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“It’s About Taking That Creativity To The Next Level”

We find out how a LEGO Innovation Studio helped boost student engagement in A Level maths and computing at Newcastle-under-Lyme College...

  • “It’s About Taking That Creativity To The Next Level”
  • “It’s About Taking That Creativity To The Next Level”
  • “It’s About Taking That Creativity To The Next Level”
  • “It’s About Taking That Creativity To The Next Level”

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Newcastle-under-Lyme College (NULC) is a highly successful college with over 4,000 students in North Staffordshire.

As part of its commitment to providing students with innovative and inspiring opportunities and resources, the college invested in a LEGO® Education Innovation Studio. Here, Andy Snape, assistant head of sixth form and studio manager, reflects on the successes so far, and the impact it’s had on NULC’s students…

How did the idea first come about?
I’ve always been a fan of LEGO and during a visit to Bett one year, we visited the LEGO Education stand to see what it had to offer. We came away with a set of LEGO MINDSTORMS Education EV3 kits, with the intention of running a robotics enrichment club for our A-Level students. But after seeing how it could work alongside the curriculum, we actually started using the kits in a few of our A-Level maths and computing classes. It was a huge success, and a different way of engaging our students and developing their skills.

After seeing how much of an impact these resources had, I wanted to expand the opportunities to all of our students, so the college invested in a LEGO Education Innovation Studio. Within the studio we use LEGO MINDSTORMS Education EV3, Simple and Powered Machines, WeDo, Simple Machines, BuildToExpress and StoryStarter.

We use the resources for a wide range of courses from entry level and Level 1 courses through to Level 3 Extended Diplomas along with AS and A Levels too. 

How does it help enrich students’ learning?
The students absolutely love it, and are really seeing the benefits of the studio. Having a dedicated space gives us the opportunity to build students’ soft skills too, including communication, listening, following instructions and teamwork. Certainly, at A-Level, we are very mindful that a lot of students have university or job interviews and they need to be able to sell themselves, talk coherently and use the correct language.

The studio has boosted student’s engagement and enthusiasm, as they are able to really experience the practical application of theories, rather than simply sitting in a class writing formulas and drawing diagrams.

How have you used the resources differently?
Although the kits are designed for particular subjects, you still have the flexibility to use them in different ways. For example, StoryStarter is a literacy resource which allows students to build scenes and create stories. However, during a sociology class, the students were put into groups and tasked to build an example of green crime, such as space junk or deforestation.

Using the models they’d created they then planned an essay based on the example they had picked. So it was a slight twist on how the resource was intended to be used, but it meant that the students were thinking creatively and got more hands-on with a topic that would otherwise have been very much text-book based.

Were there any challenges or reservations along the way?
I think staff were initially concerned that the studio resources weren’t suitable or relevant for the subject they taught, and that it would be giving students too much control. I wanted to alleviate these concerns, so as part of their training I worked closely with the teachers to come up with ideas about how they could use the various resources and kits. I then supported them in teaching their first lesson.

Once the teachers got the hang of it, there was no stopping them; they enjoy it as much as the students! 

What would you say to other schools considering a similar approach?
The main benefits for NULC are that it enriches the curriculum and students are able to come and do something a bit different, fun and innovative, all while learning! It definitely engages the students; I have one boy who attended one of our open events before joining the college who said he chose NULC because of the robotics resources we offer.

Nearly every single student has played with LEGO from a young age, so they immediately associate it with fun and creativity. So it’s about taking that creativity to the next level, and transforming their learning experience. Allowing the students to get hands-on and take control of their learning, enables them to truly understand the purpose of what they’re learning and how it relates to the world around them.

Further details about NULC’s Innovation Studio can be found at www.nulc.ac.uk/lego; for information about LEGO Education, visit LEGOeducation.co.uk/LEIS or follow @LEGOeducationUK

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