Lego in HE

I recently attended a Lego in HE workshop ran by Dr Alison James and Chrissi Nerantzi. It was based on the workshops that Alison and Chrissie had run in the HE environment. Both Chrissie and Alison were clear that it doesn’t exactly follow Lego Serious Play, but there are similarities between them. The general premise is that lego is a tool to visually express thoughts and complex ideas, with individuals build models to represent their ideas.

Recommended reading is and Alison’s report on the HEA website

The workshops that Alison and Chrissi have ran have a series of activities, each posing a question and involving the steps of building, sharing, and reflecting, with reflection leading to action.  The idea of the workshops is that people have space and creativity to explore and that they enable everyone to have a voice. It is based on constructivist approach where people learn best when they are making/creating. I saw huge similarities between this approach and Ketso workshops I’ve taken part in.

Alison and Chrissie reported that these workshops were particularly effective with international students as the focus is on the model not themselves, although they acknowledged that generally accepted thinking on teaching international students is to move away from metaphor and symbolism.

They have ran Lego workshops to look at student engagement, in development sessions to get staff to reflect on their roles and their learning, on team modelling, doctoral inductions, module evaluation and mapping out learning journeys. In the case of doctoral inductions it was used to explore how new PhD students felt about their research. In the group I was in some of the attendees had used lego in teaching, their example was using lego to demonstrate building a product and taking it to market, it was interesting to hear their experience of teaching with lego and it would have been interesting to hear of more teaching examples during the day.

One activity early on was to look at an unusual Lego brick and try and describe it. This is it.

The brick was passed around the group and each person had to say what they thought it was.

It’s actually the base of a ladybird from a duplo set. In the workshop setting this was demonstrating how people might interpret things differently and why we shouldn’t interpret other people’s models. I could see this working well as an activity to demonstrate finding keywords and synonyms when searching. I’m looking forward to trying it out in our next training session.

Some of the activities we undertook on the day were:-

  • To build a model of an animal with four legs and a face.
  • To add something to the animal that represented ourselves
  • To work as a team to build the longest bridge we could
  • To build a model of what we wanted to get from the day
  • To then work as a team to build our own representation of HE
  • To bring out models together as a team to HE
  • To then build an ideal model of HE as a team
  • To build an individual model of an idea for how to use Lego back in your workplace.

The idea through the workshops is that you build up participants metaphorical ease through activities, starting with simple ideas and models and then let the ideas that the models express become more complex.

For most individual activities we were given 2 mins to build and group activities 10 mins to build. They recommend that sessions cannot be less than 90 mins and ideally longer.

At the end of the day, they also brought in playdoh so we could discuss the difference of working with playdoh compared to Lego. The general consensus was lego was better, but there were a few attendees who preferred playdoh due to it’s flexibility.

All through the day it was interesting to see the participants continually play with the Lego throughout the day, even during discussion and Q&A times.


A trip to Cambridge

A while ago (erm nearly a year now – I am a terrible blogger) I visited some of the libraries at the University of Cambridge. Much thanks go to Niamh Tumelty who made it all happen and arranged visits to a great selection of libraries. Thanks also go to Pat Aske at Pembroke, Jodie Walker at Peterhouse, Meg Westbury for an interesting discussion at lunch, Sonya Adams at Selwyn College, Rose Giles at the UL and Emma Etteridge for making sure I didn’t get lost between English and the main University Library.

I wanted to visit the libraries in Cambridge because I could see the similarities between our satellite campus library and the College and Departmental Libraries of Cambridge.

The over-riding message I took back from the day is how much all the library staff I met go above and beyond to make the libraries meet and exceed the needs of their students. There were so many good ideas to take away from these innovative librarians to take back to our campus library.

Some practical points I took away for implementing at our campus were:-

  • Opening the library open for longer and staffing it with postgrads – a potentially useful idea as our campus develops.
  • Books on student welfare & literature – basically going beyond the required texts and having material to support the whole student. Also possibility of ad hoc novel collection, not purchased by the library. We’ve gone some way to providing this in London, from having books on careers to buying books to help with IT basics. We haven’t developed a fiction collection yet, but there are still a few months left of this academic year and we have set up a book club this year.
  • Display cases throughout the library and the College to display objects and treasures from the library. At the time we were investigating how we could display Special Collections from Liverpool at the London campus and came away with several ideas to do this, as well as the potential idea of displaying student work.
  • A mixture of seating throughout the libraries from study carrels, group desk, sofa’s and beanbags. This did lead to the purchase of two beanbags at our campus which are often used by students and created an extra seating area in the library. We also rearranged the sofa’s in the social space which has increased their use.
  • Involving students in events e.g. Students create xmas tree out of books, craft club, treasure trail for museums at night, dark rooms and bookbinding activities, escape room type event, alumni weekend, library valentines, what do you love about the library, students giving book reviews.
  • Advice for new students from older students displayed in the library. Am very tempted to see if we can get our current cohort to do this for the next year’s students.
  • Activities such as colouring, jigsaws, lego for exam time. We set up colouring quite early on and this is used quite regularly, we’ve started to collect some jigsaws and board games for the library which we hope the students will like.
  • Cambridge Penumbra which is a shadowing scheme for the staff at Cambridge University and College libraries, which could be something to explore between the satellite campuses.
  • The University Library had camera and software for creating ID cards, would love to have this at our campus
  • Loved seeing the plans for the library up and displayed in staff areas – I’d seen an example of this in my previous workplace and there was another example of this at the UL. I think being able to see what the goals are for the year (and when you’ve ticked things off) is really good to make sure you don’t forget them in the day to day. Being reminded of this is giving me ideas for our office noticeboard.
  • The staff often tweet about useful tools and this is another good idea for our twitter account.

Below are a few pictures I took on the day

I’ll be catching up on writing about a the other visits I made last year, but this has made me realise that nearly a year is up since I visited another library. It’s definitely time to start thinking about visits again, if only to visit Niamh’s newly refurbished Department of Engineering library, which looks great in the photo’s. As well as finding new libraries to visit, visitors are always welcome at our campus library.