International Conference Hosted through Faculty of Education

May 23rd, 2019

Tess Burke

International Conference Hosted through Faculty of Education

Recently, Dr. Anne Burke and Dr. Karen Goodnough of the Faculty of Education hosted an international conference called Makerspaces for Young Learners: Exploring Digital Technologies through STEAM Education, from May 6 - 8, 2019 in St. John’s, NL. The conference, which featured activities and research focused on maker literacies, digital literacies, and maker education was hosted by the Memorial’s Faculty of Education and Public Engagement Office, and funded through SSHRC.

The conference opened on Sunday May 5, with a Makerfaire hosted at the Geo Centre by the Geo Centre, Memorial University’s Public Engagement Office, Brilliant Labs, Newfoundland and Labrador school board, and the Faculty of Education. This session lead by Dr. David Gill was an invitation to teachers and schools whose students have participated in ‘making’ projects to showcase what they have learned. They were encouraged to bring along their projects and participate in this afternoon of sharing and celebration.

Makerfaires are community-based celebrations of local ‘maker’ culture. They are open-ended. Makers can create anything - something they are interested in or something they enjoy learning about or doing. Artists, scientists, crafters, authors, creators, hobbyists, tinkerers, educators, math and science-enthusiasts and engineers all come together to showcase their learning. Makerfaires are fun, exciting, and engaging opportunities for makers to connect and celebrate their learning with their local communities. This was the first Makerfaire hosted by Memorial University.

The SSHRC connections conference began on May 6th with a teacher education conference called i-Make: Exploring Digital Literacies through STEAM Education. This partnership between Memorial University’s Faculty of Education and Public Engagement Office, offered Newfoundland and Labrador teachers an opportunity to engage in dialogue with classroom-based researchers about how maker programming, which merges the arts and sciences together, can build relationships between families, schools, and communities.

Abigail Crocker helped coordinate this event that saw participation from international and Canadian researchers. Over 17 speakers came from European, Canadian, and US universities. Presenters included Cathy Burnett and Guy Merchant from Sheffield Hallam University UK, keynote presenter Kylie Peppler from UCLA at Irvine and Creativity Labs, Cassie Brownell spoke about Creativity & digital literacies from U of T, Lori McKee who researches in the areas of digital literacies and intergenerational school-based project learning, Rebecca Parry from University of Sheffield UK speaking about digital game making, Debra Harwood from Brock University who researches in the area of play-based learning in outdoor and nature play using digital technology, Amelie Lemieux from Mount Saint Vincent who researches in Multimodality and maker maps contributed a workshop for French Immersion teachers, alongside Faculty of Education PhD students, makerspace researchers Anne Burke, Karen Goodnough, David Gill & Gerald Galway.

Over the next three days, attendees participated in workshops, group discussions and activities all focused on the theme of maker literacies, digital literacies, and maker education.

On May 8th, The Rooms was the site of activities. Full STEAM Ahead: Building a Community brought people together for an evening of creativity. Over 200 school children were asked to build a 3D structure at the Makerspaces to take home or add to the display of houses, boats, trees, lighthouses and other structures students have been busy making. MUN’s Brilliant Labs were present to help connect art and creativity with science, technology, engineering and math. The event brought together over 650 participants consisting of artists parents and children.

This activity was followed up by an evening presentation to over 130 teachers, educators, policy makers, and parents, by world-renowned leader in early childhood education and research, Dr. Kristiina Kumpulainen, from Finland’s Playful Learning Center, University of Helsinki. Her talk, Playfulness in the Early Years and Beyond: Learning Stories from Finland, considered the educational potential of makerspaces to promote young children's maker literacies and civic engagement.

The final day, a panel discussion was held, Creativity, Art and Education in NL at Lakecrest Independent School. It was led by teacher Natasha Hart, artist and ArtSmarts educator Catherine Wright, and Perchance Theatre’s, Danielle Irvine who discussed the importance of arts education for children with the public and 40 key arts-based French immersion teachers.