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Makerspaces: Enhancing Multimodal Literacy With Learning Activities

Makerspaces: Enhancing Multimodal Literacy with Learning Activities

By Elizabeth Heck

In our final report, Senses Together – Multimodal Literacy Learning in Primary Education: Final Project Report (Mills, Heck, Brown & Funnell, 2023), Makerspaces contributed to a key phase in the larger study (Friend & Mills, 2021).  Makerspaces are shared workspaces that foster collaboration and innovation and are typically found in community environments including libraries and educational institutions. Makerspaces also provide access to emerging multimedia technologies and design programs (Cooper, 2013; Gilbert, 2017; Marsh et al., 2019). To expand on our report outcomes with Makerspaces, we have included practical applications for teachers and school leaders. We have added some suggested learning activities, incorporating makerspaces that also include the senses.

Photo by Benjamin Thomas on Unsplash

For educators to consider the incorporation of makerspaces and to enrich student learning experiences with a multimodal approach, we have provided an overview of the place of makerspaces:

  • Creativity and Innovation through Multimodal Design: Makerspaces serve as hubs for inspiring creativity and innovation among students. As we highlighted in our research, makerspaces provide a unique opportunity for students to engage in sensory multimodal practices, enhancing literacy learning through unconventional sensory experiences (Friend & Mills, 2021).
  • Fostering Student Collaboration and Communication in Multimodal Creation: Makerspaces inherently promote collaboration and teamwork among students. Teachers can instill a culture of sharing and effective communication by facilitating group projects, establishing teamwork, and encouraging students to exchange ideas, provide feedback, and collaboratively troubleshoot challenges.
  • Multidisciplinary Integration in Multimodal Literacy: Educators can create opportunities for students to establish connections across various disciplines, helping students recognise the relevance of different subject areas and motivating them to apply their knowledge and skills in diverse contexts.
  • Bridging Technology with English and the Arts: Makerspaces often involve the utilisation of technology tools, ranging from digital media to electronics kits and audio equipment. Teachers must not only be comfortable with these technologies but also be prepared to assist students in their use or have access to technical support when needed.

Photo by Spencer on Unsplash

  • Incorporating makerspaces, including spaces for sound effects and audio creation, can transform the way students engage with learning. By embracing makerspaces, educators and schools can provide a rich, multisensory learning environment that encourages students to explore, create, and collaborate.


Suggested Learning Activities: Exploring the Senses through Short Story Writing and Technology in Makerspaces

Learning Objectives:

Students can enhance their descriptive writing skills by incorporating the senses into a short story. Additionally, creating a tangible representation of a scene or element from that story contributes to the development of their creative and descriptive writing skills.

Suggested year levels (Years 5-6 or upper primary)

Suggested Materials:

  • Writing materials (notebooks, pens, pencils)
  • Makerspace materials (cardboard, scissors, glue, craft supplies and so forth)
  • Whiteboard and coloured whiteboard pens
  • Examples of short stories that incorporate the senses and sensory details.
  • Devices (laptops, tablets, or PCs) with internet access
  • Digital writing and collaboration tools (e.g., Microsoft Word, Google Docs)
  • Creative Commons information for teachers


Sensory Brainstorming:

  • Ask students to use digital devices (e.g., iPads/tablets, laptops) to research and collect images, sounds, and videos related to the five senses. Make sure to consider Creative Commons or royalty free images. This is also useful in developing critical literacy skills.
  • Encourage students to create a collaborative document (e.g., a Google Doc) to compile and share their research and images as a class group. Discuss as a class.

Digital Short Story Writing:

  • Provide a writing prompt or theme for the short story. For example, “A night in a haunted house”, “Camping alone in the bush” or “A big day out in the city”
  • Teachers may even want to incorporate a trip outside the classroom to find some natural elements for students to draw on in their stories or take photos of the surrounding environment.
  • Prompt: What can students smell, hear, or feel as they explore their surroundings? What sort of textures and possible tastes does the environment evoke (e.g., a city scape might remind students of their favourite takeaway, or the smell of popcorn at the movies. The bush may remind students of eucalyptus trees and bushwalking)? How might this provide a further prompt for the descriptive elements or as further inspiration for the plot of their short stories?

Photo by Pat Whelan on Unsplash

  • In the meantime, suggest students use digital writing tools to draft their short stories. They might want to write or storyboard their ideas. Emphasise the inclusion of sensory and descriptive details and encourage students to include multimodal elements (images, audio clips, collected objects and so forth).
  • Story options: Students may choose to write their story to read to the class and design a poster of a key scene, create a picture book with textured/collage illustrations or make their own digital story on tablet devices using iMovie or Moviemaker.

Move to Makerspace:

Suggested setups could include a corner of your school’s library or a dedicated shared classroom space.

  • Discuss how technology and the craft materials can be integrated into physical creations in the makerspace, and how it will work with this activity.
  • Introduce the makerspace activity – students will choose a key scene or element from their short story to create both a tangible representation and/or a digital representation.

Makerspace Activity:

  • Provide the various craft supplies and materials for the physical representation. Students may want to make a textual collage of a scene they photographed outside (bush or city scene) or build texture into an illustration they may want to incorporate in their story.
  • Optional: Facilitate students to use digital devices to document the process of creating their physical representation (photos, short videos).
  • Encourage creativity and originality in both the physical and digital aspects of their creations. Provide an opportunity for students to note what senses they are using and incorporating in their digital and tangibly created stories. For example, the rough texture of tree bark, or the smell of a eucalyptus leaf. What sort of descriptive words do they use, and how do they describe these things in their story?

Sharing and Reflection:

  • Have students share their digital &/or written short stories and associated visual and textual creations/illustrations with the class.
  • Discuss how they used technology as a tool and incorporated their senses to enhance their storytelling.
  • Note some key words or comments from the class as part of a collaborative reflective summary.

Australian Curriculum learning areas for upper primary (Years 5-6):

General Capabilities:

  • Creative and Critical thinking
  • Literacy


Cooper, J. (2013, September 13). Designing a school makerspace: An approach to defining and designing the right space for your school. Edutopia.

Friend, L., & Mills, K. A. (2021). Towards a typology of touch in multisensory makerspaces. Learning, Media and Technology46(4), 465-482.

Gilbert, J. (2017). Educational Makerspaces: Disruptive, Educative or Neither? New Zealand Journal of Teachers’ Work, 14(2), 80–98. work/article/view/232/414

Marsh, J., Wood, E., Chesworth, L. Nisha, B., Nutbrown, B. & Olney, B. (2019). Makerspaces in early childhood education: Principles of pedagogy and practice. Mind, Culture, and Activity, 26(3), 221–233.

Mills, K., Heck, E., Brown, A., & Funnell, P. (2023). Senses Together – Multimodal Literacy Learning in Primary Education: Final Project Report. ARC Future Fellowship. Institute for Learning Sciences and Teacher Education Australian Catholic University.