In partnership with the World Innovation Summit for Education we have written 'Learning a Living,' a new book that focuses on radical innovation at the education/work interface. In anticipation of its release in mid-November, we are launching a month-long campaign to celebrate and bring attention to some of the most powerful thinking on, and examples of, initiatives which hold out the hope of radically new approaches better fitted to the conditions of the 21st century. Read more about the book here.
For the book we conducted a large number of extensive interviews with a wide-range of educational experts. This week we will be sharing some of their unique insights about preparing students for the working world.
LEGO Education began 30 years ago with a request from teachers who were beginning to use the iconic plastic bricks in their classrooms. These teachers could see the value of LEGO in creating a rich and motivating learning environment for children. It was helping them to teach the core curriculum more effectively and they wanted LEGO to help them make the most of these new tools.
Today, LEGO Education sells classroom resources and training packages to schools and teachers in 60 countries across the globe. Its work is imbued with clear values about what makes an effective and creative learning environment. It is also clear about why this is particularly important in the 21st Century.
LEGO Education resources and training all support collaborative, creative and active learning whether it takes place inside or outside the classroom. For example by using advanced LEGO engineering and robotics construction kits and industry-standard programming tools to explore the laws of physics and computer science, young people are learning how to communicate effectively with one another, how to understand and tackle problems, and are taking ownership of their learning in a real life context.
Jacob Kragh, President of LEGO Education believes this supports teachers to teach the core curriculum better – where young people are engaged and excited by a practical, LEGO science project they are much more likely to understand and embed core scientific principles. He also believes that working with LEGO in this way helps young people to develop basic, ‘21st Century skills’.
Jacob sees this as being of critical importance to the future of the workforce and the global economy. ‘In 15 years, jobs will have changed radically. There are many skills and competencies that will be required that we cannot yet know. But there are some, like creativity, collaboration and independent, critical thought that we know will be basic requirements.’ It is these foundation skills that LEGO Education believes it can play a role in developing, globally.
LEGO Education is not only involved in this work to develop the workforce it will need in future. LEGO’s values have always been about supporting the well being of children, wherever and whoever they are. Jacob believes LEGO Education can create opportunities with long-lasting benefits for young people across the globe. As he sees it, that makes it LEGO’s responsibility to scale and disseminate these practices wherever they can.
At the moment, this scaling and dissemination is happening at a range of levels. At the AB Combs Elementary School in North Carolina in the United States, LEGO Education is working with the principal, and individual teachers to help them to use LEGO in the classroom with maximum impact. Students and teachers report lessons with LEGO to be motivating and exciting, and capable of engaging all students. The school has gained national recognition for its innovative approach to teaching, which in recent years has elevated it from a school threatened with closure, to one that parents are queuing to get their children enrolled at
In Peru, LEGO Education is working with the government to equip 25,000 schools and 80,000 teachers to work with LEGO and build more creative learning environments. LEGO is helping the government to make the most of its investment in computers. Previously, new computers were just a different vehicle for teaching the same, old content. Today, they are the means by which students build and control their own robots.
In China, LEGO Education is beginning to support the Ministry of Education to rebuild its science curriculum to adapt to the challenges the government foresees – to build the creative, collaborative learning capable of leading science innovation globally.
Jacob Kragh is focused on building LEGO Education’s capacity to reach more young people and have an even greater impact in future. He sees the question of reach as being about building partnerships – both local and global – that can enable more young people to access their programmes. In future, this might include partnering with other, major education companies like Pearson or Intel to build a joint offer that would be greater than the sum of its parts.
Jacob also sees the question of reach as a cultural one. At the moment, LEGO tools and training largely affect individual teachers, classrooms and lessons – they do not necessarily inform a whole new approach to learning throughout a school, region or even country. This will be an important new step for LEGO Education – to enable leaders to build a learning culture that embeds the values of creativity, collaboration and ownership across all learning experiences, not just some.
This evolution of LEGO Education’s capacity is ongoing. The company’s resources and services are constantly updated through its ‘innovation cycles’. These build on the feedback they receive from user panels, and the qualitative research they do into the impact of their work.
Jacob Kragh is clear that understanding impact is crucial. He is open about the fact that they are still searching for the new metrics that will help them to show that impact clearly. Existing test scores do not measure all the right things. They are tackling this in different ways, e.g. in partnership with the US-based organisation, Partnership For 21st Century Skills.