The MAKEY project in Finland draws on a larger programme of research that investigates children’s digital literacy practices and digital competence development in makerspaces within and across various sites. These include a city-run daycare center catering children aged 0 to 6 years old, two city-run schools catering children aged 7 to 16 years old, an art and craft school (SME), and a science center. The makerspaces in these sites position children as active, creative and critical investigators of and with digital technologies. The makerspaces can vary from adventurous inquiry in the digital domain through art, to more guided programming and electronic craft, 3D printing, game design, e-textiles and so forth.
The project relates children’s digital literacy practices and digital competence development to creativity. The creative elements of participating in a digital culture involve understanding the affordances of different modes and media, and devising and developing productive ways to use them in sense-making and self-making processes. The project will thus identify the potential that makerspaces have for enhancing children’s creative and critical digital production skills, and how they can become competent multimodal and multimedia designers and redesigners when provided with appropriate resources and support.
By applying sociocultural theorising and contemporary literacy theories, the project holds that researching children’s digital literacy practices and competence development in makerspaces needs to take into account temporality (i.e. how digital competencies develop and manifest themselves over time in tool-mediated interactions), and several inter-related levels of analysis, namely personal, relational and institutional levels. The multilevel approach allows us to investigate maker activities (a) as designed learning activities; (b) as communities of practice; (c) as knowledge construction and creation, and (d) as identity formation.
The project is expected to have theoretical, methodological, and empirical impact. Theoretically, the project will develop new conceptualizations of young children’s digital literacy practice and competencies through dialogue between sociocultural and contemporary literacy theories. Methodologically, the project will develop novel ways of documenting, analysing and assessing the development of students’ digital literacy practices and competence development in makerspaces. Empirically, the project will address a major gap in research; Understanding what triggers children’s engagement, learning and identity formation in making activities and how teachers/educators can support these processes, potentiates ways of modifying makerspaces and their pedagogical practices towards deep learning opportunities and inclusivity.
The proposed project is also expected to lead to important policy and practice insights for addressing children’s digital literacy practices and competence development in makerspaces. It is envisaged that the project will lead to new models being developed of the organization and delivery of makerspaces for children in both formal and non-formal institutions, such as museums, science centers and libraries. The findings of the project will also offer insights into teacher education programs, curriculum development, and into the design of new learning environments for different educational and cultural institutions serving diverse children and their families.
The Finnish team have undertaken 3 case studies which involve 9 children and 2 teachers in Early Childhood Centres, and 12 children and 10 teachers in libraries.
The have undertaken observations, taken videos and photographs and interviewed participants.
The team are finding that in order to enhance children’s digital literacy and creativity, there needs to be a provision of multimodal maker activities that re-mix tools, means and contexts. The early childhood professionals demonstrated strong pedagogical expertise, which valued children’s agency, were aware of the digital possibilities of the activities, and sparked creativity and imagination.
The next stages of the project will involve disseminating the outcomes with other researchers, teachers and educators in cultural institutions and SMEs.