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MAKERSPACES IN THE EARLY YEARS: ENHANCING DIGITAL LITERACY AND CREATIVITY (MakEY)

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - MakEY (MAKERSPACES IN THE EARLY YEARS: ENHANCING DIGITAL LITERACY AND CREATIVITY (MakEY))

Reporting period: 2018-07-01 to 2019-06-30

It is important that young children have opportunities to foster their creativity and develop the kinds of creative skills that are important for future employment and learning, such as creative design, in a fast-changing, highly-technologise world. In this project, the digital literacy and creative skills of young children were developed through participation in creative activities in specially-designed spaces termed ‘makerspaces’. These are spaces that enable participants to create a range of artefacts using specialist tools and resources, such as electronics, laser cutters and 3D printers. The majority of research in this area has been conducted with children older than those who are the focus for our project, yet there is a need to enable young children (aged 3-8) to participate in such activities if they are to develop competences and dispositions that will inform their future study. If European children are to develop the skills and competences required for the kinds of employment and leisure practices they will face in the future, then this work is essential. The significance of the role of non-formal providers in the development of STEM skills and knowledge for society is well established and this project involved children in the development of related knowledge, including coding and digital design in non-formal learning spaces.

The project had four key objectives, which were to:
1. Conduct a comprehensive review of the role of makerspaces in the formal and non-formal educational experiences of children and young people.
2. Undertake empirical research to determine how makerspaces can foster the digital literacy and creativity skills and knowledge of young children.
3. Develop a conceptual framework for analysing young children’s engagement in makerspaces.
4. Make recommendations for policy and practice that will foster innovation and entrepreneurship in SME makerspaces and facilitate the use of makerspaces for enhancing digital literacy in early childhood educational institutions and non-formal learning spaces such as libraries and museums.
The project progressed well, with all objectives, milestones and deliverables successfully delivered. The project team undertook 117.8 person months secondments, during which they engaged in training, networking, development of literature review and research tools, data collection and analysis, writing of outputs and dissemination activities.

The progress against the four objectives was as follows:

1.The project team began the project by undertaking an extensive literature review of work in this area. An online survey was conducted and was completed by 655 early years practitioners, library and museum educators and makerspace staff. Both reports are published on the project website. The activities provided a sound platform for the development of the rest of the project.

http://makeyproject.eu/wpcontent/uploads/2017/11/Makey_Literature_Review_ISBN.pdf

http://makeyproject.eu/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/MakEY_Survey.pdf

2.Each country team completed empirical case studies of makerspaces in early years settings, libraries, museums and community spaces, each observing at least five workshops. The case studies have involved over 500 children, over 40 early years practitioners, 11 museum educators, 10 library staff. Key findings are presented in the project book, and in posters hosted on the project website:
https://makeyproject.eu/makey-conference-posters/

3.A conceptual framework was developed and is published in the project book:

Kontopodis, M. and Kumpulainen, K. (in press) Researching young children’s engagement and learning in makerspaces: Insights from post-Vygotskian and post-human perspectives. In A. Blum-Ross, K. Kumpulainen, K and J. Marsh, J. (in press). Enhancing digital literacy and creativity: Makerspaces in the early years. London: Routledge.

4. A range of recommendations for policy and practice that will foster innovation and entrepreneurship in SME makerspaces and facilitate the use of makerspaces for enhancing digital literacy in early childhood educational institutions and non-formal learning spaces such as libraries and museums were made. These are presented in a range of resources that aim to support schools, libraries, museums and community spaces in organising and delivering makerspaces:

https://makeyproject.eu/resources/

Exploitation and dissemination
The have given keynotes about MakEY at 13 international conferences, organised three symposia at international conferences and given 34 conference presentations about the project in total to date. The project has been presented to policy makers in a range of countries.The final conference took place on 7th – 8th March in Manchester, UK, with 184 conference participants attending.
A project book is to be published in Autumn 2019:

Blum-Ross, A., Kumpulainen, K and Marsh, J. (eds) (in press). Enhancing digital literacy and creativity: Makerspaces in the early years. London: Routledge.
The work conducted to date has led to a number of scientific breakthroughs in terms of the practices and strategies that can be used to implement makerspaces for young children in early years settings (kindergartens and schools), libraries and museums.

The project has led to new understandings about the following:
(i) The construction of mobile or permanent makerspaces for young children – spaces, resources, materials in a range of non-formal and formal settings.
(ii) The pedagogical approaches that can be undertaken to develop young children’s understanding and skills in relation to digital literacies and creativity.
(iii) Ways in which young children can be supported in becoming mentors to other children in the makerspaces.
(iv) Approaches to assessment that can be undertaken in makerspaces for young children.
(v) The types of parenting practices that are undertaken in makerspaces for young children.
(vi) The use of virtual reality and mixed media in makerspaces.
(vii) The role and value of play in makerspaces in both formal and non-formal makerspaces for young children.
(viii) The value of opportunities for the co-construction of inter-sector and inter-disciplinary knowledge.
(ix) Approaches to professional development that can be undertaken with early years practitioners, museum and library educators and makerspace staff.

The project has had a direct impact on the project partners. The researchers involved have enhanced their research and innovation skills and outputs. The early years practitioners, museum educators and librarians involved in the empirical work have gained an understanding of how to incorporate makerspaces into their institutions in order to enhance children’s digital literacy and creativity. Participation in the project has a had a positive impact on a number of participants’ career prospects and mobility. The institutions involved have developed strong networks to ensure future funding for collaborative activities. Makerspaces involved have benefitted from the project, as they have gained expertise in working with young children, that can be applied to future projects. The project has had a wider societal impact through the take-up of its recommendations and resources by a range of institutions across the world.
Public exhibition of children's work in the MakEY project, Winter Gardens, Sheffield, June 2018