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Posts Tagged ‘ikea

LEGO: Chill-axing at home.

Building with LEGO can be both creatively constrictive and constructive.

If you limit yourself to the manual, you follow the prescribed recipe to recreate exactly what is on the box and what everyone else has. If you do not, you might create a mess or something truly your own or both.

Many kids start with free form building, and when they get older, end up following the manual to get identical copies. The parallel to schooling could not be more obvious.

My son has just about grown out of LEGO. He still tinkers with it, but not as religiously as he used to. We recently put piles of dusty bricks away in storage and not a tear was shed.

Yesterday I asked my son if he could help me with some adult LEGO. We had purchased two IKEA storage units and I wanted to cut down the assembly time.

Our near simultaneous build reminded me of something I might now call IKEA pedagogy.

IKEA assembly iconography.

I am not referring to the iconographic or visuals-only instructions in IKEA manuals. These are very much like LEGO manuals. There is little room for error and there is no latitude for free-building unless you are doing an IKEA hack.

No, I am referring to the pedagogy of a lead learner.

As I was assembling something new, I remained just one step ahead of my son. This meant that if I made a mistake, I had the option of warning him or letting him make the same mistake.

While I tried to remain ahead by virtue of my greater experience and strength, there was also a chance that my son could have overtaken me.

The pedagogy of being a lead learner is one of teaching while learning yourself, but the learning always comes first. Both lead learner and students learn by trying, making mistakes, getting immediate feedback, and remediating.

The mindset of a lead learner is one of humility. One or more learners might be better or faster at some things. A lead learner needs to balance free exploration and providing close guidance.

Being a lead learner is harder than being a conventional teacher because the learner and learning come first, not the curriculum and tests. However, with enough practice and building of trust, students learn to think and do for themselves. There is no LEGO or IKEA manual for this, but the results are greatly satisfying.

We assembled two sturdy storage units in the same amount of time it would have taken to make just one. My son gained some confidence and contributed to a household effort. I also have the confidence that I can rely on him in the next build. Maybe he should be the lead learner in future.

If I mention “writing copy”, you might think of one or more people creating persuasive content for marketing or advertising. However, this form of writing is important for anyone who uses social media.

On Twitter, in particular, the copy must grab eyeballs and encourage click-throughs. Bloggers, newspapers, and anyone promoting anything in 140 characters needs the message to be juicy and concise.

Googling “writing good copy” will return almost countless writing tips. Good examples are important; bad examples even more so. Here is a screenshot of a bad tweet by TODAYonline.

The tweet means that IKEA caused some children to fall down stairs and then recalled a product. It meant to say that IKEA recalled faulty product for a lapse in safety. So why did it not just say that?

There does not seem to be anything grammatically wrong with the tweet. Some might not even see the problem with the tweet. So why make a mountain out of a molehill?

That is the wrong question and perspective. Why ignore the mountain and play it down as a molehill?

Cast a more critical eye on most public notices and you will see what I mean. The gaffes are a dime a dozen. For example:

Examine the next email you receive from an administrator, preferably one from the public sector, and you will might get “revert back”, “gentle reminder”, “kindly reply”, and other unquestioned but questionable use of the language.

When some people talk about communication being a 21st century skill, what they might mean is that the learner and worker of today needs to leverage on technology not just to exchange information, but also to do it well. This could mean reducing noise, making compelling arguments, and rallying people around a cause.

Are we teaching the learner of today and showing the worker of tomorrow how to do this?

If a local use-of-English book promotes “revert” in place of “reply”, I cannot blame the users and learners of the language. They were not taught or mentored any other way.

So why are we not teaching our children to write good copy?

By this I do not mean learning only the rules of grammar and syntax, filling in blanks, writing out of context, or answering questions based on experiences that you cannot relate to.

Instead, I am referring to writing for Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, or Twitter. I am talking about scripting for YouTube, Vine, or Periscope. I am even referring to the now “old school” forms of digital writing like email and blogging.

I do not mean using old rules and strategies like writing email on paper. I do not mean replacing writing with keyboarding (although that has its merits).

I mean first being immersed in the writing that happens today, embracing its use, identifying its problems, and offering solutions. By learning language this way, I also mean going beyond the rules of communicating and factoring in social, ethical, and other values.

I can already hear the objections of teachers who depend on centralised curricula and localised planning. It takes too long. It is too difficult. The contexts are too varied.

The same could be said for values-based education, but we now have CCE, Character and Citizenship Education [PDF].

Learning to write copy and for current contexts should not take more effort than reading one’s social media feed and sharing some thoughts. Imagine a teacher starting every language class with a few examples fresh from her Twitter stream. Better still, imagine students curating these resources. Now imagine designing and writing around these lesson seeds.

If we do not teach our kids how to write meaningfully, we risk more than unintentionally funny tweets. We risk becoming bad communicators. Do we take that risk or do we shoulder that responsibility?

365:42 - Time by .reid., on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License  by  .reid. 

Have you asked yourself what you really own? Nothing earthly for sure.

What do you own that you can give to make a difference? I can think of two things at the moment.

One is your word. The other is your time.

I have made the mistake of giving my word and promising my time, but not delivering on both.

For example, in the past I have failed to spend time with my son on weekends despite promising some Minecraft server time. My flimsy excuse was that I was given work to do late the previous week with deadlines early the following week.

No excuses, not now, not any more. I give him my word and my time so as to not take him for granted.

One thing we do is photograph and blog his LEGO creations.

I have a simple setup using an IKEA storage box (foldable SKUBBs) and as many battery-operated LED lamps as I need. I use a Sony NEX-5R to photograph my son’s LEGO creations.

Here is an example of what is possible with this simple setup.

My son and I discuss the shots, the short story to tell, and how to blog about it. It is my way of taking back the third thing we can truly own. Relationships.

I like IKEA. I like how it promotes simple elegance and lowers costs by encouraging people to do-it-yourself (DIY).

I particularly enjoy the DIY bit, perhaps because I have not outgrown my LEGO and Airfix days. There is quite a lot of IKEA in my home as a result and much of it installed by me.

Some people don’t like putting things together. Some don’t know how, some don’t have the time or patience, and some say that it is not real building.

The last group might argue that even a monkey can follow instructions, but this entry is not about following instructions. Nonetheless from an instructional designer’s point of view, I can see how much thought and effort goes into the instructions that need to be universally understood.

From an educator’s point of view, I can see how IKEA-like our education system is like: It will probably look great if you follow instructions to the T. But the finished products look the same. They are one-size-fits-all regardless of the needs or desires of the user.

From an innovative educator’s point of view, I can see how we can start to break out of outdated patterns. Enter IKEA Hacker.

IKEA Hacker is a blog that attempts to document the creative efforts of IKEA lovers who modify products to suit their needs or to express themselves.

So bowls become lampshades or speakers, lampshades become decorations, shelves become seats, ice cube trays become organisers… the list is endless! Some examples are here.

Most of the ideas are simply hacks that require you to think of alternative uses or views of the products. Often you have to add something of your own to the mix. The central process seems to be to buy an IKEA product and, if required, put it together as instructed. But then you have to think outside the box and bend or break the rules to produce something even more functional or elegant!

IKEA’s old tagline is: You don’t have to be smart to be clever. IKEA Hacker doesn’t have one. If it did, it might read like: You don’t have to break all the rules to be creative. But the fact is you do have to bend or break some. And you have to put in a lot of effort and put up with a lot of questions from naysayers and their negativity.

I draw inspiration and energy from the contributors of IKEA Hacker. Maybe I should gather some EDU Hackers!

Click to see all the nominees!

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