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Suomenkieliselle sivulle tästä

Make-A-Difference project logo

Project information:

Children of today are surrounded by digital technology from their birth; however, they have limitations in understanding it and lack the skills and competencies to shape and make it to suit their needs and desires. Children should know how to innovate, design and build new technology; the mere ability to use it is not sufficient anymore. They should be offered such skills and competences, added with a critical stance towards design, making and technology as well as a will to utilize those for empowering people and making the world a better place. Schools and teachers are in desperate need of help in educating children in this respect.

The Make-a-difference project aims to understand and facilitate the emergence of critical designer and maker identities among children. This will be accomplished by exploring and engaging in critical design and making activities together with children. The project objectives are:

  • Theoretical: development of a theoretical framework on children’s critical designer and critical maker identity emergence and trajectories: on their emergence, negotiation, rejection and/or performance
  • Empirical: creation of rich, in-depth dataset of the emergence, negotiation, rejection and performance of critical designer and critical maker identities, activities and discourses among children.
  • Methodological: methodological guidelines for critical design and making with children and adaptation of nexus analysis for the study of critical design and making with children.

The project contributes to scientific knowledge by accomplishing the following expected outcomes:

  • Theoretical framework on children’s critical designer and maker identity trajectories: on identity emergence, negotiation, rejection and performance: understanding of the variety of ways how critical design and making may be intertwined in children’s everyday practices, identities and discourses. This involves further development of the identity lens for the purposes of this research.
  • Rich, in-depth dataset: on the emergence, negotiation, rejection and performance of critical designer and critical maker identities, activities and discourses among children.
  • Methodological guidelines for critical design and making with children.
  • Methodological guidelines for nexus analytic inquiry on children and critical design and making.

The four-year project started in Jan 2020 and is funded by the Academy of Finland. During 2020-2023 project has been ongoing with three schools in Oulu with over 100 pupils participating all together. All the materials used at the schools (videos, handouts etc.) were made into downloadable versions. The materials also include a manual for teachers to help utilize the given materials.

See all the materials developed in this project from the link below:

Project materials


Done during the course of the project:

The first run-through of the project was done with three different primary school classes simultaneously. The implementation included sensitizing with technology and bullying, ideation, critical analysis, designing and prototyping, drama, and reflection and evaluation. More information about the contents of each phase can be found in the Materials section.

The project started by considering what technology and bullying are. This was followed by brainstorming, where students were instructed to come up with an anti-bullying device using inspirational toys. Based on the ideas, the students designed the features of the devices in more detail in small groups and built cardboard prototypes of them. The prototypes were also major part of the drama presentations in which bullying situations were presented and the devices were brought to solve them.

The second run-through of the project was done with two primary school classes and two middle school classes taking into account the changes in the pupils' ages and the stricter schedule that the project had to be done with. In addition, during this implementation the pupils were instructed to ideate an anti-bullying mobile app instead of a device, along which they also learned about programming. Moreover, for this implementation activism was added as a separate part, during which the pupils designed anti-bullying campaigns in groups.

Further development based on the project ideas:

At the end of the first run-through of the project student groups from the University of Oulu held a voting in all the participating classes to find out which prototypes the pupils’ thought were best for further development. The chosen ideas were taikapanta (magic headband), poliisiauto (police car) and rullaluistimet (roller skates).

Based on these children’s ideas the student group did more ideation and these further developed ideas are described in the videos below. They are narrated in Finnish but there are English subtitles*. Also, Poliisiauto mobile app further developed by university students is described in the next section.


The ideas developed during the project run-throughs have been developed further into software projects:

  • Poliisiauto (Police car) - The prototype of the police car, ideated by the pupils, has been further developed in several projects by university students into a mobile application. This application bases on ideas from children who participated in MAD project during 2020-2021. In the current app version registered students can report bullying incidents anonymously or non-anonymously to the teachers.
    • See more details of the app from its site: Poliisiauto

  • Juttunurkka (Chat corner) - Chat corner is mobile application which tries to improve the general atmosphere of a class or a group. This application was made by information processing science students more loosely based on the school children's ideas. In the current version of the application students will answer two-part questionnaires set up by teachers.
    • See more details of the app from its site: Juttunurkka

Project collaborators:

  • Jääli School, Oulu, Finland
  • Kaakkuri School, Oulu, Finland
  • Oulu International School, Oulu, Finland
  • City of Oulu, Finland
  • Center for Computational Thinking & Design, Aarhus University, Denmark.
  • Cultural Research in Technology Lab, School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering, Indiana University Bloomington, Indiana, U.S.A.
  • Department of Industrial Design​, Eindhoven University of Technology, Netherlands.
  • Embodied Learning & Experience Lab, Department of Computer & Information Science & Engineering, University of Florida, U.S.A.
  • Department of Computer Science and Research Center for Excellent IT Education, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway.
  • Free University of Bolzen-Bolzano, Italy.

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For companies:

If companies are interested in this material and designing with children, we recommend contacting schools and start collaborating with teachers.

[Page last updated: August 16th 2023]