Are LEGOs the Simple Solution to Education Technology?

The simple structure of LEGOs and the single, universal system patented in 1958 are all about interoperability, something that Information Week's Stephen Laster says is lacking in education technology. This simplicity, far from stifling creativity, actually facilitates creativity from children and design professionals.

Laster says that education might need a LEGO-inspired intervention. Money has been spent on technology, but the growth has had no roadmap, so this growth has been complex and incompatible. Because of this, the software and hardware tools aren't friendly which means schools have to use separate, unintegrated systems. This has the potential of damaging student achievement, since too much class time is spent trying to operate within multiple systems.

The LEGO solution is a simple one. The solution is uniform technology standard. Naysayers worry that this will stifle innovation, but LEGO has proven this is not the case. All LEGO bricks, from all times, are fully compatible with every other of the 400 billion other bricks on the planet. The IMS Global Learning Consortium is developing guidelines to encourage plug-and-play integration of apps, tools, and content, built on open standards, services, and APIs.

LEGOs take center stage at a camp at Mountain View Elementary School in Mercersburg, Pennsylvania, also. Roxann Miller, writing for Herald-Mail Media, reports that kids at the camp are using a special version of Legos called Lego Education WeDo. This version provides problem-solving exercises, combines Lego pieces and the computer, and allows for building and programming Lego models.

The children are building crocodiles, Ferris wheels, merry-go-rounds, and other models and are having a blast doing so. The camp is a week long and was funded by a grant from the Tuscarora Education Foundation. The 12 computers needed were loaned to the camp by the school district. The principal, Brett Kagarise, said he wanted to get the kids excited and allow them to do some mini-STEM learning.

In North Carolina, Debbie Hoke's second-grade students used LEGO kits to build bridges and crocodiles. Hoke wondered if her students had retained anything from their day of LEGO play. But, when she participated the next day in the Extreme STEM Teacher Tour, she got it. Mary Elizabeth Robertson, reporter for the Hickory Record, says that 100 teachers from surrounding counties and cities were shown how local industries use science, technology, engineering, and math education in product development.

"We need to be able to make curriculum relevant and connect it to the industry we have locally," Education Matters director Tracy Hall said.

Hall had already given the same tour to area eighth-graders. When students and teachers understand how curriculum is integrated in industries, everybody wins.

"I teach language arts and social studies for middle school. One of the important things that (they) said was knowing how to read and write is essential," Newton-Conover teacher Kathy Clarke said. "Also, how everything was earth-friendly and environmentally safe."

Clark added that it is important to develop an environmental consciousness as part of the curriculum. The fact that what students are learning information that they will someday use in the job force is a very powerful motivator.

06 25, 2014
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