Why did we do this?
Digital technologies touch every aspect of life and business – but most people just use them and relatively few create them. We wanted to mobilise a generation of young people with the drive, confidence and know-how to understand how technology works and to make their own new technology – whether websites, apps, hardware, games or innovations we haven’t yet imagined. We believed that this wouldn't just benefit young people themselves, but society and the economy too. For more on this, see our Next Gen. report or watch our animation.
What did we do?
Our Digital Makers programme was developed with our partners Nominet Trust and the Scottish Government with support from Mozilla and Autodesk. Together, we worked at a variety of levels (from research and grant-making to campaigning) to enable a generation of young people to create with digital technologies.
Make Things Do Stuff
Make Things Do Stuff was a campaign and website created by a group of like-minded organisations who wanted to inspire and support young people to become creators of digital technologies. By working together, we wanted to have a bigger impact on the lives of young people.
The website was a comprehensive directory of the people behind the digital making clubs, workshops, events and kits going on across the country. It also helped the digital making community find useful events and resources. Originally a campaign website aimed at young people, as the movement grew and demand evolved we adapted the site into one aimed at providers of digital making opportunities, teachers, policy makers, funders, partners and parents. We retired the site in July 2017, confident that this need was being met elsewhere and enabling us to focus on new priorities.
The partners behind Make Things Do Stuff shared a common set of values:
- Digital technology is a tool to change the world; knowing how to harness it is a fundamental literacy for the 21st century.
- We learn through making and sharing.
- We work better together - this is an open movement, and collaboration and sharing are key to its success.
Digital Makers Fund
Working with the Nominet Trust and in partnership with Mozilla and Autodesk, we backed fourteen organisations with bright ideas for significantly increasing the number of young people who participate in digital making. These organisations received a share of £520,000 – up to £50,000 each – and non-financial support to scale their projects and reach more young people.
Schools in Scotland
Computing teacher Kate Farrell was seconded to our team in Scotland to work on a range of digital making CPD support programmes for teachers at primary and secondary school level. We ran five One Day Digital events (industry masterclasses on digital making), tested CPD support and new digital making lesson plans in a cluster of schools, and set up Digital Creativity support networks in geographic clusters.
Working with filmmaker Baroness Beeban Kidron, we supported the iRights campaign for how we should engage with children and young people in the digital world. With Nesta funding, the campaign developed and published a manifesto based on five simple principles, created a youth jury programme looking at how the digital world affects young people’s lives, and had a significant speaking presence at the Web We Want Festival.
Longitude Explorer Prize
We ran the first Longitude Explorer Prize in 2015 as an opportunity for 11-16 year olds to understand the history of the Longitude Prize while supporting them to develop their scientific and technological skills. Run in collaboration with UK Space Agency, Raspberry Pi, Satellite Applications Catapult, STEMNET, British Science Association, Royal Observatory Greenwich and Ignite Futures, the Prize asked young people to come up with ideas that use navigational and observational data from satellites for social good. After receiving almost 70 applications, we invited semi-finalist groups to the Big Bang Fair for inspiration and to gather knowledge, tools and resources. They presented their ideas at Technopop in July, and 12 exceptional ideas were then selected to progress to the final. The finalists showcased their ideas at TeenTech in December. The prize was won by Displaced, a team from Rendcomb College, a mobile app which uses live data on homeless people and refugees collected from postings on social media accounts. They received individual awards and £25,000 for the school.
What have we learnt?
We carried out research and learning from our projects throughout our work on digital makers. In 2011, we published Next Gen., which called for Computing to be part of the national curriculum. The next year, then-Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove announced a consultation to disapply the dull and insufficiently demanding ICT curriculum, and a drive to encourage more creative and rigorous computer science teaching at schools. Today, computing is part of the national curriculum.
In 2012, we launched our influential report Plan I, which recommended “remaking education for a digital age”. The same year, we published The legacy of BBC Micro, which explored the legacy of the Computer Literacy Project and recommending ways of engaging people in the creative uses of computing.
Our 2015 report, Young Digital Makers, surveyed the opportunities and identified gaps for young people to create with technology across the UK. The same year, working with the Tech Partnership, we published a toolkit for businesses who were considering directing employee volunteering time towards supporting young people in developing digital skills, Building the Digital Talent Pipeline.