EMAL members presenting research at the NERA conference

Members of EMAL, who work in the research project Maker-Centered Learning: Cultivating creativity in tomorrow’s schools (MAKER) presented preliminary results at the Nordic Educational Research Association (NERA) Congress 2023, 15-17 March. This years theme Digitalization and Technologies in Education – Opportunities and Challenges was fitting for the research projects aims and thus the group collected contributions to form an special theme symposium. The symposium had the following theme:  Research based practices in educating for innovation and creativity, and was a collaboration with researchers from Oslo-met, Helsinki University and University of South-Eastern Norway.

Image: Ingrid Holmboe Høibo presents her paper at NERA conference 2023.

Symposium Abstract  

Digitalization has brought a new dimension to education, bringing technology into the curriculum on several levels and for all age groups (Riikonen, Seitamaa-Hakkarainen & Hakkarainen, 2018). This poses both opportunities and challenges for teachers and students. There is a need for creating research based pedagogical practices and to discuss and share experiences about the developments across international, national and local institutions. In this symposium we gather presentations from Nordic researchers working with developing educational practices for teaching innovation and creativity, often referred to as 21st-century skills (Dede, 2009). Topics and contexts involved vary from Maker culture in schools and literature reviews from the field to teachers’ views on learning and their reflections on material experiences from the classroom, opportunities for learning technological competence in maker projects, teacher’s views on programming in arts and crafts, teacher’s curricula studies etc. We believe that the session will offer food for thought to teachers and researchers who are interested in research-based teaching and learning in both K–12 sector and higher education (HE) sector. We also hope to engage in fruitful discussions on best practices and experiences from the field over disciplinary and national borders.  


Dede, C. (2009). Comparing frameworks for “21st century skills”. In J. Bellance & R. Brands (Eds.), 21st century skills: Rethinking how students learn (pp. 51-76). Solution Tree Press. 

Riikonen, S. M., Seitamaa-Hakkarainen, S. P. & Hakkarainen, K. P. J. (2018). Bringing Practices of Co-Design and Making to Basic Education. In Kay, J. & Luckin, R. (Eds.), Rethinking Learning in the Digital Age: Making the Learning Sciences Count, 13th International Conference of the Learning Sciences (ICLS) 2018, (2), 248–255. London: International Society of the Learning Sciences. 

The following abstracts were presented:

1 Framing the Research Area: Pirita Seitamaa-Hakkarainen, Kaiju Kangas, Kati Sormunen, Sini Davies, Varpu Mehto, Noora Bosch, Niina Niinimäki, Mariam Aljabaly 

University of Helsinki, Faculty of Educational Sciences 

Abstract This presentation frames the research areas and research interest conducted within the maker education based on the systematic literature review between years 2010-2021. We have conducted a review to condense the recent findings and developments of empirical studies in the maker education. By maker education we refer to all kinds of maker-centered learning settings that utilize traditional or digital technologies where the essence is to give students the possibility to create something with their hands. We were interested in how research in the maker education is developed within ten years, what kind of maker projects have been studied, and especially, what kind of research interest and research methodologies have been implemented. We defined a systematic review protocol that helped us to indicate the research questions, data collection, inclusion, exclusion, and quality criteria, and, finally, data analysis. The qualitative content analysis focused on 169 international empirical studies. We aimed at answering our specific research questions, to give a general overview of ten years’ development of maker education in order to focus on finding future research gaps. This presentation provides a general overview of the present state of the arts, but mainly focuses on the analysis of the research interests. The majority of the analyzed studies were conducted in elementary school or combination of elementary and junior high school age participants. The findings reveal that the main part of the studies were qualitative studies relying on classroom ethnographic or video data analysis.  The analysis of research interest was based on the research questions or aim of the study.  We categorized studies to eight categories: 1) assessment of attitude / motivation, 2) assessment of student learning outcomes, 3) collaboration, 4) students’ identity or community, 5) student learning, 6) learning opportunities, 7) students’ motivation / interests and careers and 8) studio or teaching practices.  The vast majority, over 50% of the total 169 studies, were focused on student learning. The next three larger categories were: studio or teaching practices, assessment of student learning outcomes and student motivation / interests and careers). Nearly half of the studies in maker pedagogy and in game design focused on student learning. In contrast to other categories, studies on maker pedagogy did not include any studies that assessed student learning outcomes or students’ attitudes or motivation but, instead, they focused more on teaching practices. 

2 Teachers pedagogical beliefs in Norwegian school makerspaces:Ingrid Holmboe Høibo, University of South-Eastern Norway

Abstract: In recent years, makerspaces and maker activities have appeared at several levels in educational contexts, from kindergarten to university. These are based on the maker movement, which many associate with the maker environment in San Francisco, USA and the first issue of MAKE Magazine in 2005. Since then, the movement has spread globally and established itself both in and outside the education system in many countries in the world. With research on makerspace related pedagogy, maker-centered learning is established as a concept, it mainly concerns learning through maker practice. The framework is based on Papert’s constructionism, that is, practical work with objects designed to engage pupils in co-creative processes under guidance. Maker-centered learning builds on student active and material-based pedagogies and recent creativity research and is thus understood as a process for developing new insights together, as a socio-material embodied process in which social interaction and interaction with materials, tools and technology facilitate active engagement (Riikonen, et al, 2020).  Makerspaces offer good environments for collaboration, technology and science education, enquiry-based learning and projects that encourage open ended processes for creative ideation and innovations. However, the general movement is not developed based on educational design research and when taken into the school realm there is a need to combine different pedagogical views into this new culture. 

In Norway, makerspaces are rather new learning contexts. Although the maker movement is present, little is known about the pedagogical foundations for establishing makerspace in Norwegian schools and the teaching practices that take place there. Even less is known about the movement’s encounter with the arts- and crafts – subject in the Norwegian school, although there is broad agreement amongst teachers, that the subject should be part of the makerspace activities (Korhonen et al. 2022). As the movement meets the competent teacher, learning culture in Norwegian schools and arts, and crafts in particular, there is a potential to develop new understandings, knowledge, and views on learning. By conducting a qualitative semi-structured interviews for key teachers across 16 school makerspaces at K-12 education, this study aims to provide knowledge on the teachers view on maker-centered learning in Norwegian schools. The interviews are qualitatively analyzed.  

Preliminary results shows that makerspaces in Norwegian schools are mostly initiated by the teachers themselves, zealots who are enthusiastic about the movement and finds that it resonates with their own view of learning. They are often inspired and influenced by other makers and are good at networking and seek each other’s company and advice both at physical arenas, initiated by national organizations such as Norway makers and Skaperskolen, and online platforms and social media. The learning view that already exists in Norwegian schools and the one that is formed through ideas in the maker movement coincide in many areas. Nevertheless, there are also some challenges with the compatibility of learning views, as in facilitating open-ended learning processes, initiating learning frameworks that gives the learner possibility to practice based on own motivation and ideas. Many school makerspaces are influenced by science subjects and models for teaching that are inspired by previous projects or other teachers’ examples. Finally, Norwegian school are often encouraging the teaching towards learning goals, and the teacher in makerspace experience challenges with providing room for iterative process, play and failure in this goal-directed learning environment. 

The research conducted is part of a PhD written, as part of the research project Maker-Centered Learning: Cultivating creativity in tomorrow’s schools (MAKER). 


Korhonen, T., Kangas, K., & Salonen, L. (2022). Invention Pedagogy – The Finnish Approach to Maker Education. Routledge 


Riikonen, S., Kangas, K., Kokko, S., Korhonen, T., Hakkarainen, K. & Seitamaa-Hakkarainen, P. (2020). The development of pedagogical infrastructures in three cycles of maker-centered learning projects. Design and Technology Education: an international Journal. 25 (2), 29-49. 

3  Opportunities for learning technological competence in formal education maker projects: Niina Niinimäki, Kati Sormunen, & Kaiju Kangas. University of Helsinki, Faculty of Educational Sciences 


Maker education has been widely studied in recent years as it has been recognized as a promising context for learning future-oriented competences. Especially creative competences needed in the technological society are underlined, since in maker education technologies are focal and treated as creative tools providing ample opportunities for learning. However, empirical evidence of students’ learning in maker education is still scarce; it is still unclear what students actually learn during maker projects and how their learning is connected to the technological resources enabling their creative activities. 

The aim of the present, ongoing study is twofold:  1) To explore the learning opportunities for technological competence in formal education maker projects, and 2) to test a novel way of analyzing open-ended and non-linear learning processes in maker education.  We used the technological competence framework to conceptualize and operationalize learning opportunities through five dimensions: crafting; designing; engineering; programming; and reflecting, documenting, and sharing. Further, we examined the knowledge and skills used and created in maker projects, and how these were related to the technological dimensions present in the projects. Methodologically, we explored the possibilities of quantitative ethnography and Epistemic Network Analysis (ENA) for analyzing students’ conceptual learning during maker projects. 

The data consists of classroom video data from a lower secondary school, where five 7th grade student groups (3–6 students each, aged 13–14) participated in an open-ended maker project focusing on e-textiles. The students’ discourse in the video data was automatically transcribed, and the transcriptions were transformed to quantitative data tables. Theory-driven codes were developed to mark indicators of learning, and automated classifiers (key words and phrases) were created to help to find these codes in the students’ discourse. With ENA we modeled the connections between the technological dimensions and other learning areas such as science related content, by quantifying their co-occurrence in the students’ conversations and producing a weighted network of co-occurrences for each student group. 

ENA analyzes all the networks simultaneously, resulting in a set of networks that can be compared both visually and statistically. The preliminary findings show that all the technological dimensions were present in all groups, overlapping and connecting with each other, with the design dimension being the most prominent one in all groups. Designing, engineering, and programming dimensions formed an overlapping entity with strong connections to each other in most groups, whereas crafting and documenting were more cross-cutting in nature, overlapping somewhat with all the other dimensions. Further, science-related content was mostly connected with designing dimensions, but there were some connections to all the other technological dimensions as well. 

The findings of the present study have relevance especially in formal education contexts, where maker projects are bound to curricular aims. Moreover, the empirical evidence of students’ learning in maker projects, together with the methodological insights of the study, advance Nordic educational research focusing on exploring and developing the learning opportunities in maker education. 

4 Too much – or not enough – instructions? A case study looking at three different approaches in teaching digital software in design, art and craft: Peter Haakonsen OsloMet 


If you visit a Norwegian school today, chances are high that each pupil has a digital device supplied by the municipality. Most kids at lower grades usually use iPads, crossing over to laptops or Chromebooks when reaching lower secondary (8th grade) or earlier. Teacher students in design, art and craft need to acquire specific digital skills in their subject as well as being able to navigate through different devices and software as time and technology changes (Utdanningsdirektoratet, 2021), and because they can’t predict which devices are used at their future workplaces.  

When teaching digital media and software for teacher students in design, art and craft, we give them different courses in how to e.g. take and edit photographs, draw digital illustrations in pixels or vector, create animations, 3D models, or programming interactive artwork. A lot of the software being used is more or less self-explainable, while other programs are more advanced, requiring instructor-based learning supplied with tasks, videos or PDFs. With the self-explanatory apps everyone can master something, like choosing a color and a digital brush before drawing with their finger, or adding more contrast to a photograph.  

This paper compares three different digital courses in visual digital media and software, held by the writer and a colleague several times during the last two years. These three examples work as three cases (Yin, 2009), where the apps or software are categorised in three different user interfaces: Procreate on iPad (easy to start with, but with advanced, hidden possibilities), programming in Scratch (quite easy to start with, but may need a few basic instructions at first) and Adobe Photshop (harder to understand for an inexperienced person and need more instructions at first).  

The cases are based on how these courses have been teached over two years. The balance between «too much instructions» (TMI) (Martinez & Stager, 2019) versus not enough instructions is discussed. An expected finding is that TMI should be avoided in most cases, as this is in opposition to student active learning. However, a balance between instructions and shorter practical tasks activates the students and is valuable whether teaching the self-explanatory or the advanced software. At the same time, a «maker mindset» can be suitable using the self-explanatory software. Here, playing around, tinkering and trying out every possibility can be motivating as long as it’s combined with a meaningful task. In the more advanced software this way of working may seem pointless and de-motivating. The discussion also aims to establish the three cases relevance for teacher students using the concepts of pedagogical content knowledge and preparatory knowledge (Gulliksen, 2014) as a framework. Preparing the students for future digital technology, giving them a combination of subject-specific and general digital skills, is an overall aim. 


Gulliksen, M. S. (2014). Preparatory Knowledge: A Hub in Teacher Education in Arts and Crafts. FormAkademisk, 7(5). https://doi.org/10.7577/formakademisk.902 

Martinez, S. L., & Stager, G. (2019). Invent to learn: Making, tinkering, and engineering in the classroom. Constructing modern knowledge press. 

Utdanningsdirektoratet (2021). Fag og grunnleggende ferdigheter. I Rammeverk for lærerens profesjonsfaglige digitale kompetanse (PfDK). https://www.udir.no/kvalitet-og-kompetanse/profesjonsfaglig-digital-kompetanse/rammeverk-larerens-profesjonsfaglige-digitale-komp/kompetanseomradene/#fag-grl-ferdigheter  

Yin, R. K. (2009). Case Study Research: Design and Methods (4th ed.). Sage Publications. 

5 Digital technological competency and creative problem solving: An analysis of the curricula in art, design and architecture: Laila Belinda Fauske & Kari Saasen Strand: 


This paper analyses the curricula in art, design and architecture in Norwegian upper secondary schools, years 11–13. The aim is to identify how digital technological competency is formulated in the subjects Art & Visual Elements and Design & Architecture (Norwegian Directorate of Education, 2020A, 2020B). Digital technological competency is approached through the lens of creative problem-solving cf. 21st-century skills and transdisciplinary pedagogy. Transdisciplinary concerns the crossing of disciplines and is anchored in real-world problems, which are often addressed as ‘wicked problems’ (Bernstein, 2014; Vermeulen & Witjes, 2021). Transdisciplinary pedagogy implies learning to co-create, co-disseminate and co-use knowledge to navigate in a complex and contemporary world (McGregor, 2017, p. 3).  

The reading and production of a text is a process of ‘making sense’ (Coffey, 2014). This analysis was conducted following a summative content analysis, which began with the identification and quantification of certain words. The next step involved interpretation (Hsieh & Shannon, 2005, p. 1283). Based on the content analysis, this paper aims to discuss whether the formulation of digital technological competency in curricula contributes to creative problem solving in line with 21st-century skills and transdisciplinary pedagogy. As part of the discussion, the paper turns to makerspaces as a potential learning arena for strengthening digital technological competency. The paper also invites further discussion on formal curricula as premises for shaping educational practice in the future. 

This paper is of relevance to Nordic educational research, as it contributes to the discourse on digital technological competency adopted to and challenged by creative problem solving and 21st-century skills. Notably, the content of this paper was drawn from a research project in progress. 


Bernstein, J. H. (2014). Disciplinarity and transdisciplinarity in the study of knowledge. Informing science. The International Journal of an Emerging Transdiscipline, 11, 241–273. https://doi.org/10.28945/2047

Coffey, A. (2014). Analysing documents. In U. Flick (Ed.), The Sage handbook of qualitative data analysis (pp. 367–379). SAGE. https://doi.org/https://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9781446282243 

Hsieh, H.-F., & Shannon, S. E. (2005). Three Approaches to Qualitative Content Analysis. QUALITATIVE HEALTH RESEARCH, 15(9), 1277–1288. https://doi.org/10.1177/1049732305276687 

McGregor, S. L. T. (2017). Transdisciplinary pedagogy in higher education: Transdisciplinary learning, learning cycles and habits of minds. In P. Gibbs (Ed.), Transdisciplinary higher education (pp. 3–16). Springer Link. DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-56185-1_1 

Norwegian Directorate of Education. (2020A). Læreplan i design og arkitektur/Curiculum in design and architecture (KDA02-02). Fastsatt som forskrift. Læreplanverket for Kunnskapsløftet 2020 https://www.udir.no/lk20/KDA02-02 

Norwegian Directorate of Education. (2020B). Læreplan i kunst og visuelle verkemiddel/Curiculum in Art & Visual Elements (KDA01-02). Fastsatt som forskrift. Læreplanverket for Kunnskapsløftet 2020 https://www.udir.no/lk20/KDA01-02 

Vermeulen, W. J. V., & Wijes, S. (2020). History and mapping of transdisciplinary research on sustainable development issues: Dealing with complex problems in times of urgency. In M. M. Keitsch & W. J. V. Vermeulen (Eds.), Transdisciplinarity for sustainability. Aligning diverse practices (pp. 6–26) Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780429199127 

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