The RE:FORM project (Reimagining Education for the Future of Redistributed Manufacturing)  is a collaboration between The Open University and MAKLab Limited to explore how makerspaces can play a role in the future of redistributed manufacturing, and what role education will play.

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‘Design Thinking’ identified as one of the top trends in education

The Innovating Pedagogy 2016 Innovating-Pedagogy-cover2016report from The Open University has just been released (01 December 2016) highlighting ten trends to impact education over the next decade. One of the top three is Design Thinking, and RE:FORM is mentioned as an example. Plus the report uses an image from one of the RE:FORM making workshops as its cover image! Thanks to the MAKLab team for giving permission to use this. 

The pedagogies highlighted range from ones already being tested in classrooms, such as learning through video games, to ideas for the future, like adapting blockchain technology for trading educational reputation. The report also presents evidence to help inform decisions about which pedagogies to adopt.

The ten trends are:
Learning through social media: Using social media to offer long-term learning opportunities
Productive failure: Drawing on experience to gain deeper understanding
Teachback: Learning by explaining what we have been taught
Design thinking: Applying design methods in order to solve problems
Learning from the crowd: Using the public as a source of knowledge and opinion
Learning through video games: Making learning fun, interactive and stimulating
Formative analytics: Developing analytics that help learners to reflect and improve
Learning for the future: Preparing students for work and life in an unpredictable future
Translanguaging: Enriching learning through the use of multiple languages
Blockchain for learning: Storing, validating and trading educational reputation

This year, the report has been written in collaboration with the Learning Sciences Lab, National Institute of Education, Singapore.

For further information, contact: mike.sharples@open.ac.uk

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RE:FORM at the Victoria and Albert Museum’s Digital Design Weekend

We’ve been invited to attend the Victoria and Albert Museum’s Digital Design Weekend. This exciting event “brings together artists, designers, engineers, technologists and the public to celebrate and share contemporary digital art and design”. We’ll be there at the “Open IoT Design Sprint” with the BBC, the Met Office, and many others: 24-25 September. We’ll take along some small chairs too!

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RE:FORM at Design Research Society Conference 2016

Iestyn has a had a trip to the seaside! RE:FORM was invited to present our work at the prestiguous Design Research Society 2016 international conference, this year held in Brighton, UK. Iestyn presented our work with a paper Communication is not collaboration: observations from a case study in collaborative learning”. In this paper, we talked about the challenges our participants had faced in the summer school, and analysed some of the online forum posts. We identified different communication styles, and recognised that in some cases one or other partner was dominant, and there was more or less collaboration as a result. We’re going to take this work forwards and explore how we might better support distance collaboration in online making: get in touch if you’d like to work with us!

Jowers, IestynGaved, MarkElliott-Cirigottis, Gary; Dallison, Delphine; Rochead, Alan and Craig, Mark (2016). Communication is not collaboration: observations from a case study in collaborative learning. In: Proceedings of DRS 2016, Design Research Society 50th Anniversary Conference (Lloyd, Peter and Bohemia, Erik eds.), Brighton, UK, pp. 609–624.

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RE:FORM at FabLearn2016

We’ve been talking to people about the RE:FORM project. We were invited to FabLearn Europe 2016, in Preston (UK) and Mark Gaved presented a paper “Online distributed prototyping through a university-makerspace collaboration“.  This was a really interesting conference exploring how making can be part of education and took place at the main University of Central Lancashire campus. Mark met some great people, and even got to stitch his own LED embedded bookmark in a workshop! There were some great conversations and we hope to continue these as we look to develop our work and further explore how making might become part of distance education, and bridge between universities and makerspaces.

Gaved, MarkJowers, Iestyn; Dallison, Delphine; Elliott-Cirigottis, Gary; Rochead, Alan and Craig, Mark (2016). Online distributed prototyping through a university-makerspace collaboration. In: FabLearn Europe 2016, 19-20 June 2016, Preston, Lancashire, UK.

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Meeting the head of the OU at the Learn About Fair

Re:FORM had a stand at this year’s Open University “Learn About Fair”, where members of staff are invited to find out about what’s new and exciting in the university. Peter Horrocks, the Vice Chancellor of the Open University came over to talk to the RE:FORM team from the OU  (Mark, Iestyn, and Gary) and was really interested to hear about how we were extending the possibilities of what OU design students might do (the RE:FORM ‘designers’ were all graduates of the OU module T217 ‘Design Essentials’).  Peter seemed rather taken by the prototype chairs – both full sized and scale models.

Peter Horrocks, Vice Chancellor of the Open University, with RE:FORM chairs at the OU Learn About Fair 2016.

Peter Horrocks, Vice Chancellor of the Open University, with RE:FORM chairs at the OU Learn About Fair 2016.

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RE:FORM – summing up at the end of the project

RE:FORM has now officially finished – though perhaps we might argue that we’ve just started!

We were funded by the Royal College of Art to carry out a feasibility study, and over the last six months we’ve explored some really exciting areas. We’ve held three workshops, carried out interviews and had a successful practical trial of our ideas through a ‘summer school’ with pairs of learners from the Open University (graduates of the T217 ‘Design Essentials’ module) and MAKLab’s community of makers. These were highly successful activities and we’ll now be writing up our findings and publishing both here in the blog and elsewhere.

We’ve found that makespaces can play an important role in providing educational opportunities that could lead to better skilled makers and designers working in redistributed manufacturing, answering a real need from industry. There are a range of current initiatives already under way, and a range of ways makespaces and universities can work together to provide broader educational experiences for their learners, and transitions between informal and formal learning environments.

It’s possible to replicate authentic redistributed manufacturing tasks through a partnership between a makespace (MAKLab) and a university (The Open University) with communications completely carried out online and clear evidence of peer learning. We’ve seen breakthroughs by both maker and designer learners, and a range of innovative approaches to problem solving – resulting in a wide range of practical prototypes, including one entered for a design competition.

We’re now considering where we go next: our study has put us in contact with a wide range of educators, industry representatives and makespaces who would like to investigate topics in more detail. We’ll be putting up some of the scenarios we’ll be exploring, and we’re keen to get in touch with organisations and individuals interested in extending the conversation and considering further research and practical applications.

Please get in contact!

Our thanks to the Royal College of Art, the EPSRC (the funding body), and all those who participated in our workshops, interviews, and summer school.

The RE:FORM team (Gary Elliott-Cirigotis, Mark Craig, Delphine Dallison, Mark Gaved, Iestyn Jowers, Alan Rochead).




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Public event – what we’ve found, where next?

We’re coming to the end of the RE:FORM project and we’re holding an open evening at MAKLab to report on what we’ve found. We’d love to see you there.

Over the last few months we’ve been working with makers and designers to explore what it means to work remotely to design and fabricate prototypes. We’ve also been holding workshops and talking to industry and education representatives about what the challenges are for training the next generation of designers and makers.

We’d like to share our findings with you at a public event on Wednesday 11th November at MAKLab, from 18:30-20:00.


This will give you an opportunity to find out about the project, the work we’ve done, and where we’d like to head in the future.  All are welcome.

MAKLab: Charing Cross Mansions, 30 St. Georges Road, Glasgow, G3 6UJ

Contact the team at: reform-project@open.ac.uk if you need more information.


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Design Make Project Stage 3

The third and final stage of the distributed network prototyping project took place at the end of September and beginning of October, with designers and makers working together to fabricate the final prototype chairs. As the final stage, teams were focussed perhaps more on perfecting existing designs than making radical changes, though in some cases quite different approaches were taken. One team has also entered their final model into a design competition.


As with the previous stages, makers responded after the designers delivered their CAD files to help ensure these would be suitable to cut, with exchanges of expertise. The final prototypes are now being cut and will be sent to designers shortly, and we await their feedback on what they think of their final prototypes.

The Makers themselves have been very interested to explore the designing as well as fabricating elements of the project, and during this fabrication phase a number also designed and constructed their own prototypes.


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Workshop #2 Skills Accreditation and Redistributed Manufacturing

The second RE:FORM workshop focussed on considering how learning that takes place in Makespaces should be recognised, and accredited.

As part of the project we’ve asked the research question: What lessons might be learned from open badging and other alternative accreditation methods in recognising the learning taking place in makespaces? 

A number of Makespaces are in conversation with established accreditation bodies, and some work as hosts for the FabAcademy programme. We were keen to explore what the different possibilities could be, and what challenges might have to be overcome. What models of accreditation might work for makerspaces, and be recognised by employers and formal education?

A group of us met at The Open University’s Institute of Educational Technology. We broke into groups and considered:

  • What is the purpose of accreditation?
  • What learning needs to be recognised?

This was followed by a talk from Dr. Simon Cross, an IET academic who has been working in the area of assessment and has explored how ‘badges’ might support learning, particularly in MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses).

We then explored the following two questions:

  • How could we assess and validate learning?
  • How to make badges work in practice

The day was then finished with a tour of the Open University’s Design group fablab, including their very new and very sophisticated 3D printer (thanks Iestyn!).

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Design Make Project Stage 2

Make day 2 was on the 1st of September. Designers and makers used knowledge from the first stage to iterate the designs. Some design issues were identified and addressed resulting in improved designs. These have been manufactured and sent to designers for further analysis, reflection and improvement. The final make day will be on the 24th of September.

Design Issue

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