💬 My Growing Lego (First) Obsession

Replied to My Growing Lego (First) Obsession | Graham Wegner - Open Educator by Graham Wegner (gwegner.edublogs.org)
Don't let anyone tell you that you're just playing with toys when you are involved in FLL. You are developing skills to become the future engineers and future scientists of our nation.
I think that Lego can be powerful in so many ways. I remember my Year Fours furiously constructing worlds and vessels with the basic of blocks. It was fascinating and gave me an insight into a whole other world. I have also seen some students really dive into the NXT world.

My only question about the power and potential of First League is how many students it impacts? Too often such activities are restricted to a lunchtime club. I think that this applies to a number of STEM projects. I have a real issue with Fullen, when he says in A Rich Seam that the answer for ‘personalisation’ is often out of class:

We collected over 2000 cards from local businesses which was good but we only had one disc cutter so it too a long time to cut out the bracelets. Actually making the bracelets took a long time with split rings so we changed to regular rings. We got a lot of orders and spent nearly every lunch time making the orders. We were still making and delivering them on the last day of school! We met with a jewellery store buyer in Birmingham and she is giving us a table at a street event in the summer which is awesome.

Apologies if I have misread (or poorly read) your reflections Graham – and I think what you are doing is awesome – I am just wondering about the rest of the students.

4 responses on “💬 My Growing Lego (First) Obsession”

  1. Hi Aaron, Thanks for stopping by. You raise a really good question in wondering about the rest of the students – it is something real that I grapple with. Anyone can join in but not every one can is the semi-contradictory predicament. I can take heart in the fact that we are probably going to field 3 teams this year which will cover the majority of kids who want to participate. From this term onwards, we are going to put some class time towards it as well as the break times. FLL is the next step on from what is being offered as part of our STEM learning programs and is an opt-in program in the same way that school sports teams are. There are limits to how many people can be on a team and a good team has a balance of different skillsets and temperaments. Not everyone wants to play sport and not everyone wants to be part of FLL – as a member of leadership with a STEM focus, I have the chance to lead this out to provide the opportunity for these STEM curious students. So I do.

    All of our students have the chance to use our Mindstorms robotics kits. Some find it frustrating and breathe a sigh of relief when the lesson is done – some find building a real challenge while others can’t wait to get to the programming. What FLL does is offer those engaged kids a pathway to utilise and extend those skills in a program where they can measure their progress against and learn from others. It is probably an “inspiration” type program as well because it is broader than just programming robots and includes a lot of teamwork and research skills. Because it is international and learning from others is a key component of the program, improvement can be “hothoused” through the resources and ideas provided by others.

    I suppose I rationalise your question about who it impacts in the following way. If we don’t participate, then no one gets impacted at all or the impact is limited to the lessons I provide and the students learning by experience and from each other. If I run 3 teams that is about 30 students out of the just 100 we have in our Year 5-7 cohort who get to be involved. There is still the spinoff of the students who see it happening one year and then decide to get involved in the next – and the impact of the kids being involved back in our school in terms of running lunchtime groups, serving as mentors, running student led workshops and so on. I’ll be honest – it is also good PR for the school and opens up different opportunities. And it makes me keep looking for other STEM related opportunities for our students – I organised for 15 interested girls to attend a Robogals workshop during the holidays and we have signed up for a StemNation Challenge that involves building a wetlands vehicle – this will attract and cater for a different type of student.

    Thanks for making me think – I have been wrapped up in this experience so stepping back and asking a few probing questions is a good thing.

    1. Thank you Graham for the reply

      This was not a comment about Lego, more so the ‘Inspiration’ programs. You make a good point about those students who dread NXT etc … I agree with it being an elective or something comparable. It is a challenge.

      My greater concern is derived from a showcase day I attended where every school showed off the cream of the crop that were a part of some exceptional program. Then they had Go Fund Me page to get them where ever they needed to go. It is great to celebrate learning and let students extend their passions, but at what cost?

      On a positive note, I visited a school last year that replaced their specialists (other than Physical Education) with a ‘STEM’ program where they covered the lot in an interdisciplinary approach.

      1. Actually, our STEM at my school is generally covered through the interdisciplinary approach. We use Design Thinking as a common structure to design and implement STEM units of learning and we also have a lot of investigations and personal projects as central to our student learning program. The only specialists we have are PE, Visual Arts and Spanish and my role is to help upskill where needed to get the STEM learning up and running quickly, and to also co-teach and coach with teachers in the classroom. For example, a class is investigating simple systems (pulleys and planes) through looking at designing their own playground equipment – if they want to prototype their designs using Lego WeDo then I can familiarise everyone with the technology so that it can be utilised for the intended learning.

        We are a disadvantaged school with 60% ESL so the “inspiration” programs are supplied with the intent of providing opportunities for students who would not otherwise get that chance. I know that there are many private schools where it is about showcasing the cream, but honestly, for my students participating the key ingredient is commitment. If I look at my team that got to go to Sydney last year – they were still learning how to code and still have yet to master use of colour sensors, their robot was a slightly modified “booklet” EV3 robot, their project lacked quite a lot of depth but they connected really well as a team and that was where they found success.

        You mention the cost – but that is a reality in our society for anything that is remotely team related. If my son wants to play in an interstate basketball carnival, there is a cost involved. Performing arts groups also do that, language exchange opportunities abound. I don’t have a problem with that – a school like mine will have to work pretty hard to gain funding while an elite private school can just add it onto the fees. We funded last year’s trip with a Federal Government grant that is specifically set aside for STEM based competitions. So, for me, the cost is no different to a large number of other pursuits that can start out of the school environment via a drama, music, or sports starting point – it is great that there are high level pathways that can be followed for the STEM enthused students. And none of that is guaranteed – lots of factors play into whether a team can even get to the stage where they are seeking any funds.

        Agreed, that if this is all a school is doing towards catering for students’ STEM needs then priorities are out of whack. I feel confident that this is not the case in my own professional situation.

        1. Thanks for the clarification. In regards to your point on cost, my concern is when it becomes accepted practice to have to ‘fund’ such additions. If people like Fullan are selling a future that involves such activities, don’t we also have to think about how we equitably fund such things? And that does not mean rely on ‘grants’ etc …

          I am all for STEM and whatever that might mean, but it is only increasing the haves and have nots in my opinion.

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