Empowering children with design and making

by INTERACT Research Unit, University of Oulu added on 07 Nov 2019

Brief description:
We (senior researchers with a team of junior researchers) work mostly with local schools (volunteering teachers and their classes) but the projects can be carried out in informal learning settings as well, e.g. in different kinds of hobby related clubs. Teachers usually set certain learning goals for the projects but they are often quite informal and no assessment has been conducted. Children are invited to reflect on their experiences and learning in different kinds of situations: interviews, essay writing. A project typically lasts for several months, including child led ideation, design, making, programming, evaluation, and reflection. Children are given freedom to decide on the project topic and they work on the topic in small groups. Premises of the schools are utilized as well as the Fab Lab of the University of Oulu. Different kinds of playful tools (e.g. Robots, LEGOs) as well as digital fabrication equipment can be used. The goal is children’s technology education (e.g. design, making, programming, computer education, familiarizing with design thinking, maker movement). The previous projects have e.g. developed different kinds of games and they have included game playing by children.
(where the practice takes place)
(where the practice takes place)
Organization name:
(running the practice)
INTERACT Research Unit, University of Oulu
Organization type:
Contact person:
Netta Iivari or Marianne Kinnula
Contact email:
(for further information and inquiries)
Social media:
Related resources:
(e.g., web site, publications,media)
Participants’ age groups:
Age independent
Indicative number of participants:
Number independent
Oriented to a specific gender?
(for the same group of participants)
Other: Can be agreed according to the setting and needs of the participants
Total duration:
(for the same group of participants)
Can be agreed according to the setting and needs of the participants
(where the practice takes place)
  • Classroom, formal learning space, etc.
  • Community lab, FabLab, non-formal learning space, etc.
  • Other: Location can be agreed very freely, according to the needs of the participants as long as there is access to needed tools and equipment and suitable working space (enough free space, tables, quiet enough to be able to focus on work)
What are the role(s) of the adult(s) running the practice?
  • Facilitator
  • Observer
  • Maker/coder/scientist
During the practice, participants…
  • Make
  • Play
  • Code
Participants work…
  • Alone
  • In pairs
  • In groups of...: Often in groups of 4 but other settings are possible, depending on the situation
  • What type of materials do participants use?
    • Pen and paper
    • Craft supplies / Stationery
    • Computers
    • Tablets
    • Robotics
    • Digital games
    • 3D printers
    • Laser cutters
    Pedagogical approach:
    • Design-based learning
    • Collaborative-learning
    • Creative thinking
    • Critical thinking
    Social justice/equity approaches:
    • Activities are designed to empower participants and meet their needs
    Does the practice have (explicit or implicit) learning objectives?
    Implicit: When working in design and making projects and learning related skills children also learn a wide variety of transversal skills (so called 21st century skills)
    Is the practice (explicitly or implicitly) connected to school curricula?
    Yes, implicitly
    If connected in any way to school curricula, which subjects are covered?
    • Computer science
    • Design
    • Technology
    • Other: Can be linked with any subject by setting the task context suitably
    Additional notes:
    The projects typically include a lot of flexibility and freedom: teachers and researchers both have been interested in engaging on this type of creative and open-ended exploration with children.