities. These projects utilize the Scratch visual programming environment.

For more information on Scratch:



Short CircuitsShort Circuits
Crafting e-Puppets with DIY Electronics

Kylie Peppler, Katie Salen Tekinbaş, Melissa Gresalfi, and Rafi Santo

Short Circuits offers youths opportunities to undertake physical computing projects, providing tools and methods for creating electronic puppets. Youths learn how to incorporate microprocessors into everyday materials and use them to enhance their language and writing skills with shadow puppet shows featuring their own DIY flashlights.

For more information on the e-crafting materials in this book:


Soft Circuits

Soft Circuits
Crafting e-Fashion with DIY Electronics

Kylie Peppler, Melissa Gresalfi, Katie Salen Tekinbaş, and Rafi Santo

Soft Circuits introduces youths to the world of wearable technology. Using Modkit, an accessible DIY electronics toolkit, youths learn to create e-textile cuffs, “electrici-tee” shirts, and solar-powered backpacks. Youths also learn the importance of one component to the whole—how, for example, changing the structure of LED connections immediately affects the number of LEDs that light up.

For more information on the e-crafting materials in this book:


An Interconnections Guide for Educators

What is the Interconnections curricula?

Interconnections: Understanding Systems through Digital Design is a collection of curricula that support middle-school aged youths to develop critical twenty-first century skills—systems thinking and digital design—by engaging in rich project­based learning using the latest technologies.

What is systems thinking, and why is it important foryoung people?

As the world gets more complex and interconnected, we need to help our kids to understand and positively impact the dizzying number of systems around them. Systems thinking is a set of ideas and practices that allow kids to see through the “lens” of systems: how to take a “big picture” view of complex social structures and technologies, how to see the patterns and dynamics that drive systems, how to understand that the whole is usually greater than the sum of its parts.

How is digital design different from other uses of educational technology?

Digital design is all about getting youths the skills they need in order to be innovative, creative, and entrepreneurial thinkers. Rather than educational technologies that replicate a consumer mentality around learning, dumping information into youths’ brains, digital design activities put them in the driver’s seat, and prepare them for a world that increasingly expects them to engage in creative processes.

Digital storytelling, circuitry, and game design, really?

There are lots of great reasons we've found in our work to use these platforms and technologies as the foundation for a classroom curriculum. Coding and creating with these tools is incredibly engaging, the results – games, animated stories, and fashion -- are an integral part of youth culture, and can be leveraged to get youths excited about entering into some pretty important academic practices: giving and getting feedback, revising drafts, making arguments, problem solving, and more.

Does this align to standards?

Yes! All the Interconnections curricula have been aligned to the Common Core State Standards in areas including language arts, history and science, as well as the Next Generation Science Standards.

How much time does this take?

Each Interconnections curriculum is designed to take about 20­-30 hours overall, but of course can and will be adapted to fit youths’ needs and abilities as well as your school culture. This means that we fully expect that you might take certain parts and extend them, cut other parts, or repurpose to fit existing units of study.

Where can I find out more about the Interconnections Collection?