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Who are the UK’s Young Digital Makers?

Over the last few years, we’ve seen a groundswell of activity aimed at getting more young people to become digital makers. Massive campaigns like Year of Code, Maker Party, and Make Things Do Stuff have gathered a diverse, yet sizeable community keen to help children learn how to make things with digital technology. Likewise, the rapid growth of organisations like Code Club, Apps for Good, and CoderDojo has shown that the demand for digital making activities is rising. But do these opportunities reach all children, or simply offer more choice for a small, but dedicated group of digital makers?

Understanding young people’s interests and motivations

The drive for digital making is underway. But effort does not guarantee impact. This comes with understanding and connecting to young people’s motivations, interests and existing experiences. Unfortunately, we don’t often hear if children are actually interested in making things with digital technologies - and whether they're doing this already.

Since launching the Digital Makers programme, we have encountered some significant questions:

  • What are children already making with digital technology, and why?
  • Where have they learned how to do this?
  • How confident are they making things with technology?
  • And what would they like to make more of?

Last year, we commissioned TNS Global to survey 1,000 eight to 15 year olds across the UK. The results highlighted some interesting findings. For example:

  • Most children have made things with digital technology, but the popularity of different projects varies: while the majority had made videos and pictures, few had made 3D printed objects, robotics, or apps.
  • Boys reported greater confidence making things with digital technology and were more likely to consider themselves ‘digital makers’. However, similar proportions of girls and boys had made things without digital technology.
  • The leading place for children to learn how to make things with digital technologies was in class at school.
  • Children from the South were slightly more interested in making things with digital technologies, with children from London nearly twice as likely as others to have been exposed to programming languages.
  • Children made things with technology because it was fun, interesting… or they had to.

Along with improving our understanding, these findings also identified some useful gaps and opportunities for people interested in supporting young digital makers in UK. For example, when it came to making more things with digital technology, games, apps and 3D printings topped the list.

Going forward, we plan to use this information as a starting point for further research into young people’s experiences and ambitions surrounding digital making. More generally, we hope they will encourage great discussion around what young people want out of digital making – ideally with young people themselves. To share our findings we’ve worked closely with Lulu Pinney to create a series infographics (below). Let us know what you think.

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Author

Kathleen Stokes

Kathleen Stokes

Kathleen Stokes

Senior Researcher, Social Innovation

Kathleen was a Senior Researcher leading on Nesta’s policy and research work in digital education and the collaborative economy. At Nesta, Kathleen researched and written various pub...

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