Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Our Entry to the Re-Imagine Learning Competition

In past months we submitted an application to the Re-Imagine Learning Competition organized by the LEGO Foundation and Ashoka. Here is a more detailed description of our proposal. Our entry can be viewed here.

The LEMAs use the learning games we have carefully designed, structured and tested across three decades of work, in a variety of social contexts and with diverse populations. The author of these games has achieved international recognition for his work and innovation as an Ashoka Fellow and a Schwab Social Entrepreneur.

Our entry to the competition includes, the creation of a “Learning Box” containing a small set of LEGO bricks to assemble four (4) distinctive games intended to develop numerical systems, factorization, coding, systematization, logic and analytical thinking. To date we have used wooden elements, in conjunction with workbooks we have already edited and published, to teach these concepts. 

LEGO bricks materialize, in a clear and unique way, a highly important concept in our teaching method: the understanding of “the part” and “the whole” in a system context. For instance, we see how something small like a LEGO brick becomes something larger when other small pieces are added, creating a new configuration.  This principle is fundamental for any systematic and critical thinking process to occur. In viewing the "whole," a cognitive process takes place; the mind makes a leap from comprehending the parts, to realizing the whole and its relationship. It also makes possible the capacity to construct and deconstruct structures. The understanding that there is a relationship between “elements” that gives form to complex structures, has all kinds of implications in a diversity of fields such as social, economic, architectural, philosophical. In the area of our interest, the development of the linguistic and mathematical brain, this is fundamental because it allows the learner to recognize that with a finite number of characters that can  be letters or numbers, we can create the infinite, and that the relationship of the parts are key elements of a system; in turn allowing us to understand concepts like the context, the global, the multidimensional, the complex (Morin, Bohr, others). 

Thus, the learning box containing LEGO bricks will offer children new tools and opportunities to develop the ability to think, play, question, explore, construct and deconstruct knowledge. In this order of ideas, we teach literacy and numeracy, but most importantly, we aim at developing the ability to think in the context of today. Through play we are able to create an environment where the learner can achieve higher order thinking skills. 

In sum, the LEMAs will use LEGO bricks in addition to our other learning tools namely, the “ABC DE la Matemática“ (ABC of Mathematics) and, in the case of Spanish speaking countries, the “abcdespañol”, or their adaptations in English, Portuguese, Mam, Quechi, Katchiquel, or the forthcoming French version, depending on the country or population where the LEMAs are implemented. With these learning tools, the LEMAs will ensure that children everywhere will achieve the fundamental thinking skills and the basic tools necessary for lifelong learning and a better opportunity to succeed in life.

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