Digital DIY: Education

Welcome to the module on "Digital DIY and Education" of the first "Introduction to DiDIY" course of the DiDIY Project!

(A PDF version of the text of this module is available here)

Learning Objectives

  1.  Get an understanding of the “learning by building” educational method;
  2. Get an overview of the educational approaches that make use of DiDIY;
  3. Present a map of the current initiatives and activities at the European level leveraging the potential of Digital DIY for educational purposes;
  4. Focus on the challenges brought by the introduction of DiDIY-related technologies in education and research.


DiDIY in education is currently being used in many different ways. From the pedagogical framework concerning the the use of DiDIY in schools to the policies expressed by high-level politicians regarding education, this module will explore the uses of DiDIY in the different methodological approaches applied in real life education institutions, from holistic experiences to more specialized ones, and also taking into account some special groups that have benefitted from DiDIY education.


DiDIY: “learning by building”

With a natural mastery of the art of self-directed learning, children have much to teach adults about creativity and innovation. When students are making something, the object they create is a demonstration of what they have learnt to do, providing evidence of their learning. The opportunity to talk about that object, to communicate about it, to tell a story about it is a way to learn, while at the same time we teach others. This learning strategy is one of the positive aspects of the maker movement to education that John Dewey, a psychologist and education reformer, called “learning by doing” approach.

Example: KitHub Designed to Empower Young Innovators

Methodological approaches applied to DiDIY – real life examples

The European “research space and agents” of DiDIY

This module aims at creating a map of the European educational and research institutions, as well as on DiDIY cultural movements, that are currently making use of DiDIY-related technologies for educational purposes. We will provide examples of the different agents implicated in the application of DiDIY-related technologies in European education and research (e.g., students, teachers, researchers, etc. from different disciplines and countries).

Example: Mathematical Impressions: Printing 3-D Models

Example: RoboCup junior

Infusing 21st century skills into education system

In 2006 the European Parliament adopted a European Framework for Key Competences for Lifelong Learning (2006/962/EC). The modern concept of competence - often called 21st century skills - comprises not only relevant knowledge and skills, but also a range of personal qualities and the ability to perform adequately and flexibly in well-known and unknown situations.

Creativity, one of the most valued 21st century skills, is all about the ability to make things, whether physical or virtual. Engendering creativity will require blurring the boundaries between disciplines and between formal and informal learning environments. The current digital DIY phenomenon represents an opportunity for the engagement of a wider audience in the development of 21st century skills.

A number of researchers and educational leaders see in digital DIY the potential to engage young people in personally compelling, creative investigations of the material and social world (Vossoughi and Bevans, 2014). Furthermore, this will democratise tasks and skills previously available only to experts (Blikstein, 2013), expanding participation in STEM fields.

The development of 21st century skills does require an ad-hoc education system, which bases learning on creativity, tinkering, exploring, building, and presentation (Constructionism theory, Papert, 1980).

Example: The Partnership for 21st Century Skills

The challenges of DiDIY in the educational framework

Technologies are entering the educational field at a fast pace. With that, a number of issues need to be tackled:

  • National education systems and schools take risks when investing in rapidly obsolete technologies;

  • Technological education needs to include the development of adaptive, foundational skills in technology and computation. In particular, capabilities to empower people to manipulate the medium to their advantage and to handle unintended and unexpected problems when they arise;

  • In order to maximise the benefits of DiDIY in education, coordination among all stakeholders (museums, schools, teachers, etc.) is needed, as well as more support for teachers (e.g. ad-hoc training and documentation on DiDIY technology);

  • Digital technologies and social media allow students to learn from each other in informal settings anywhere and anytime. Learning institutions are thus starting to compete with learning that takes place in recreational spaces;

  • The ethics of DiDIY need to be part of the learning experience of the young.

Example: “Download this gun”: 3D-printed semi-automatic fires over 600 rounds

Further Resources

  • Books:
    • Papert, S., (1993). The Children’s Machine: Rethinking School in the Age of the Computer. NY: Basic Books.
    • Gardner, H., (1983). Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. New York: Basic Books.
  • Articles:
    • Milicevic, M., (2015). Contemporary Education and Digital Technologies, in International Journal of Social Science and Humanity, 5, 7.
    • Blikstein, P. (2013). Digital Fabrication and ’Making’ in Education: The Democratization of Invention. In J. Walter-Herrmann & C. Büching (Eds.), FabLabs: Of Machines, Makers and Inventors.

Learning Activities

You can choose the activities that you like, although we recommend that you start by the first and follow the order. Please document each of the activities and publish them in the appropriate location, so peers can access and contribute with feedbacks.

  1. DiDIY and the learning flow: Think about how DiDIY can be exploited to ease/emphasize the transition from a teacher/curriculum-centered school to a student/experimentation-centered education.
  2. The role of teachers: Do you think that DiDIY is transforming the role of teachers? How? What new competences are expected from them?
  3. The role of creativity: With DiDIY, creativity has a crucial role and is relieved from the burden of the actual “making” of the outputs (if you can imagine it, you can create it). Pupils have the opportunity to work on their ideas, shaping them mostly in a non-physical environment. Could the actual separation of these two parts of the process (design and realization) impact on the pupils’ creativity? How?
  4. Your experience: Describe your experience as a teacher or student with DiDIY. Bonus: upload a design you made in a platform of your choice.