I was speaking to a colleague today who had a question about using Minecraft as a potential alternative to LEGO in a teaching environment. He was looking for something he could deliver virtually as some of the lessons he delivers are now online as a result of the pandemic. I explained I wasn’t exactly fluent in Minecraft in that way, more just a casual user, however there are some interesting tools online for virtual LEGO building such as BrickLink, formally LEGO Studio.
The problem with the Minecraft solution is that it would take so much time for students to orientate themselves with the software unless they had used it before and the lecturer himself would also need to learn the software to a level high enough that he could teach comfortably within that the environment. This could, potentially, be a lot of work for someone who has never used Minecraft before, and would probably not be worth the investment of time needed for such a small last-minute activity.
The LEGO in question was originally used to deliver what is known as LEGO Serious Play, or in this case, a lighter version of LSP to be run with students in the classroom – what we refer to at Coventry University as LEGO-A-GO-GO. As part of the activity, students create metaphorical models on a given topic using LEGO bricks, which they then present to the rest of the class. As you can imagine, learning and deploying Minecraft to a class full of students for this kind of activity might be a little overkill under the circumstances. Maybe this could be achieved using a virtual LEGO building app, something we have suggested in the past, but on this occasion, with little to no prior experience of BrickLink and students connecting over Zoom, this might be a lot to ask. Time for a more frugal approach… 😁
I suggested he could instruct his students to source everyday objects from their respective homes in order to build their metaphorical models, substituting LEGO bricks for anything and everything that they might have to hand. To demonstrate this practice in action I took a photograph of my desk, grabbing bits and bobs that were lying around, such as a tape measure, batteries, and some empty Easter egg wrappers (don’t judge me). I quickly annotated the photo to demonstrate how the various objects could be used to represent abstract concepts. Here’s the photograph:
I did this on the fly, so I didn’t construct a model with a narrative, I simply lined up the objects in order to annotate them, but you get the idea. Without needing to learn anything new or purchase any LEGO students would be able to accomplish the same results using found objects in a fun and challenging way. This could be achieved without any preparation required, all within the confines of their own homes.
As I’ve mentioned before, you don’t need lots of expensive materials to deliver engaging and challenging practice, you just need to think creatively and use your constraints to your advantage. Not only can this be fun for the students but it can also be fun for the teacher. If you need a helping hand rewiring your brains then check out the Frugal Education Action Cards.
I hope he applies this technique when delivering his LEGO-free sessions in the near future. I look forward to seeing the models they create. If he shares anything with me, I’ll be sure to update this post with some examples… 👀