Children’s Technology Spaces
A major component of the Centre are two Children’s Technology Spaces that provide the interface for researcher collaboration with children, families, industry partners, teachers, health practitioners and technology designers.
These dedicated technology spaces for children are physical sites where researchers and digital technology users can investigate concepts and potential technological advances. In play-based learning, children accompanied by family members or educators have on-the-ground access to good examples of digital technology, and research and professional learning sites for understanding children’s use of a range of different technologies. These outreach spaces are ideal sites to support parents and educators in gaining knowledge about positive digital practices for children.
The Queensland University of Technology (QUT) Children’s Technology Centre (CTC) is a purpose-built space located in the Education Precinct at QUT’s Kelvin Grove campus.
It has been designed to engage with children from birth to age 8, their families, educators (including teacher education students) and other interested industry and community stakeholders. Specifically, the CTC will enable a broad range of events and research activities related to digital childhoods and children.
The CTC is a research centre, well equipped with recording and other data collection tools and resources. It will provide a context for research conducted by Digital Child researchers across a diverse range of projects. The CTC is also a space for research translation. The CTC will host maker and play activities, and workshops and training activities for children, educators, families, teacher education students and industry and community partners. The CTC is coordinated by Dr Christina Chalmers in collaboration with QUT node researchers to design, resource and maintain the CTC as a research facility and outreach space.
In 2021, Ethics Approval was awarded to conduct a pilot project in the CTC. The aim of this pilot project is to explore the design and implementation of the CTC as a maker and technology centre. The pilot project employs design-based research techniques to set up the CTC and engage young children, educators, families and industry and community partners in a diverse range of activities including digital making, LEGO and robotics, digital gaming, and outreach activities.
To celebrate 2021 Children’s Week, Digital Child members and their children were invited to play, learn, and connect in the CTC in October. Children and their adults engaged in interactive digital and maker activities such as Duplo and LEGO, digital photography, BeeBot Art, and coding with LEGO WeDo robots. While COVID restrictions limited other activities in the CTC in 2021, there are a number of activities already planned for 2022 with restrictions being lifted.
The CTC promises to provide collaborative research opportunities with Digital Child researchers working in the UOW Children’s Technology Play Space, Scitech (WA) and other related children’s spaces.
Key achievements in 2021
- received Human Research Ethics Approval to conduct design-based research to focus on the design and implementation of the CTC space
- as part of the pilot project, a series of design meetings were held to provide a collaborative research space for QUT researchers to make decisions about the materials, resources, spatial set up and data collection techniques within the CTC
- recording equipment set up and researchers trained in its use. Began purchasing tools, resources, and material and planning storage options. Furniture and other spatial elements have been planned and implemented
- hosted a Digital Play Afternoon to celebrate Children’s Week 2021 in October
Activity plan for 2022
- regular Stay and Play afternoons to provide digital play opportunities in, for example, LEGO and robotics, digital making and digital gaming
- workshops for teacher education students, and opportunities to showcase outcomes of projects and design-based practice projects
- connecting with Robotics@QUT (QUT Equity Programs) in rural and remote regions of QLD. Robotics@QUT currently has a focus on children and young people in years 5 to 12, and the CTC has the potential to expand this to the early years of school and across a diverse range of digital platforms.
The University of Wollongong (UOW) Children’s Technology Play Space is housed within Early Start at UOW (alongside the Discovery Space) and serves as a living laboratory for the Centre.
It offers opportunity for interdisciplinary and intergenerational dialogue as children and their families use technology and engage with the space.
The core work of the UOW Children’s Technology Play Space is driven by children, our research projects and connection with industry. As such, the Children’s Technology Play Space serves two main functions: 1) As an extension to the UOW Discovery Space (through regular Digital Playgroups) and 2) as a site for Centre research projects. During Digital Playgroups, children inform the play and the activities by sharing their expectations of how technology works and sharing their understandings of how the space provides for digital experiences that promote child-to-child, child-to-adult, child-to-technology interactions.
It is important to acknowledge that the Children’s Technology Play Space is distinctly different from children’s everyday places (homes, communities, schools, parks etc). It is also different from workplaces of industry partners where available materials (collections, objects, technology) and how these are used may present unwritten rules of engagement emerging from the research. It serves as a key research translation space for UOW centres (e.g offering a technology specific perspective to the Discovery Space) and the research endeavours of the Digital Child Centre.
The UOW Children’s Technology Play Space has multiple roles beginning with bridging research, technology and children’s everyday practices and enabling a dialogue between researchers and children and industry partners. It fosters learning through the development of children’s inherent curiosity. Its engagement with the wider community and Centre partners complements the work of the UOW enterprise (namely, Early Start, Discovery Space and Science Space). It responds to the needs of the community (specifically children, families and educators) with opportunity to connect with QUT’s Children’s Technology Centre, Scitech and other community and industry partners.
Key achievements in 2021
Activities for 2021 were put on hold with COVID lockdowns and restrictions.
- setting up the space within the UOW entity of Early Start
- establishing strong connection and collaboration with UOW Discovery Space and UOW Science Space
Activity plan for 2022
- officially launch the Children’s Technology Play Space
- facilitate children’s workshops at UOW Early Start’s Festival of Play (March 2022)
- conduct weekly Digital Playgroups for Discovery Space members
- utilise as a key research space for core projects (for example, Making to stimulate, encourage and support STEAM learning)