In this project, teams of researchers, early years practitioners and community and industry partners will collaborate in knowledge exchange and the co-creation of new pedagogies and learning environments, including the development of digital tools and solutions that offer children avenues for digital learning.

The digital literacy and creative skills of young children will be developed through participation in makerspaces in formal educational settings. Across the various sites for the study, which include a nursery and three primary schools in Sheffield that serve diverse communities, the project will involve a range of approaches to making, including e-textiles, play with conductive play dough and paint, the design and creation of 3D printed artefacts and e-books, and the creation of objects for Virtual Reality play. The activities will foster the development of digital literacy and creativity, and will enable the integration of knowledge across areas including literacy, science, technology and the creative arts.

There will be an emphasis on examining the benefits and challenges of co-produced research involving a range of stakeholders. There will be a transfer of knowledge in this process, as each group shares their specific areas of expertise, but a key aim is that through this process there will be a co-construction of knowledge in which new understandings of the problems will emerge. The project will strengthen partnerships between academic, cultural industry and education sectors.

In addition, the project will also investigate ways in which such work can be understood through an interdisciplinary lens which involves researchers from education, computer science, sociology and urban studies and planning. Through this interdisciplinary and inter-sector collaboration, knowledge about young children’s learning in makerspaces can be co-constructed in ways which illuminate the possibilities and challenges embedded in the development of transformative, playful pedagogies that foster tinkering, hacking and creative thinking.

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