I remember opening the cupboards at the front of the CLC and seeing about 30 NXT’s sitting there unloved and unused. At the back was a mat and a set of lego bricks. A bit of research informed me that the bricks were for a competition called “First Lego League”, and the models were for a series of challenges called “Ocean Odyssey”.
I planned my first teaching session around this kit, and the kids and I were hooked. They were problem solving, collaborating, working on projects and learning how to code. The sessions went so well that we decided to start an annual FLL tournament in North Tyneside. It is currently the largest in the region, and I have been involved in supporting Newcastle and Sunderland Universities in setting up their own regional heats too.
A year later I found some unopened boxes of Lego under a desk in another room at the CLC entitled WeDo. I had to have a play around, and found that the interface and possibilities for this kit were fantastic for younger pupils. The ability to develop a deep understanding of mechatronic principles through play was huge to me, and so I introduced this into my events schedule. Once again the pupils loved it, and the ability to follow algorithms to create functioning model and play with them to develop their ideas really tied into the pedagogical principles I was into at the time. The work of Papert, Stager and Resnick were in the forefront of my mind, and were all evident in the learning that was taking place.
Combining this with my PBL approach I started the “Fun-faire” event, where pupils create their own amusement park using WeDo. It’s something I still use to this day, and led to me writing a post for Lego Education, and being involved in the working party for WeDo 2.0. I was also able to setup FLL Junior for North Tyneside schools during this time.
The time spent “Playing” with these objects to think with really got me into the Constructionist learning model, and I looked at other tools that could be used in the classroom to develop computing skills in young people.
Today in my role as head of Digital Technology and Computing at Newcastle’s Royal Grammar School I work in the EDT department developing a maker mentality using Picaxe chips and circuitry, Raspberry Pi Micro computers and Arduino processors. We have a robotics program where pupils use EV3’s for competitions such as “First Lego League”, “Tomorrow’s Engineers”, and the “UK Subsea Challenge”. Our Junior school uses WeDo and WeDo 2.0 to develop STEAM skills. All of our Y4 classes have built their own fun-faire, and we have groups working on their FLL Junior models as we speak. As I am building a new computing department our Year 9 cohort will be working ona PBL module with EV3 next year, and we are in discussions to launch an innovation studio in 2019. We use Lego regularly in our approach to EDT allowing the pupils to prototype and build models to reference their learning and thinking.
We use LEGO to help our young people create their imagination.