Learning potentials in LEGO instructions

I  have always been a huge LEGO fan! In my childhood ive spend days on the floor building and building! Mostly spaceships and battle tanks with huge cannons. But my oldest kid has now turned 4, giving me an excuse to pick up to my old obsession ;-)

I believe there is two different ways to play with LEGO:

1 Building a LEGO set following the instructions (black box)

2 Being creative and using only your imagination (out of the box)

This post is about the perspectives and potentials of the black box approach (number 1).

Q: Can you learn anything from being a black-boxer? Or is it just the same as killing the innovational thinking?

A: In this post (http://constructingkids.wordpress.com/2012/04/08/review-scribblenauts-remix-iphoneipadipod/) I argue that children are being ripped from creativity “due to the way we gets unified through our schooling” – in other words: By only being a black boxer and telling the child that there is only one way to assemble this, it can have a negative impact on his creative mind. But teaching a kid how to follow building-instructions cannot be entirely bad:)

Ive tried to isolate the learning potentials in this LEGO-style:

Knowledge transfer: Practicing the transition in mind from the picture in the instructions to the real LEGO model stimulates the puzzle-logic, geometric thinking and supports multiple types of learners, especially kids who prefer the visual and kinesthetic/tactile learning styles (Dunn&Dunn).

Also the building is a process with a goal. The kid will experience a certain satisfaction when he finishes the project. During this process the kid will experience what the impact of a wrongly positioned brick in the beginning will have later on. These types of mistakes can be categorized as problem-based learning when the kid needs to practice reverse-engineering by going backwards in the instructions and correct the error.

Finally and hopefully, there will be an improvement in the process speed every time the kid builds a new LEGO model. This is likely to be transferred into all sorts of instructions (cooking recipes, computerprograms, game rules, school homework and so on).

To test this, and to have some fun with my son, I gave him this box, containing almost every character from the Disney movie “Cars” (12 different cars!). Imagine the reaction from him when I got the box :)

At this point, my son had never before assembled a LEGO model using instructions, but only watched as I did it for him and finding the right bricks for me. This time, he was in charge of the building, and I assisted him. My goal was to make him more self-reliant so that I could gradually step more and more in the background. This can be compared to “Scaffolding” by Gerome Bruner. I took the building time, the amount of scaffolding and the weight of the LEGO model, for my study. I then came up with a formula to prove the improvements in the building efficiency (build time / weight * scaffolding = efficiency) Below is the result of my study. Small number = high efficiency.

Name Build time (mins) Scaffolding (%) Weight (grams) Efficiency (Build time / Weight * Scaffolding)
Francesco Bernouli 40 75 26 38,45
Professor Z 18 80 28 12,86
McMissile 25 70 35 21,42
Battleship 35 85 101 5,19
Fillmore 30 90 49 6,12
Sarge 15 85 34 6,615
Sally 12 85 28 6,42
Luigi 18 99 32 0,562
McQueen 15 99 28 0,535
Mater 20 95 36 2,775
Flo 15 99 35 0,428
Guido 12 100 15 0,8

The result shows (as expected) a clear improvement in building efficiency. But whether it can be translated to other types of instructions or has any learning quality at all, is up for discussion.

One thing is certain: My son had a great time, and so did I:)

If you need LEGO-instructions, this page can be useful: http://letsbuilditagain.com Here LEGO instructions are gathered for everyone to use or download as pdf. It contains mostly old instructions but also a lot of new ones.

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