Makerspaces in Iceland and the Inclusion of Disabled Students

Antonios Ktenidis, School of Education, University of Sheffield

In August 2018 I went on a monthly secondment in Iceland (Reykjavik)  for the MakEYproject, exploring the accessibility of makerspaces to disabled students.

Soon after my arrival I received an invitation from Dr Solveig Jakobsdottir to her place, where an informal, introductory meeting to the Icelandic MakEY partnerswould take place. I attended this with Dr Bobby Nisha (also from the University of Sheffield) and we were warmly welcomed by this amazing team, including Solveig Jakobsdottir, Skulina Hli Kjartansdorrit, Svava Petursdottir, Salvor Gissuradottir and Kristin Dtrfjoro.

The following day we were showed around the School of Education, University of Iceland and discussed about potential visits to makerspaces. Skulina introduced me via email to Haflithi Asgeirsson, Project Manager at Frumbjorg, and Brandur Karlsson, a disabled activist and Chairman of the Board of Frumbjorg. Frumbjorgis a social innovation centre supporting disabled people and focused on welfare entrepreneurship and disabled entrepreneurs. Haflithi had also set up a Fab Lab in Keflavik. The meeting in person with Brandur and Haflithi was really insightful, raising various points around the inclusion of disabled people in makerspaces.

The next visit was to the Fab Lab Reykjavik, where I was welcomed and shown around by Thora Oskardottir. Thora talked me through the impressive work they do in this Fab Lab, which is situated in a secondary school. Of particular interest to me was the use of the Fab Lab by students with learning difficulties and the learning taking place in this collaborative environment as well as an upcoming course called Machine focusing on physically disabled people designing stuff that are useful for their everyday life.

We (myself and Bobby) also met with Thordis Saevarsdottir, Head of Innoent School, who presented to us the brilliant work taking place there. Thordis referred to the pedagogical values and the ethos characterising the Innoent School, which is open to all students.

Moreover, Solveig introduced me to Hanna Runn Eiriksdottir, who is a special educator working at a special school. Hanna showed me the educational software and technologies she and her colleagues were drawing on in their teaching practice with disabled students. We walked into different classes and I was absolutely impressed on how different forms of communication between teachers and students were encouraged and employed through various technologies.

Finally, Dr Bobby Nisha gave a seminar on the use and value of Virtual Reality (VR) in makerspaces, where attendees were also encouraged to experience Virtual and Augment Reality using the appropriate technology. This seminar was followed by a farewell dinner, where we all had the time and space to reflect on the past, present and future of makerspaces.

On the whole, this secondment was a fascinating one, as it allowed me to meet and connect with and learn from some brilliant people as well as providing me with the opportunity to visit spaces that produce work of such a high quality.

 

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