Lego and National Instruments to Overhaul STEM Education in America

Lego led the revolution in multicolored little toys that have now expanded into entire Lego stores and a recent Lego movie. But that's not all.

Recently, Lego has decided to invest in redesigning the STEM revolution.

They have maintained a relationship with National Instruments for over 20 years with the purpose of bringing hands-on learning to children in science, technology, engineering and math disciplines.

National Instruments will provide software—specifically the LabVIEW program—that engineers around the country use. By harnessing the program to Lego robots, students wil have the opportunity to exercise their reasoning skills and problem-solve in a natural working environment, compared to reading out of textbooks, and memorizing material for tests.

"The goal is to get kids interested in engineering and after-school programs based on the same technology they’ll be using after they're in school," says Jennifer Dawkins, STEM program manager at National Instruments. "Learning in books alone isn’t going to be very engaging or effective. By actually using the same tools and concepts and technology that they’re going to use later on, they can actually build on the same architecture, the same platform they can use throughout."

President and executive director of strategic partnerships for Lego Education, Stephan Turnipseed, will be moderating a panel on scalability at U.S. News & World Report "STEM Solutions" conference in Washington, D.C., April 23 to 25.  

Lego’s partnership with National Instruments will reflect the initiative to reform education and STEM subjects across the United States.

Last year "Next Generation Science Standards" was released by a coalition of science groups calling for far more active engagement of students with classroom material.  This promotes more hands-on-work in classrooms and changes the way work is done. 

Teachers will encourage students to back-up their arguments for why a formula or hypothesis will or will not work.

Not revealing answers, but allowing students to engage in healthy debates is a shift in 1996 STEM guidelines and aims to foster "active cognitive engagement and learning how to do science,” instead of "teaching kids about science," says Kemi Jona, director of the Northwestern University Office of STEM Education Partnerships.

"What we know from the learning sciences is that the more actively a person engages with the material that they’re learning, the better the retention and ability to apply that knowledge or that skill," said Jona, who is also a professor of learning sciences and computer science at Northwestern. "If you’re going to learn how to do science, as opposed to about science, you have to learn hands-on, like with an artifact or a Lego robot."

Ann Rivet, an associate professor of science education at Teachers College at Columbia University agrees and said, "engaging students in more hands-on meaningful robust things where they're actually doing the problem-solving tends to bring more students into the field."

Rivet also said that allowing other "perspectives to become part of what it means to learn science" has proven  to engage more students from different backgrounds and show them that engineering is something they can do too.

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