Makerspaces and online safety in Luxembourg

Teaching children and young people about online safety by encouraging them to come up with creative solutions is a key challenge for their online wellbeing. The approach of makerspaces is very promising in this regard.

Date 2018-09-26 Author Luxembourgish Safer Internet Centre

What is a makerspace?
The makerspaces website explains that it is a "collaborative work space inside a school, library or separate public/private facility for making, learning, exploring and sharing, that uses high tech to no tech tools. These spaces are open to kids, adults, and entrepreneurs and have a variety of equipment including 3D printers, laser cutters, CNC machines, soldering irons and even sewing machines". Makerspaces evolved from hackerspaces, which are informal spaces where hackers self-organise around common interests, sharing knowledge and materials in an (ideally) flat organisational structure.

In contrast to traditional learning, the makerspace ethos is that the journey is as important, if not more so, than the outcome. It encourages collective exploration of the participants' interests, focusing on the discovery and acquirement of the skills required along the way. There are no experts or teachers. Instead, members with specific skills and knowledge share them. "Failure" is not an end in itself but rather ensures new opportunities for investigation. Learning is organic rather than forced.

While seemingly utopian, this ethos is actually very relevant to the changing nature of work in our knowledge-based societies, and decision makers increasingly take this parameter into account, along with the digitalisation of education, when designing public education policies. In Luxembourg's "digital4education" strategy, makerspaces are recognised as a pedagogical approach of its own.

It complements the traditional learning processes by providing a platform for children and young people to experiment, to try and to fail, to think "out of the box" and creatively – personality traits which the workplace values greatly, but which are often poorly developed in "traditional" curricula. As Laura Fleming put it, "by nurturing the entrepreneurial spirit, students will see that they can create their own jobs and industries depending on their interests."

Partly inspired by the model, history and experience of BEE SECURE, the BEE CREATIVE initiative was created to develop and promote makerspaces both in schools and in the public sphere, bringing non-formal learning processes to a wider audience.

Drawing upon hackerspaces, volunteer coding clubs, enthusiastic educators, hackathons, coding jams, geeks, developers, thinkers and doers, BEE CREATIVE aims to find, encourage and support potential "spacekeepers" to facilitate the activities that will take place in the makerspaces.

A Nesta report on digital makers in the UK demonstrated the importance of making makerspaces available in public schools, to democratise this new approach and avoid any further aggravation of the digital divide. BEE CREATIVE rises to this challenge, as makerspaces are now available in almost 50 per cent of schools in Luxembourg. In addition, a "Makerfest" event is organised twice a year to encourage schools and other relevant institutions to take part in the "maker movement".

Makerspaces and online safety
Makerspaces transform children and young people from simple users to makers, helping them understand how things work as opposed to taking their functioning for granted. This is a great way to give children and young people an insight of the security challenges in the devices and networks they explore. Ultimately, they are able to understand the relationship between people and tech in a more tangible way than when given the usual online safety recommendations.

If young people are to discover technology, it should be in a creative, challenging, fun and exciting environment – and makerspaces can go some way to addressing that.

For more information, visit the BEE CREATIVE website.

Find out more about the work of the Luxembourgish Safer Internet Centre (SIC), including its awareness raising, helpline, hotline and youth participation.

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