FabLab@School.dk is a three-year research project studying how children develop “design literacy” through processes of digital fabrication and ‘making’ in curriculum-based education. From our perspective, design literacy denotes a child’s ability to take a designerly stance when faced with wicked problems and dilemmas, and incorporate digital material in possible solutions. We investigate design literacy in learning processes of digital fabrication and ‘making’ through three core questions:
- What are the central qualities and dynamics of design literacy for children?
- How is design literacy, as a core competence, scaffolded through iterative processes of digital fabrication and design thinking?
- How can we develop digital materials and interactive technologies to support design literacy among children?
The outcome of the study is hybrid learning environment – a FabLab@School.dk that combines elements of digital fabrication, design thinking, and collaborative ideation, for children to meet (complex) societal challenges. Aside from physical and networked spaces with fabrication technologies, FabLab@School.dk consists of a coherent set of tools, techniques, and principles of organization to scaffold the development of design literacy among children (aged 11-15).
The study has been carried out in fifteen Danish schools (upper primary and lower secondary) in which digital fabrication and design processes are introduced to children as part of their learning practices (aged 11–15). By combining elements of Design Anthropology and Participatory Design, we integrate students, teachers, and school managers into our research and design interventions. Research results are disseminated to the schoolteachers, students, and managers who incorporate these results into their own practices, creating fifteen lighthouse FabLab@Schools for others to learn from. A customized FabLab@School master program for schoolteachers will be introduced in 2016, to develop and sustain the knowledge created, and to further disseminate research findings.
FabLab@School.dk research is an interdisciplinary endeavor incorporating research in Design Thinking and Interaction Design with the latest research on child development, teaching, and Child-Computer Interaction. The research project has initiated a European research network for digital fabrication with a biannual FabLearn Europe conference, which was held in Aarhus, Denmark (2014), and will be held in Manchester, UK (2016).