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Building on TeenTech Successes with LEGO Education

Steve Mackenzie and Alisha MacIntyre from LEGO Education in Billund, Denmark, which is also the birthplace and home of the LEGO Group, visited Oakham School during their week-long UK tour.

Steve and Alisha came to discuss Holly Stevenson's inquiry into the causes of the underrepresentation of women in computer science for the TeenTech Awards 2018, for which she was awarded Best Research Project. As Holly had identified a cause for hope in the approach of LEGO Education to this problem, particularly with their historic connection  to MIT's Media Lab and Lifelong Kindergarten, Steve and Alisha were keen to explore opportunities for collaboration opened up by Holly's inquiry. As Steve says:

We know two things about the present and future of STEM learning. Firstly, 80% of children in schools today will have jobs that don’t exist yet. Secondly, children are opting out of Science and Technology in school before they’ve even had a chance to be engaged by it. A large majority of the children who opt out are girls.

What they hear is that girls don’t go into STEM careers. What they see are images of men in STEM careers. Even though this is changing, it isn’t changing quickly enough.

The LEGO Education philosophy is to engage and motivate children to learn in STEM settings. They are instructed how to navigate the engineering design process, they are given opportunities to wonder and question, to play and tinker. They are inspired to look beyond what is in front of them and design and build solutions to open-ended questions and challenges.

Together, we can inspire the builders of tomorrow and help them find a passion for STEM and lifelong learning.

One of the opportunities opened up by Holly's inquiry is the work being done for the TeenTech Awards 2019 by Robert Hoppe, Paul Chang and Emma Hearn in Form 6 on increasing equity of access to robotics/computing in Key Stage 1, taking the FIRST LEGO League Jr challenge as their benchmark. Another opportunity, although less direct, is the work being done by James Grace in Form 3 on teaching the FOSIL inquiry process, which shares epistemological roots with LEGO Education's "Four C" inquiry framework.

As a consequence of this broader conversation, Robert, Paul and Emma will have the opportunity to work with the Institution of Engineering and Technology, who are instrumental in running both FIRST LEGO League Jr and First LEGO League, and James will have the opportunity to work with LEGO Education in Billund.

Still to be explored are further opportunities to work with LEGO Education on deepening our understanding of the inquiry process in general and playful inquiry in particular.

"This is a very exciting development for us," says Darryl Toerien, Head of Library and Archives. "To borrow language from Seymour Papert, who was highly influential in the development of the LEGO Mindstorms robotics platform, LEGO is an immensely powerful tool for thinking with, as is the FOSIL Cycle of inquiry. Moreover, the inquiry-based approach to learning shared by LEGO Education and FOSIL is central to an IB education. The opportunity, therefore, to explore this rich intersection of "future wise"* educational thinking and practice is of immense value to us at this defining moment in the long and illustrious history of the School."

*David Perkins, author of Future Wise: Educating Our Children for a Changing World (a core text for Teaching for Understanding: Educating for the Unknown, which is part of the Harvard-IB learning alliance) and founding member of Project Zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. In this particular regard, a further outcome of the meeting with Steve and Alisha is contact with the International School of Billund (ISB), which was founded by LEGO in 2013 and currently offers the IB Primary Years Programme and Middle Years Programme. In 2015, ISB and Project Zero launched a participatory research initiative called Pedagogy of Play (PoP), which is aimed at exploring how to support and sustain a culture of playful learning in an overscheduled world.

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