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Posts Tagged ‘lego

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.

I found this video courtesy of a CNET article.


Video source

I loved the video and the message it brought. I did not appreciate the rhetoric in the latter part of the article.

How many husbands and wives work so hard that they won’t stop to address moments that their spouse might deem important: an anniversary, a significant birthday or even a simple weekend away?

It’s surely worse now as we let technology make us permanently connected, when the one thing we really need is to switch off and be with those we love.

Working hard is not a pre-condition to ignoring one another. You can be a complete layabout or a disconnected hermit and still not mark important moments.

As the video illustrated, the important moments are also plain and uncelebrated. They are pockets of ordinary time you spend with a loved one.

Switching off the technology that connects us is not necessarily going to make things better. The way the message got through to the father in the video was through technology. We communicate with people at physical, social, or cognitive distance thanks to technology.

I get the message that the irony of being connected all the time might leave you disconnected from the ones physically or emotionally closest to you. But switching off your phone does not guarantee enjoying time together. Just as the body can travel while the mind and heart stay put, the body can stay while the mind and heart are far away.

I titled this reflection “Let it go” for two reasons.

First, we should remind ourselves how kids let go with their imaginations. They wonder and they wander. They explore and they make. As they get older, schooling strangles this innate capacity out of them and it does not let go.

Second, the kids grow up into adults who perpetuate old, unquestioned messages. Technology is not the villain. It is the tool or instrument we use to amplify who we are. There is no need to always switch off technology to connect with one another in person. Let that bias go.

Watch YouTube videos as a family and discuss them. Play video games and ask questions about characters or discuss strategies. Google together and debate what you find. Do these and you will see why I say about the old mindset: Let it go.

When the papers and MOE announced that students and teachers would receive free LEGO sets for SG50, those who cared cheered.

Others saw an opportunity to make money off the sets knowing that there were AFOLs (adult fans of LEGO) and other LEGO fans who would pay a tidy sum for the sets. Perhaps these fans do not realize that they can buy the sets after National Day or they cannot wait till August. The sale of the sets prompted the Minister for Education to urge recipients to treasure the sets.

My wife, who is a teacher, received her set before my son did. But that did not stop him from opening the set and building the Cavenagh Bridge. He also used his own spare parts to complete the Changi Airport control tower because each set does not contain enough parts to build all three.

Being the avid reader that he is, my son examined the booklet that accompanied the set. He was critical of this page.

His complaint was this: According to this page and his age, he should only build a Level 1 structure even though he is capable of a Level 3 structure and improvising.

My son is well aware that these are only guidelines and that practically all LEGO sets have age recommendations. But he has a point. Does having these guidelines create creative barriers? Does having instructions to build a certain way with set objectives stifle imagination?

Most educators who use LEGO know that it helps to start with structure and build towards freestyling. But kids already know how to build from their imaginations. It is adults that make rules and create barriers, and not all of them make sense.

The adults who were inspired to make the LEGO sets an SG50 present had a wonderful idea about soft selling the building of Singapore. It must have cost a sizeable chunk of taxpayer money, but I doubt many will question if it was money well spent.

But here is a free and more important lesson. We should be learning from kids how not to limit imaginations with levels or objectives. If they are to build their future, we should not restrict them to our past.

This is my long-running series on products and processes. WordPress tells me that this is at least the eighth in the series.

First I feature a product like this LEGO-inspired music video.


Video source

Then I marvel at the process that its maker reveals in a behind-the-scenes video.


Video source

The four-minute music video required over unique 5000 frames.

The product is for consumption and might create admiration and a following for both the band and the stop-motion animator. The process creates insight, inspiration, and opportunities for learning.

But if view counts are any indication, people prefer the finished product over the messy processes. This has been true of all the videos I have featured so far.

Schools also tend to value products and do not focus enough on processes of learning. But it is the latter where the most meaningful and powerful learning happens.

I spent my last day in London in the Old Truman Brewery area. I did not plan on being there.

I had visited Poppies for its fish and chips the evening before. On my way back, I spotted a billboard advertising the exhibition.

The next day I visited The Art of the Brick, took some photos, and enjoyed some street food.

It was a wonderful way to leave London thanks to serendipity.


I brought two cameras with me on my Scandinavian vacation, but I only had to use one, my iPhone.

I did not plan on this. My laptop suffered some water damage and I thought it had healed itself somehow. The display stopped working altogether on the first day so I did not have a place to transfer photos via SD card and edit them.

But I dare say that the photos I took with the phone were not half bad. I will still be adding to the galleries, but here is what I have online.

That said, I missed the laptop with its larger screen and more powerful editing tools. I also missed having simple features like captions in photos in the Google+ app. I actually had to use Teamviewer to access my home computer to add captions to the photos. Why not just wait till I got back? Simply because I would never get round to doing it.

I also had to approve transactions and sign work docs online. Our leave system is not mobile friendly and I normally have to log in twice to approve my staff members’ leave applications. Once in, I had to scroll about and zoom in/out unnecessarily so my staff could get the breaks they deserved.

I also used Teamviewer to access my work computer for intranet-only applications and to control my home computer to prepare documents for signing. I had previously used the Hello Sign app, but it accepted only PDFs and not docs. If you are mobile-only, there are not many apps that handle the file importing, converting, signing, and sending. So I did what had to be done.

But on to more positive mobile experiences.

Several hours before checking out of the hotel in Sweden, I received SMS and email notification that I could do so online. I did this and my key cards remained active for one hour after the automated checkout and I could leave the keys in the room or deposit them in a box. Convenient!

Most places in Denmark offer free wifi. There was access in cafes, hotels, buses, trains, museums, libraries, etc. I listed the places in order of ease of access (easiest to most difficult).

The cafes, hotels, and transport agencies seem to realize how many people need mobile-optimized access. Most hotels seem to realize people have more than one device. I found museums and libraries to be hit or miss because of the sheer number of people trying to access the shared resource.

I noticed more QR codes. There was one near the base of the Han Christian Andersen statue (to hear an audio story) and several at the Danish National Museum.

Before flying home, I received email from KLM to check-in. The problem at this stage of travel is not having convenient access to a printer. KLM solved that problem. The email led to a slick, pre-authenticated mobile website
which sent QR code boarding passes to my phone via email.

I eventually did not use the QR codes because there were many self-check in kiosks at Copenhagen airport. Unlike the airline-specific kiosks in airports like Changi, these were generic in that you could check in to any airline. There were several forms of authentication and I printed our boarding passes there.

I used a QR code boarding pass a few years ago in the USA and noted how the readers were not quite optimized for glass screens then. This time I noticed most people passing through the gates without delay, but there were one or two who had to pause and rescan.

Wanting to go mobile is one thing. Going mobile by circumstance and having a system ready for it is another. We just have to keep pushing for it and even demanding it. When people see how much better life can be with it, things will change.


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