The plastic Lego Bricks of 1953 led to its fame in reflecting the meaning of its name, loosely translated as, “I put together” or “I assemble” in Latin. These colourful connecting bricks allow people of all ages to build almost anything from objects to scenery going from 2D to 3D in an enjoyable, tactile manner.
Lego has added to its educational value, usually associated with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in schools, to focusing on language, reading and writing. LEGO Education released its StoryStarter LEGO set which comes with its StoryVisualizer software, allowing students to draft and create digital stories to go along with their hands-on learning experiences.
The company is releasing the mobile app version of StoryVisualizer on iOS, with an Android version to follow.
Teachers were struggling with getting students to engage with paper-based books and traditional approaches to teaching reading and writing, says Leshia Hoot, senior segment manager for preschool and elementary at LEGO Education.
“It’s actually true across genders that children, when they’re building with their hands, are engaging different parts of their mind, so it often helps them relate better to material or focus better and retain that information more effectively,” Hoot says.
It’s great to see this integration between the disciplines, but budget concerns has always been a real issue schools face, especially with each StoryStarter Kit starting at $115 US.
Warner Bros. has just released the new movie, The Lego Movie, as of February 7th, which will no doubt be a favourite of 2014.
Check out their website for some interesting online content and activities.
BBC has recently released Lego – The Building Blocks of Architecture, where Tom Dyckhoff explores its fascinating relationship with architecture, and argues that it has changed the way we think about buildings.
Many educators are seeing the value in students playing with Minecraft in a similar parallel with Lego.
At first glance, it’s pixel-like canvas seems very retro to the early PC video games of the 1980s, and since its release in 2010, it has built a cult of dedicated users. Educators attend workshops and conferences seeking inspiration in ways to harness the games ability to captivate and motivate students, to integrate it with their classroom programmes. Joanne Boyle, a teacher at the Canadian International School of Hong Kong recently gave a workshop at the 6th Annual 21st Century Learning International Conference in Hong Kong in December 2013 – The success and struggles of using Minecraft in the classroom.
This reminds me of the early PC games in the early 1980s, that had a similar effect on igniting a user’s creativity and imagination. Sierra On-line put out a 2D-style (overhead view) pixel style game with simple graphics and text based, called Ultima II.
The graphics, similar to Minecraft in their simplicity allowed for the user to interact with a graphic representation of their surroundings, with its use of repeated icon terrain and characters… stellar in its day!
From games like this, inspired various game-maker software that offered the ability to create landscapes and structures where the user could ‘walk’ through their creation bringing their thinking to another dimension on their desktop.
…a great way to explore the world and different time periods!
Dungeons & Dragons
Before this, the world of Dungeons & Dragons was popular in the early 1970s. This was a fantasy tabletop role-playing game (RPG) originally designed by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, and first published in 1974 by Tactical Studies Rules, Inc. (TSR).
Wikipedia describes Dungeons and Dragons as, D&D departs from traditional wargaming and assigns each player a specific character to play instead of a military formation. These characters embark upon imaginary adventures within a fantasy setting. A Dungeon Master serves as the game’s referee and storyteller, while also maintaining the setting in which the adventures occur and playing the role of the inhabitants. The characters form a party that interacts with the setting’s inhabitants (and each other). Together they solve dilemmas, engage in battles and gather treasure and knowledge. In the process the characters earn experience points to become increasingly powerful over a series of sessions.
All of these types of games and construction sets described have contributed in areas of idea creation and development, creativity, and problem solving, not to forget the hours of enjoyment they give to the participants. Educators see the opportunities for cross-curriculum linking and integration with their various subjects taught… anything to sync with the enthusiasm and focus students give to these activities.
Today, we look to the uncountable apps available for mobile technology for interacting with ease like never before with graphics, photos, video, and simple coding.
People have shown a real fascination with retro-looking, pixel-like graphic apps like Flappy Bird, which, due to its addictive nature, was removed by its creator from online stores on February 8, 2014.
We can thank early toy and game creators like Lego, Tinker Toys, Mechanix, and Parker Brothers (only a few) for their influence on the importance of play, creating, imagining, and storytelling to fuel our need for expression, competition and, simply put, FUN.