Participatory learning environments (PLEs) are systems that “ engage students in the construction of products requiring practices that embody complex concepts, necessitate collaboration, and contextualize learning within contexts in which problem solving and inquiry are fundamental aspects of the learning process" (Barab, Hay, Barnett & Squire. 2001, p48). Makerspaces fit this framework by assisting students to build their understanding through collaborative construction. The items produced can be as varied as a balloon powered Lego car or a controller for a computer game made from apples and bananas. The key is that, rather than providing direct instruction the goal of the Makerspace is to establish a creative environment that encourages students to find explanation and discovery through experimentation, nurture reflection, and support students in the carrying out of practices that embody personal, meaningful , practical and functional objectives.
According to The New Media Literacies Project the five characteristics of participatory learning are: