WHAT IS AN OPEN LABORATORY? Inspiration for emerging makerspaces

Klaus Thestrup, Aarhus University, Denmark

Some recent discussions and developments on open laboratories in Denmark can benefit the future development of Makerspaces as an emergent place where tools, materials and processes are not defined in advance or can be changed according to decisions and needs by the participants in a makerspace. A group of researchers, consultants, teachers and pedagogues have over the years worked on what is framed as Next Practice Labs (Thestrup, Andersen, Jessen, Knudsen & Sandvik 2015), that again is based on the idea of Open Laboratories and Experimenting Communities (Caprani & Thestrup 2010, Thestrup 2013).

Next Practice Labs

Next practice labs are laboratories for the next practice and are situated in the very practices they are there to change. The experimenting community has to do with the group of people involved. It has often over the years in different research projects involved children in both schools and kindergartens (Henningsen 2002, Henningsen, Jerg & Thestrup, K 2009, Støvelbæk & MediaPLAYINGcommunities 2009, MediaPLAYINGcommunities 2009, Thestrup 2014).

These different projects can be mixed groups of all ages, but what they have in common is the experiment and that everybody involved participates and learn during the process, including teachers and pedagogues. The cultural center of an experimenting community is the ability to copy and change when wanted and needed. This way of understanding the experimenting culture is centered around play culture (Mouritsen & Qvortrup 2002), creativity and meaning making (Gauntlett & Thomsen 2013), pedagogical processes in kindergartens and afterschool clubs as informal (Jessen 2004) and where children´s culture has an important part to play (Henningsen 2009, Thestrup 2013). The possible change of the use of different digital media through mediaplay (Thestrup 2012a, 2012b) is a certain area of interest.

The Open Laboratory

The open laboratory can both be a way to work and play activated wherever when needed and a certain space designed or chosen. In both cases all media, all materials, analogue as digital, and all narratives can be brought together in processes, that might result in new re-mixing or alterations (Robinson og Thestrup 2016, Thestrup & Robinson 2016). As The Open Laboratory originally is inspired by the open theatre where no kinds of theatre traditions are excluded in advance in production processes (Lehmann & Szatkowski 2001), then body, fiction and dramaturgy has a evident place in the encounter between tools. The openness also had to do with the communication with the digital world outside the laboratory itself. The internet represents both the possibility of inspiration, collaboration and investigation reaching out into the world using both synchronous and asynchronous communication.

Recent developments

Recent developments are two projects in 2016 and 2017. One is a project where pedagogues together with small children developed a practice around the use of digital media base on the use of body and play (Johansen 2017, Petersen 2017, Knudsen & Skjerris 2017). The other is a project where Danish kindergartens and an Italian kindergarten exchange narratives and cultural expressions (Lauridsen & Howard 2017). In both cases the development of new practice took place in the institution themselves using and transforming actual spaces and digital encounter to spaces of experimentation and reflection. This relates to the existing tradition in Denmark of designing the actual spaces inside the kindergartens to environments where tools, materials and creative processes play an important part in the everyday pedagogical life.


Gauntlett, D. & Thomsen, S.B. (ed). (2013). Cultures of creativity: LEGO Foundation. Localized 07.01.2016 on http://www.legofoundation.com

Henningsen, L. (2002). Robotterne går sig en tur/The robots go for a walk. Video documentary. Localized 30.04.2017 https://vimeo.com/62540773

Henningsen, Caprani & Thestrup (2008). I det blå rum. Video documentary in several parts. Localized https://vimeo.com/53535448

Henningsen, L. (2011): Fortællende visuelle medier – introduktion og perspektiv. I M. Sørensen (Red.), Dansk, kultur og kommunikation – et perspektiv: Akademisk forlag

Henningsen, L., Jerg. K. & Thestrup, K. (2009) Billedbevægelser – medieleg i en daginstitution. Tidsskrift for Børne- og Ungdomskultur, 53. Fotoserie Ligger på Flickr: Klaus Thestrup Mediaplay, albummet: Mediaplay in a kindergarten.

Jessen, C. (2004). Uformelle læringsrum – forskningsrapport i tilknytning til IT i DUS´en/SFO´en: Danmarks Pædagogiske Universitet. Lokaliseret på http://www.carsten-jessen.dk/uformelle-rum.pdf, 08.05.2011

Johansen, S. L. (2017). Sådan kan tablets få små børn til at løbe rundt og juble. localized 30.04. 2017 at http://videnskab.dk/teknologi-innovation/saadan-kan-tablets-faa-smaa-boern-til-at-loebe-rundt-og-juble

Knudsen, J. & Skjerris, M. (exp. 2017).  Afrapportering Paddehatten. Report, BUPL, not published.

Lauridsen, P. & Howard, P. (exp. 2017). Cultural Exchange (working title), report, BUPL, not published

Lehmann, N. & Szatkowki J. (2001). Creative Pragmatics – a Manifesto for The Open Theatre. I B. Rasmussen, T. Kjølner, V. Rasmussen & H. Heikkinen (Red.), Nordic Voices in Drama, Theatre and Education: IDEA Publications and IDEA 2001 World Congress – Bergen.

MediaPLAYINGcommunities (2009). mediahandbook: IBAF gGmbH

Mouritsen, F. & Qvortrup, J. (ed.) (2002). Childhood and Childrens Culture: University of Southern Denmark Press.

Robinson, S.& Thestrup, K. (2016). Inside the rainbow. Localized 02.04.2017 https://youtu.be/YdBekYIC6Hk?list=PLAVS-GEyIPCiFaRypx-1drdEuSxuuvAe2

Rönnberg, M. (1983). Skådelek och medialekar. In C. Bøgh, Småbørnsforskning i Danmark IX – Rapport fra seminaret: Børns leg i det moderne industrisamfund: Udvalget vedrørende småbørnsforskning Thestrup, K. (exp. 2017). The Narrative Encounter – How pre-school teachers and children can communicate in a global world. Palaiologou, I. & Gray, C. (ed.) Digital practices in Early Childhood Education: An international perspective, SAGE (2017)

Støvelbæk, F. & MediaPLAYINGcommunities (2009). mPc – is what you see: MediaPLAYINGcommunities. Findes også på Vimeo: Klaus Thestrup. Titel:  MediaPLAYINGcommunities

Thestrup, K. (2014).  The Fabulous Minecraft Re-mix 5.  Video Documentary. Localized 30.4.2016 on https://youtu.be/vo_WLmJLGVA

Thestrup, K. (2013). Det eksperimenterende fællesskab – medieleg i en pædagogisk kontekst. VIA Systime

Thestrup, K. (2012a). En børnehave møder verden. Pædagogisk Extrakt, 1, 15 pages

Thestrup, K. (2012b). Kallesok er på facebook. Pædagogisk Extrakt,  1, 2 pages

Thestrup, K. Andersen, M.A., Jessen, C., Knudsen, J. & Sandvik, K. (2015). Delaftale 3: Dannelse I en digital og global verden – digitale redskaber skal understøtte barnets lærings- og dannelsesproces. Accessed on 07.01.2016 http://www.kl.dk/PageFiles/1321042/Delrapport%203%20-%20Dannelse%20i%20en%20digital%20og%20global%20verden.pdf.

Thestrup, K. & Robinson, S. (2016). Towards an entrepreneurial mindset: Empowering learners in an open laboratory. Emerald Group Publishing Limited. Kap. 8, s. 147-166 (Advances in Digital Education and Lifelong Learning, Vol. 2)

Petersen, A. C. (2017). Den store opdagelsesrejse for de helt små. Video documentary.  Localized 30.04.2017 on https://youtu.be/1E2tBN6py0w


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s