Lego has changed a lot since it was first invented. Alongside the original hands-on, no frills bricks we now have digital play and robotic models that connect to a computer using clever software; such as the fantastic WeDo Construction Set.
WeDo sets contain more than 150 bits and pieces, including a motor, motion and tilt sensors, and the LEGO USB Hub. They enable children to build and then animate their models using intuitive drag and drop technology, making it an ideal resource for teaching control at KS2.
The easy to install WeDo Software and Activity Pack - which features a digital Getting Started Guide with excellent building tips and programming examples - has to be bought separately. The activities are divided into four themes: Amazing Mechanisms, Wild Animals, Play Soccer and Adventure Stories and provide up to 24 hours of step-by-step instruction and project-based learning. There are also teacher notes, a glossary and building instructions included.
What I like most in the Activity Pack are the mini-movies, featuring Mia and Max. These films set up and describe the problem to solve (there are 12 in total) in less than a minute using two humorous Lego characters. My favourites include Goalkeeper, Airplane Rescue, Giant Escape, Dancing Birds and Drumming Monkey. Children will want to watch them over and over again. Make no mistake, the robots are challenging to make and they will test children’s thinking, patience and stamina but the learning curves and pain barriers are more than worth it. Children will enjoy rising to further challenges given the success of building one robot, especially when they can see what they can do to it.
Once children have made their robot, they can connect it up to a computer via the included USB hub, and the shrewd software allows them to program their creation, controlling its behaviour, sounds and responses. The sense of achievement strikes twice. All the programming is basic drag-anddrop and very easy to use.
You can’t go wrong with Lego, the world’s most famous construction toy. But how accessible is it for whole-class purposes? An important consideration will be cost: a WeDo Construction Set will cost you £79.99 and the Software and Activity Pack another £54.99, both excluding VAT. You’ll also need to factor in the need to buy more than one set for classroom use.
Despite the cost, there isn’t much with which to pick fault. The WeDo set is brilliant because it teaches children so much: they learn about working with simple machines, gears, levers, pulleys, transmission of motion, programming, using software media, designing and creating a working model, measuring time and distance, adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing, estimating, randomness and using variables.
That’s impressive, but more than all these things put together though is the play aspect of Lego. Play is at the heart of emotional wellbeing and Lego is quite simply good for your mental health.
Lego is fun, challenging, rewarding and engaging with universal appeal. Connect, construct, contemplate and continue – the WeDo Construction Set has it all. I get the feeling that if I were on a desert island and I could only bring one object with me, then a set of Lego would be a hot contender.