06 SES 12, Makey: Acess to Digital Play and Technologies for Young Children in Makerspaces
This symposium shares findings from the MakEY project (Makerspaces in the early years: Enhancing digital literacy and creativity 2017-2019 - http://makeyproject.eu/). In the project, the digital literacy and creative skills of young children are being developed through participation in creative activities in specially-designed spaces termed ‘makerspaces’. The project is a collaboration between researchers in seven European countries, with three of those countries represented in this symposium: Germany, Iceland and Romania.
The maker movement is a worldwide, grassroot movement that invites participants to gather in makerspaces, where hands-on activities, creating, tinkering, hacking and crafting is possible (Bender & Peppler, 2017). Makerspaces provide spaces, tools and opportunities to work by oneself or with others in supportive surroundings offering digital technologies to enhance making and sustain communities of practice.
The importance of being able to navigate today’s complex technological world for young children should not be underestimated, as they are destined to need various digital skiIls to cope with future challenges in their life and work. It is acknowledged that society´s capacity to innovate is related to its investment in human capital in order to reform traditional industries in line with technological developments (Castells & Himanen, 2014). The MakEY project attempts to identify how far makerspaces can support young children’s digital literacy and creativity, and thus prepare them for this changing world.
Researchers have undertaken empirical research in both informal and formal learning situations across countries involved in the study. These range from organised learning in kindergartens and pre-schools, to after-school classes and community-based workshops for young children and their parents, offered by educational companies, libraries, community centers or artists. Some of this research is undertaken with diverse communities that with children from socio-economically challenged groups, including children from refugees and asylum seeking families.
The research questions enable a multilevel analysis of the data at a personal, relational and institutional levels. On the personal level we interrogate the meanings and motivations children attach to their engagement in making activities. At an institutional level, we question perceived institutional and organisational barriers to the use of makerspaces by 3-8 year olds. The papers in this symposium focus on the research questions that interrogate the social relations between participants in the makerspace, which enable an examination of how far makerspaces foster inclusion and intercultural communication:
- What characterises the social interactions and learning practices that arise in the digital makerspace?
- How do diverse children engage in the social interactions of the makerspace?
- How do the social and material resources of the makerspace support diverse children’s engagement, digital literacy and creative design skills?
The conceptual framework is drawn from sociocultural and activity-theoretical approaches, which place social practice at the core of analysis (Kumpulainen & Sefton-Green, 2014; Stetsenko, 2015; Holland, Lachicotte, Skinner, & Cain, 1998; Vygotsky, 1987). At the relational level we are interested in exploring the nature of social interactions and learning practices, including collective creativity, that arise in maker spaces. Heterogeneity, complexity, and conflict are central features of any social practice (Rajala & Sannino, 2015; Kumpulainen & Renshaw, 2007; Lave, 2008) and thus it is important to trace the continuous negotiation and conflict between the varied agendas, identities, and interests of the children, cultural industry professionals, teachers and other stakeholders who take part in the makerspace activities.
Three MakEY research cases from Germany, Iceland and Romania are presented in order to explore these issues. They demonstrate the variety of makerspaces and related practices that can be observed in Europe today.
Bender, S., & Peppler, K. (2017). Makerspaces. In K. Peppler (Ed.), The Sage Encyclopedia of out-of-school learning. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications. Castells, M., & Himanen, P. (2014). Reconceptualizing developments in the global information age. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Holland, D., Lachicotte, W. Skinner, D. & Cain, C. (1998). Identity and agency in cultural worlds. Cambridge, MA.: Harvard University Press. Kumpulainen, K., & Sefton-Green, J. (2014). What is connected learning and how to research it? International Journal of Learning and Media, Vol. 4 (2), pp7-18. Lave, J. (2008). Situated learning and changing practice. In A. Amin & J. Roberts (Eds.), Community, economic creativity, and organization (pp. 283–296). Oxford: Oxford University Press. Rajala, A., & Sannino, A. (2015). Students’ deviations from a learning task: An activity-theoretical analysis. International Journal of Educational Research, Vol. 70, pp31-46. Stetsenko, A. (2015). Theory for and as social practice of realizing the future. In J. Martin, J. Sugarman, & K. Slaney (Eds.), The Wiley handbook of theoretical and philosophical psychology: Methods, approaches, and new directions for social sciences (pp. 102-116). New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Vygotsky, L. (1987). The collected works of L. S. Vygotsky (Vol. 1). New York: Plenum.
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