Guidelines for empowering children to make and shape digital technology—case fab lab oulu

Digital technology design and making skills are seen as important ‘twenty-first century skills’ that children need to learn to become future changemakers, i.e., to manage and master in the current and future technology-rich everyday life. Fab labs (digital fabrication laboratories) are one example of non-formal learning environments where schoolteachers bring children to work with projects on digital technology design and making. Even though the value of fab labs in such endeavors has been acknowledged, the potential of fab labs in empowering children to make and shape digital technology remains poorly explored. This study scrutinizes the current theoretical understanding of empowerment related to design and making and relates that on empirical data of practical work done with children in the fab lab of the University of Oulu. Based on that, we offer theory- and practice-based guidelines for practitioners who wish to empower children to make and shape digital technology in the context of non-formal learning and fab labs. These guidelines should be useful for teachers when planning and implementing children’s work in fab labs as well as for fab lab personnel who help children to conduct their projects, with special emphasis on school visits to fab lab premises.