UK – London
This project investigated the benefits and challenges of including young children, along with their parents and caretakers, in activities in makerspaces based in museums and non-formal learning centres. Working with a US museum, we observed current provision aimed at young children, capitalising on the uniquely diverse array of making opportunities for young children in the Bay Area (a centre of technological innovation due to its proximity to California’s Silicon Valley).
We conducted a landscaping activity in order to map the current range of provision in museums and non-formal learning spaces across the Bay Area. As a result we identified some of the barriers to expanding digital making opportunities for young children and collated good practice on how these might be overcome. The research built on our current project (Parenting for a Digital Future) by recognizing and focusing on the role of parents in modelling or engaging with making activities to support emerging forms of individual or jointly negotiated digital literacy.
Our research blog, which includes updates on both Parenting for a Digital Future and findings from MakEY, can be found at Parenting for a Digital Future.
We worked with three museum-based makerspaces for young children in the San Francisco Bay Area. We examined how parents and families act as learning resources and learning partners to support their young children’s making and tinkering activities, both while visiting makerspaces and beyond. We chose to work in the Bay Area as it is a region known globally for technological innovation. This allowed us to investigate how families and museum educators who are at the forefront of technology, perceive the learning impacts of making, both now and into the future.
We conducted observations and interviewed parents, children and educators in three museums: the Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose, the Bay Area Discovery Museum in Sausalito and the Lawrence Hall of Science in Berkeley. We aimed to understand how museums sought to support families, and how and why families came to museum makerspaces. We looked at how families used these spaces to engage their children in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) learning, and how these experiences progressed into further opportunities to develop digital literacy. We also worked with museum educators in these sites to support their professional development by using our fieldwork to invite reflection on how to incorporate parents into making activities aimed at young children.
Additionally, we worked with the Jacobs Institute, a makerspace for members of the UC Berkeley community, to ask current graduate and undergraduate makers to reflect on how their parents and families supported their initial interests in making and tinkering as children.
Dr Alicia Blum-Ross
Dr Alicia Blum-Ross will be conducting fieldwork throughout 2017 in San Francisco, working with makerspaces and museums in the Bay Area. She is a Research Officer in the Department of Media and Communications at the London School of Economics and Political Science and is also working on the Parenting for a Digital Future research project, with Sonia Livingstone.
Professor Sonia Livingstone
Sonia Livingstone is a full professor in the Department of Media and Communications at LSE. She is author or editor of eighteen books and many academic articles and chapters. She has been visiting professor at the Universities of Bergen, Copenhagen, Harvard, Illinois, Milan, Paris II, and Stockholm, and is on the editorial board of several leading journals. She is past President of the International Communication Association, ICA. Sonia was awarded the title of Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2014 ‘for services to children and child internet safety.’