Over the past few months our lives, our homes, our entire society has transformed. Who could have imagined our worlds would shrink so rapidly? But while our physical worlds have become smaller, we believe that the possibilities for imaginary ones to grow have never been stronger.

Humanity has become accustomed to rapid change: over the past few decades we have witnessed giant leaps in technology, medicine, communications (to name a few). While we can anticipate some of these changes, they are unravelling quite differently from how we might have foreseen. In this increasingly unpredictable future, our imaginations become an important skill to help us adapt, respond, and build for a different future. This is why we believe imagination is needed now more than ever.

Here at the Institute of Imagination we have been thinking about the importance of the home. Our recycle bins have become treasure troves for cardboard, everyday objects like books, kitchen items and toys have transformed into chain reaction sequences (domino effects) and where we have access to technology we have been experimenting with digital making, using fantastic online tools like CoSpaces and Tynker. Importantly we have been working hard to ensure our programmes, which support children, young people and families, can continue during the lockdown.

Our Lambeth Sparks programme (supported by the Walcot Foundation) has been running online virtual tinkering workshops. We have been able to send out materials and tools to participating families accompanied with video workshops. The Lambeth Sparks Loughborough Junction group has been experimenting with LEDs, creating light displays, and using hobby motors to hack household items like brooms and brushes. Importantly in these times, our activities are fostering playful moments.

Our Digital Creatives programme (supported by the Mayor of London), in collaboration with Future Youth Zone based in Barking, has been supporting a cohort of young people, particularly those at risk of getting caught up in crime. Our video workshops are introducing the young people to new digital tools. So far they’ve created playful animations and virtual worlds, learning new digital skills as they make and build online.

This month, our Lab Learn Hubs programme (funded by the Sir John Cass Foundation), will go online for teachers working in schools in Southwark. It will support schools and teachers to think more creatively about how to use digital technology. We will be providing creative online professional development training on how to use Micro:bit in the classroom; not just as a computing tool but also as a tool that can provide children and young people with future skills such as creativity, collaboration and critical thinking.

If you use social media you might have seen our #iOiLoves campaign, signposting families and schools to some of the best tinkering and making activities online. There is some fantastic content on there from tumble wing gliders (using pages from telephone directories!) through to marble run challenges. Follow us on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook to keep up to date!

As technology becomes increasingly significant as an enabler for personalised learning, we also understand that access to technology must be for all. Building on the success of our digital lending library and imagination pods, we are exploring ways in which communities in most need can access the tools, new skills and experiences that can be unlocked through digital devices and internet connectivity.

We can’t fully comprehend our new normal. But we can begin to use our imaginations to respond to it. As we venture back out into the world, we will need to begin to reimagine our communities and our society in new ways. We are looking forward to sharing more opportunities and content in the coming months and, when it becomes safe to do so, welcoming people back into our home through our Imagination Labs.

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