Hands-on learning

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The effectiveness of hands-on learning, for example through construction, has been well
documented for many years. Today neuroscience is able to document even more precisely how
physical and active involvement in experiences stimulates the brain and improves the quality of
learning. There is a growing recognition that people primarily think and learn through experiences they have had, rather than through abstract calculations and generalizations. We store our experiences in memory and use them to run simulations in our minds to prepare for problem-solving in new situations. These simulations help us form hypotheses about how to proceed in the new situation based on past experiences. It is difficult to store and reflect upon abstract thoughts, as the brain does not have a memorable experience to retain and work with.

And yet a significant proportion of teaching efforts still rely on delivering knowledge in this disconnected way.

While hands-on learning cannot solve all of the challenges that educators face, it is a fact that building representations of ideas, problems, and knowledge with LEGO bricks and digital tools provides students with an experience that is concrete and with learning that is memorable.

The Digital and Creative Era

New technologies have brought easy access to knowledge and greater opportunities for collaboration and creativity. As James Paul Gee emphasizes in Learning Games, technology eases information sharing, co-creation and the crossing of new and more distant borders, not just geographically, but also between physical and digital realms. Digital interfaces give us new ways to express ourselves, new ways to research ideas, new ways to experiment. They allow us to take risks safely, to make and remake, to repurpose, recycle and trade in ways we could barely have imagined just a few decades ago.

Young people's combination and recombination of LEGO® bricks and models, both physically and digitally, nurtures non-linear forms of learning, where they move between rule acquisition and rule modification, between the familiar and the foreign. By working in this way, students gain opportunities to immediately reflect on the choices they make, to intuitively or collaboratively modify their ideas, and to collectively achieve better results with their classmates. These developments and opportunities are changing the way teaching and childcare professionals view their roles. As one newly qualified teacher said: "I was looking at all these tools and thinking, 'How can I get good at using them in order to teach?' But then I realized that what I needed to do was to give them to the children and let them learn by using them."