LEGO Education: Training the 21st Century workforce of tomorrow in STEM
12th January 2018
With the world experiencing exponential growth in digital technologies, the question of how to bring teaching into the 21st Century and prepare students for the workplace of tomorrow is a pressing one for schools and education departments across the globe.
To help educators bridge the skills gap, LEGO Education has been working over the last 35 years to develop hands-on teaching and learning experiences which develop students’ skills in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).
Many experts now believe we are on the verge of a Fourth Industrial Revolution: the Digital Revolution. A recent report by the Institute for the Future estimates that an astonishing 85 per cent of jobs that will be available in 2030 haven’t even been invented yet. As a result, though the way in which each country offers STEM-related learning varies, the key motivating factors remain consistent: to help bridge the skills gap and equip students with the 21st Century skills vital for future career success and a flourishing labour market.
With a global presence, LEGO Education is used in 60 countries and works with governments around the world to boost the skill set and global competitiveness of the future workforce by implementing its learning resources and teacher training within schools.
Developing digital proficiency
One country that recognised a need to boost the teaching of STEM and technological competencies in the classroom is China. In 2010, the Chinese Ministry of Education recognised there were challenges surrounding the technological literacy and creativity in elementary and secondary schools in the People’s Republic of China. To help tackle this they partnered with LEGO Education to form the project “MOE-LEGO Innovative Talent Development Program” (ITDP). The goal was to promote the innovative abilities and technological literacy of students by enhancing the ability of teachers to teach through technology and improve edtech provisions.
The first phase of the project involved setting up Innovation Labs in 400 schools, with the second phase following in 2015. In addition to training 100,000 STEM teachers by the end of 2019, working alongside famous teacher training universities across China, the project will support teachers to have classroom application and share best practice at national and global platforms.
THE LEGO Group was awarded Best Partner of MOE in 2016 in recognition of educational impact created by this partnership.
In Belgium, the Central Flemish and Local Governments have been strongly supporting LEGO Education projects for a number of years. For example, the Province Limburg invested 1.5 million euros in the project “Ontdek-Techniektalent-(OTT)” – discover technical talent. All 330 primary schools in Limburg joined the scheme using a number of LEGO Education resources including WeDo, Simple & Powered Machines and Renewable Energy sets. This was all managed by six secondary schools and 18 technical managers.
Minister of Education, Hilde Crevis, has opened many LEGO Education events and works closely with University VIVES which runs a successful LEGO Education Innovation Studio and both the FIRST LEGO League (FLL) and FIRST LEGO League Jr. for West Flanders.
While theory is very important, one of the most effective ways LEGO Education brings STEM teaching and learning to life is to use real-world examples to enable students to gain a more tangible understanding of how topics are applied in industries and in many aspects of everyday life.
A particularly good example of this is the case of Singapore, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2015 by giving every student from kindergarten to K12 a LEGO Education learning resource for them to build and reflect on Singapore’s past, present and future. This meant that 394 schools, 60,000 students and 30,000 teachers were given the opportunity to innovate and develop their communication and team building competencies, while applying these skills to real life experiences.
Learning with robotic technology
LEGO Education is particularly committed to understanding and researching how children learn most effectively. It works with top research institutes, such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Cambridge University, to incorporate the most up-to-date research in the learning programmes it offers.
One of the most exciting and growing areas of digital learning is in the field of robotics; learning through robotics is a great way to make STEM lessons engaging and boost learning potential.
In 2007, to combat disappointing LATAM PISA scores, the Ministry of Education of Peru formed a partnership with LEGO Education and the Inter-American Development Bank to integrate 125,000 of the WeDo robotics learning resource into schools, with software for one laptop per child, the science curriculum and professional development. Overall, an incredible 1,500,000 students, 80,000 teachers and 20,000 elementary schools were involved and trained in the project. The findings showed that students who had learnt about the principles of maths, physics and programming through building LEGO Education models exhibited an improved understanding of these subjects.
Another example of how learning through robotics increases engagement and motivation to learn is LEGO Education’s involvement with the Government of the state of Rheinland-Pfalz. In 2015/16, it piloted the WeDo robotics learning resource in 10 elementary schools. After demonstrating successful outcomes, the Ministry extended the budget to 125 elementary schools, with the long-term plan to implement WeDo in all 1,600 schools in the state.
As a next step, the Ministry has invested in a number of LEGO MINDSTORMS Education EV3 to encourage 12 middle schools to participate in FLL, an international robotics competition for students.
The positive experiences of China, Belgium, Singapore, Peru and Germany, all working with LEGO Education are being mirrored around the world. Hands-on resources can be used to great effect in order to equip students with the skills and knowledge to ensure they are prepared and ready to be globally competitive in the workplace of tomorrow.