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Sat, 21 Jan 2012


I just received a catalog from LEGO Education. "Minds-On STEM 2012."

Instead of rushing to look at the exciting new and the other familiar goodies inside, I started to read the welcome message from Dr. Harvey Dean, LEGO's CEO. No reason. The message was upbeat, but something caught my eye near the end. (I added the bold for emphasis.)

"In response to teacher input, we've also decided to change the name of one of our products. Those of you familiar with LEGO SERIOUS PLAY will be pleased to hear that we've changed the name to an education-focused title BuildToExpress."

It made me stop. I didn't even flip the page to look at the product(s) mentioned. There was nothing to do but think about what that change of name suggests.

Is it really the perspective of teachers, or at least the ones who made the complaints, that "play" needs to be removed from education?

That is certainly the reaction I had. LEGO developers had given play a prominent place in the product's original name, but at least some teachers objected. Presumably, it was more than a few who complained that "play" was out of place in their schools and classrooms. Of course, it is possible that it was "teachers" who were actually administrators, but either way, it bothered me. LEGO is part of a creative childhood for many kids. This change of name makes it sound as if play, which was OK before kids entered the classroom, must be set aside as we get down to the serious job of STEM and "21st century learning."

(Wait. I'm going to check right now. What are the details of the renamed product?)

OK, I'm back. It was quick, on page 4 and 5. "BuildToExpress is a groundbreaking process that combines a facilitative teaching method with hands-on manipulatives. The result is a solution tailored for educators who are serious about developing 21st-century learners and creative problem solvers."

The catalog includes comments from Erin Hardy, an elementary school teacher who reports, from one of her students, "Hayley said, 'It is fun because we build with our hands, watch with our eyes, and think with our minds."

Well, at least that student still gets it. "It is fun", including all that thinking with the mind. Of course, the product name may not actually impact the kids. It may well be that the students still get to see their learning as fun. They might not have the play drained out of their activity.

Sadly, I'm left with the alternative conclusion, that it is the teachers who don't want to hear that their students are learning as they play. It sounds like play has left the hearts of the teachers. That makes me very sad.

How do kids maintain their love of learning if their learning guides, their teachers, are no longer having fun, no longer playing, maybe even no longer learning in a natural way, themselves?

The teachers appear to need a "solution tailored for educators who are serious..."

posted at: 05:42 | path: | permanent link to this entry