Lego builds innovation in the classroom

University of Newcastle students, in training to become high school design and technology teachers, have received a lesson in how to transform tedious curriculum into a creative and satisfying Lego learning experience.

In their Introduction to Design Practice course, the students have developed a range of woodwork technical skills by constructing up-scaled Lego mini figures.

“We provided the students with a kit for the project, which simplified the task and allowed staff to assess their individual technical competencies by examining how well the model was assembled,” explains Associate Lecturer in Industrial Design, Lyndel Henry, who coordinated the course.

“It’s far more rewarding for the students to actually have an end product and make something fun like the figures, rather than just drilling a hole or learning to use the lathe.”

Once they assembled their figures, the students also had the chance to develop their design skills by fabricating hair or head wear and painting and dressing their figures in the guise of a famous – or infamous – personality. One of the challenges was to produce a figure which is clearly recognisable as a celebrity, whilst still retaining the Lego brand attributes.

The resulting mini figures show the creativity amongst the students. There is a an array of politicians, music, movie and sports stars  – a sassy Miley Cyrus, a smug John Howard, two Dalai Lamas and a fully-armoured Ned Kelly.

“I really enjoyed learning the practical woodwork skills. We also learned how to simplify a complex two-dimensional image and turn it into a 3D form.” says Kazany Flick, who made a cheeky Katy Perry figure

“It was a big assessment task and a lot of work but it’s good to have such a fun finished product. I think it was a good to teach everyone the same set of skills but also let them customise it.”

As the semester ends the students will take home their figures, confident in their ability to use the tools in the workshop, but the real value of this course is that it has given these future teachers a first-hand experience of innovative assessment design.

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