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Home » Education Technology » Why we need to rethink the way children learn — and adopt ‘purposeful play’

Dr Gopal Kutwaroo

Marketing Director, LEGO Education

Learning through play is an engaging way for children to explore and develop essential STEAM skills. So, is it time for educators to rethink the classroom teaching experience?

There’s no doubt that the future of work belongs to STEAM, says Dr Gopal Kutwaroo. So, we’d better be prepared for it.

“STEAM subjects — science, technology, engineering, the arts and maths — will become increasingly important in the coming years as the pace of innovation grows,” he notes. “So many different jobs are going to be created in this environment, as well as people having the ambition to branch out and create their own businesses.

“But whatever your profession, chances are you’ll be using advanced technology in some capacity. So, if children are to be prepared for this future — and thrive in it — it’s hugely important for them to develop a really good understanding of STEAM skills.”

But how do educators best equip them with that understanding? Kutwaroo — Marketing Director, LEGO Education, part of the LEGO Group — believes the answer is for children to experience “learning through play”, which can help develop their cognitive, emotional, physical, social and creative skills. Because play is engaging, hands-on and fun, students feel empowered to learn and explore without worrying about giving a wrong answer.

Structured and supported play that yields real results

‘Play’ is strongly associated with pre-school and early years. Yet it can be hugely effective for older children, too — so is it time to reassess STEAM teaching methods? After all, a recent report from Lucas Educational Research revealed that children in project-based learning classrooms across the US significantly outperformed students in typical classrooms.

“Play brings a sense of achievement, creativity, constructive thinking and, crucially, the opportunity to experience joy,” says Kutwaroo. “And with joy comes retention. So, we need to rethink learning to make classroom experiences more engaging and drive motivation, memory and meaningfulness. If we do that, we can achieve really powerful learning outcomes.” As an example of this method, Kutwaroo points to the newly announced LEGO Learning System, a scalable system based on LEGO bricks that promotes STEAM learning through play.

Traditional views from some parents, teachers and politicians need to be challenged. “I don’t think the term ‘play’ is widely understood from an educational perspective.” Purposeful play does serve as a valuable educational tool. Indeed, the type of play Kutwaroo is talking about is “purposeful”, because its supervised and teacher-supported and structured with curriculums, unit plans and lesson plans.

Purposeful play has a key role here because it fosters a love of life-long learning and encourages students to continually explore and experiment.

Purposeful play fosters a love of life-long learning

Learning has traditionally been too siloed; it doesn’t end when we leave school. The need for lifelong learning has been evident for years based on the rapid pace of development, an increasingly dynamic society and the impact of technology on our work and life.

In the years ahead, people will need to lean heavily on ’21st century skills’ such as critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, communication as well as literacy in information, media and technology. “As a result, we won’t stop learning,” says Kutwaroo. “Purposeful play has a key role here because it fosters a love of life-long learning and encourages students to continually explore and experiment.” It also gives everyone the chance to learn. “This is an equitable, multi-disciplinary experience that can engage all children, regardless of their learning abilities or socio-economic background,” says Kutwaroo.

Learning through play can help teachers rethink the classroom experience to make their lessons more engaging, stresses Kutwaroo. Ultimately, that’s why we’ll see more of it. “I think there will be a huge growth in learning through play,” he says. “The more people see it in practice, the more they’ll recognise the benefit and the outcomes of it.”

For more information about the LEGO® Learning System, click here.

LEGO Education published a paper on Rethinking Learning. To access, click here.

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