Rhode Island School of Design Kicks off Collaboration with LEGO® Education

PROVIDENCE, RI – Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) kicks off the new year with an exciting collaboration with LEGO® Education, the education division of The LEGO® Group based in Billund, Denmark. The interdisciplinary project, co-led by Assistant Professor of Industrial Design Cas Holman and Associate Professor of Literary Arts + Studies Nicole Merola, begins with a five-week Wintersession research seminar, followed by a spring semester studio. Both investigate the interplay between digital and analog modalities – looking at how these forms of engagement can most productively inform each other.

In the Wintersession research seminar led by Merola, students use humanities and studio methodologies to investigate, map and analyze cultural practices and objects in which the digital and the analog comingle. While making is an important component of this seminar, its main focus is on the theoretical. In other words, the overarching goal is to examine how specific digital and analog objects and practices position users in the material world.

During Wintersession students will work individually and in groups to produce a set of research findings and exploratory inspiration sketches that will inform the spring studio, to be led by Holman. Representatives from LEGO Education will travel from Denmark to attend key critiques during these courses.

“LEGO Education is excited to bring together students, faculty members and leading experts in the field of creativity, play and learning to explore ways to improve the student learning outcomes in a world where digital and physical creation is melding together,” said Jesper Just Jensen, Senior Director, Solutions Experience, LEGO Education. “RISD provides a vibrant environment to challenge our current thinking with its cross-disciplinary approach around key design disciplines.”

“LEGO Education and RISD share a deep commitment to learning through making; and to storytelling, problem-solving, and connecting,” said RISD Interim President Rosanne Somerson. “We are natural partners, and I'm excited to see what we can make and build together!”

“RISD students are capacious thinkers and makers. When you ask them to do research you never know exactly where they will end up, said Merola. “This adventurousness and willingness to experiment with ideas, together with their frames of reference regarding the digital and analog and the texts we will read and discuss, should converge into a provocative set of research findings and inspiration for the spring studio.”

“This collaboration is interesting for many reasons, and I am particularly excited about bringing RISD students into dialogue with the inspiring community of thinkers and doers who have been working to design, redesign, and ‘hack’ education for decades,” said Holman. “Our students will no doubt bring their own experiences as digital natives as well as their unique RISD curiosity to the table, and make contributions to the field and to LEGO Education that can have lasting impacts.”

In October RISD hosted RISD-LEGO-Learn, an exploratory event for students and other interested community members to participate in a hands-on “playful learning” workshop as a precursor to the 2015 project. Featured speaker Cathy Helgoe, a senior educational specialist from LEGO Education, introduced the company’s approach to integrating digital and analog methods of exploration, talking about her work with the popular LEGO® MINDSTORMS®Education solutions and recently launchedLEGO Education MoreToMath 1–2. Edith Ackermann from the MIT Media Lab, the day’s second featured speaker, talked about the role of play in learning, especially in an increasingly digital world. “When it comes to learning and creative uses of technologies, children have more to teach adults than adults do children,” she said. RISD students then explored LEGO Education LearnToLearn, a hands-on educational classroom tool developed for teachers by teachers that shows educators how to effectively integrate LEGO Education solutions into diverse areas of their curricula in order to develop skills children need in today’s world.

About LEGO Education

Since 1980, LEGO Education (LEGOeducation.us) has delivered hands-on, curriculum-based resources for teachers and students worldwide. LEGO Education believes a hands-on, minds-on approach helps students actively take ownership of the learning process and develop 21st-century skills such as creative thinking and problem solving through real-life, engaging experiences.

LEGO, LEGO MINDSTORMS and the LEGO logo are trademarks of the LEGO Group. ©2015 The LEGO Group.