Who doesn’t like Legos? Mom and Dad may not like Legos very much after stepping on one, but other than those occasions, even adults like to build things with Legos.
I loved Legos when I was a kid. I still like them. Legos are a very versatile toy. If you’re playing hot wheels, you can make garages. If you’re playing dolls, you can make a house. If you’re playing army and need to bomb the enemy, Legos can serve as both the ammunition and target.
This past Christmas, we, and I do mean kids and grown-ups, enjoyed several new boxes of Legos. (FYI: Grandparents sometimes don’t know when to quit buying.) My job during construction was to locate the small, hard to find pieces. While watching the building process, in this case an airplane, Legos reminded me of the progress and pitfalls of the 21st century’s version of curricular resources.
When I was young I remember Legos coming in a big box. We had to use our imaginations to build something. These days, I think too much imagining is done for kids. Now, most Legos you buy still come in a box, but typically with a picture of something from the latest movie. In the box there is a little booklet with step-by-miniscule step instructions. The imagining comes after the building. When I was a kid, even the building part came from our imaginations.
Technology advancements, whether in Legos or education, offer many benefits, but we must be deliberate. We know this from our experience with other technologies. The automobile, for example, is a wonderful technological advancement and has no doubt improved our lives. But even something that we now take for granted did not come without pitfalls. Our great-great grandparents walked more. They visited longer when they went somewhere. Before cars, people were more thoughtful about where they went and why. We weren’t dependent on oil and there was less smog. Over time we have recognized some of these drawbacks and worked to minimize the negative impacts. Research and development were applied to exhaust systems to make emissions cleaner. Cars are getting more and more fuel efficient. We are constantly encouraged to exercise. Technology will continue to advance, but so should our understanding of how it impacts our lives.
If not careful, educational technology can become like instructions in a new box of Legos. Kits are great, but they should nurture imagination and creativity, not replace them. Likewise, in order to nurture students’ creativity and imaginations, we should be specific in what we teach them about English, Math, Science and History. Technology in the CRSD benefits the learning process through accountability, access and media. I’m extremely proud of our teachers who are using it skillfully while minimizing the drawbacks. Teachers are spending even more time interacting with individual students regarding content and learning skills. In some cases, teachers have used technology to foster cooperative learning with classmates and even Skype in famous authors from far away places. Like the car, educational technology will offer exciting opportunities and take us places we could not go without it. We just have to make sure we know where we want to go and drive carefully.
The next time you see Legos, buy a box and use them to teach your student a valuable lesson. As they’re building their new toy, tell them that’s the way school should be. Legos don’t build themselves. Their teacher will provide the blocks or show where to get them, but students must do the building. Talk with your child about the benefits and drawbacks that technology has in school, at home, in science and in other parts of society. And then, after they’ve played with the new Lego toy, take it apart, put the instructions away, and see what they can imagine.
Now, whether you admit it or not, you’re itching to go build something with Legos.