The LEGO WALL has arrived!

Earlier this year I blogged about my aspirations toward creating some permanent makerspaces in my school library. One of these spaces was the LEGO WALL. It has taken some time and planning, but I am proud to announce that the LEGO WALL is now a reality.  I was able to get help from two great staff members, namely our talented Manual Arts teacher and our wonderful Maintenance man (he is our go-to man for all things building or fixing related) to put it all together.

We were grateful for the funding provided by the P&F toward buying 18 base plates and two Classic boxes of LEGO for the project. I have plans to purchase more as we go and as we have the funds.

You can never have too much LEGO.

Building the LEGO WALL was not without its challenges. We learnt some valuable LEGO knowledge along the way as well. Such as how Lego base plates are measured.  48 x 48 does not mean that the base plate is 48 cm square! After drawing up the plans and cutting the backing board, I discovered that I didn’t order enough base plates.  Why was this so?  Base plates are measured in STUDS not centimetres! Of course they are, silly. How could I not know this? 

Base plates are measured in STUDS not centimetres!

Never mind, we had room for a nice boarder now…….. I planned it all along.

We installed the wall and unveiled it last Monday during assembly, where the guidelines for its use were outlined.  I’d like to thank Barbara Kristo for kindly letting me use the ‘LEGO Wall Pass’ and the ‘Terms of Use’ poster, that she created for her own school library’s LEGO Wall. You can find downloadable copies of these on her blog bjkteacherlibrarian

The LEGO WALL complete with fancy boarder.

The ’Terms of Use’ and the ‘Booking Instructions’ posters are prominently displayed beside the LEGO Wall so that students are aware of the expectations and processes associated with its use.  When they book in, they are given a lanyard with the LEGO WALL PASS. This makes it very easy to see who is meant to be using the wall and enables the number of students using the wall at any one time to be more manageable. It also makes them feel very important. 😊.

The LEGO Wall “Terms of use” and “How to book in” guide lines displayed beside the LEGO Wall.
Students showing off their LEGO WALL PASSES

The students were really excited, and I had huge line ups for the LEGO Wall after it was opened.  It will be interesting to see how it plays out over the coming weeks. Many of the students have been sharing their plans with me on what they intend to build next. One group have started to build a marble run. They have asked me if they could leave it up as, “It’s not finished yet, we need to test it.” This is Design Thinking in action.

There was much interest in the vertical LEGO creations
The younger students enjoying some free creation time

I’ve already had interest from classroom teachers who would like to use it to extend the classroom learning. One class will be studying recycling and waste management and will use the wall to demonstrate their ideas and create a public awareness campaign.  I am excited to see what other learning opportunities arise.

My next step in this project will be to create a bank of Lego challenges for the students to attempt.  If anyone has ideas or challenges that they have found successful in this area that they would like to share, I would be most grateful.

Some Christmas themed Lego creations.

Design-Thinking and Library Makerspaces

Schools aim to prepare students to function and thrive within the modern world. It would seem counter intuitive then, that there is an increased push toward prescriptive testing and data collection. It is becoming increasingly difficult to find opportunities within a cluttered curriculum to develop student creativity, innovative thinking and problem-solving skills. School libraries maybe the last bastion for the provision of spaces where students can immerse themselves in their interests and be encouraged to innovate and create.

Library Makerspaces lend themselves to

design-thinking.

Library Makerspaces lend themselves to design-thinking. They foster informal collaborative learning through hands on creation where students can engage in a cycle of continuous review and questioning, revise assumptions and improve their understanding and results. Design-thinking uses scientific, rational processes but also considers the needs of the users (Dam & Siang, 2019). It is in essence; a process used to analyse a problem and identify strategies and solutions to solve it.  It goes further in that it attempts to overcome the set paradigms that we each bring to a situation, enabling us to look at it from different angles, or ‘outside the box’ thinking. This process is uniquely suited to the needs of today’s youth as 21st century learners, enabling creative and innovative thinking skills.

5-phases-of-design-thinking

Infographic created by Alexandra Rummenie

Graphical outline of the ‘5 phases of Design thinking’ established by the Hasso-Plattner Institute of Design – Stanford (Dam & Siang, 2019).

‘Students need a Maker Mindset’

John Spencer

A Maker mindset is essential if today’s students are to thrive in the constantly changing landscape of the 21st century.  Library Makerspaces can provide a place where 21st century learners can develop the necessary skills and aptitudes in creativity, innovation, transmedia navigation, visual literacy and computational thinking (Bowler, 2014).  They can support the development of the cognitive and digital skills necessary to effectively utilise and adjust to the rapidly changing landscape of digital tools and technology. As John Spencer (2019), commented, “Kids aren’t digital natives they are consumer natives” and we can help them move from consumers to produces.  Linda Liukas (2018), further clarifies this idea when she said, “If we don’t give them the tools to build with computers, we are raising only consumers rather then creators.”

Marnie Webb, CEO of Caravan Studios, suggests that Teacher-Librarians should employ design-thinking as a critical step before implementing makerspaces in order to determine the needs and interests of the students.  Asking questions and collecting information on student needs, wants and interests will ensure a well-designed makerspace (Jacobson, 2016). Once we have gone through our own design-thinking process, developed our prototypes and tested products to establish a makerspace that suites the requirements of our school community. We still need to provide a structure that provides support for students, it can’t just be a ‘free for all’. This is where design-thinking can enable students to gain the maximum benefit from the makerspace.

Design-thinking can guide the creative process.

In order to lend direction to student interests when they engage with makerspaces, we can use design-thinking to guide their creative process. “The LAUNCH Cycle” by John Spencer and AJ Juliani, has taken design thinking and adapted it for use by students and teachers from K – 12. After researching this, I felt it would be well suited to facilitate Library Makerspaces, helping me make them more productive for the students. The LAUNCH Cycle framework builds on the ‘5 phases of design-thinking’ through the addition of an inquiry phase and a launch phase where students publish/present to an authentic audience.

Image reproduced with permission from John Spencer (LAUNCH Cycle: Design-thinking framework).

This framework allows students to establish an awareness of a problem or process and a sense of empathy toward an intended audience where they can begin to ask questions. This engages the students’ interest and natural curiosity and is the starting point for the inquiry process. They research, building on and deepening their knowledge and understanding. Navigate and analyse their ideas based on new understandings, working together to brainstorm, collaborate, connect, challenge assumptions, create innovative solutions and conceptualise prototypes. Throughout this process students develop skills in project management where they can develop a product idea, a sense of who their audience is, negotiate roles, allocate tasks and work to define their solution.

They are empowered to create, test, evaluate and revisit to perfect their products.

They are empowered to create, test, evaluate and revisit to perfect their products. Their creations can be anything from a physical to a digital product, art to engineering. We can give students the confidence to fail and the realisation that mistakes are opportunities to learn and improve, an important life skill that will free their creative spirits. An important part of this process is that we offer students the opportunity to present to an authentic audience. Today there is a wealth of physical and digital forums where students can share their products and learning journeys.  The idea that others can share in and learn from what students have produced gives their work real world relevance where their work is meaningful, has value and purpose.

Let their imaginations run wild.

Using a design-thinking framework in the context of Library Makerspaces, I can give students a sense of ownership and agency, empowering them with the confidence to take risks and create. Students and teachers can come together as collaborative and connected learners to solve problems, share knowledge and develop creative solutions. I am excited to see where design-thinking will take our Library Makerspaces and the effect it will have on student engagement. My hope is that it will inspire my students with the confidence to let their imaginations run wild, becoming innovators and creators and perhaps teach us a thing or two along the way.