Change Makers: A Podcast from APH

LEGO Braille Bricks

August 06, 2020 American Printing House Episode 12
Change Makers: A Podcast from APH
LEGO Braille Bricks
Chapters
Change Makers: A Podcast from APH
LEGO Braille Bricks
Aug 06, 2020 Episode 12
American Printing House

LEGO Braille Bricks are here! APH is excited to be an official partner, responsible for distributing LEGO® Braille Bricks to students in the United States.

The bright colored bricks, molded with studs that correspond to numbers and letters in the braille alphabet, allow students who are blind, and sighted to play and learn together. 

On today's episode of Change Makers, we hear from the LEGO Foundation about their philosophy of learning through play, and why they created LEGO Braille Bricks. We'll also hear from a teacher with Visually Impaired Preschool Services(VIPS) in Louisville, KY who is helping APH look for ways to best use the bricks in the classroom. 

GUESTS
Per Havgaard - The LEGO Foundation
Stine Storm - The LEGO Foundation 
Paige Maynard - Visually Impaired Preschool Services (VIPS)

LINKS
Learn about brick distribution through APH: https://www.aph.org/lego-braille-bricks-a-fun-way-to-reinforce-braille-skills/
Head straight to the LEGO Braille Bricks site: https://www.legobraillebricks.com

Show Notes Transcript

LEGO Braille Bricks are here! APH is excited to be an official partner, responsible for distributing LEGO® Braille Bricks to students in the United States.

The bright colored bricks, molded with studs that correspond to numbers and letters in the braille alphabet, allow students who are blind, and sighted to play and learn together. 

On today's episode of Change Makers, we hear from the LEGO Foundation about their philosophy of learning through play, and why they created LEGO Braille Bricks. We'll also hear from a teacher with Visually Impaired Preschool Services(VIPS) in Louisville, KY who is helping APH look for ways to best use the bricks in the classroom. 

GUESTS
Per Havgaard - The LEGO Foundation
Stine Storm - The LEGO Foundation 
Paige Maynard - Visually Impaired Preschool Services (VIPS)

LINKS
Learn about brick distribution through APH: https://www.aph.org/lego-braille-bricks-a-fun-way-to-reinforce-braille-skills/
Head straight to the LEGO Braille Bricks site: https://www.legobraillebricks.com

Jack Fox:

Welcome to Change Makers, a podcast from APH. We're talking to people from around the world who are creating positive change in the lives of people who are blind or visually impaired. Here's your host.

Jonathan Wahl:

Welcome back to Change Makers. My name is Jonathan Wahl. We have an exciting topic today. Lego Braille Bricks are here! APH is an official partner with LEGO and is responsible for distribution of the bricks in the U. S. If you missed our original announcements, these are bright colored bricks molded with studs that correspond with numbers and letters in the braille alphabet. They allow students who are blind, and sighted, to play and learn together. They were developed by the LEGO Foundation and will be distributed to children internationally. Today. We'll hear from Paige Maynard at TVI with Visually Impaired Preschool Services in Louisville, Kentucky. She's been working with the bricks and the curriculum on how it can be used in the classroom. But first we have a special treat: we'll be hearing from Per Havgaard, and Stine Storm from the LEGO Foundation. Per is on the LEGO Foundation's Facilitation and Experience Team. He and his colleagues focus on how to best facilitate LEGO's philosophy of learning through play. And Stine is the Project Manager for LEGO Braille Bricks with the LEGO Foundation. Thank you both so much for being on our podcast today.

Per Havgaard:

It's our pleasure.

Jonathan Wahl:

The first thing I want to talk about Per is, LEGO Bricks are a staple i n homes across the globe, but they're not just about playing. Can you tell me about the LEGO Foundation's philosophy of learning through play?

Per Havgaard:

Definitely we'd love to. So the LEGO Foundation, we have a vision that we would like to help children be able to have the opportunity to get into a future where they can become creative, engaged, lifelong learners. And we have dedicated ourselves to try to redefine play and to reimagine learning so that we help and support children in building a broad set of skills that they need to engage into this future that lies ahead of us at some, that is so hard to predict what holds.

Jonathan Wahl:

A lot of education focuses on learning something specific. So how does learning through play push young people to think, not like adults so specific, but think outside the box?

Per Havgaard:

Yeah . So the beautiful thing is that in many ways we don't need to teach children this . We might need to consider what not to teach them or what not to educate them out of. We truly see children as our role models in the LEGO Foundation, because learning through play is how children naturally go about things. You don't need, I said before, you don't need to teach a toddler or a three year old or four year o ld to play. That's what they do. And I think for us talking about redefining this play, we see a need of that because play is, as we see, i t's still widely misunderstood. It is still seen as something childish. I t's something you do when you're done working, then you actually go out and play. So you do all the hard stuff first, and then you actually go play, but we want to, we want to redefine that? And we need to understand that when we are playful in our state of mind, when we have that, what if attitude to things that is often when we are able to be innovative, that's when w e're able to be creative and actively exercise and massage, all those skills that we see, we need to walk into a future that lies ahead of us. So, u m, so yeah, that's t hat, that's why t hat we see it like that.

Jonathan Wahl:

My now two-year-old got LEGO bricks for her birthday. And it was so fun now that I'm working on this project because I was watching her, put them all together and problem solving. And I was like, that's it right there. That's learning through play. It was just, it was very cool to kind of put that concept together. Moving on. Let's talk about being a lifelong learner. How can learning through play ensure young people grow up consistently curious and ready to learn?

Per Havgaard:

So I would say when we talk about re-imagining learning, it is, I would say there was , of course there has been a shift and there will be a shift and there must be a bigger shift towards the way that we look at learning and teaching. If you, if you go back some , some decades or maybe even a century, the type of work that we were educating ourselves towards required a certain title of education. And I would also say that it was work was tough if you are on a factory line and somewhat some of the teaching and learning work also like tough road learning. And you should like sit out your time and then you'd be able to go out. And many people, I would say from my parents' generation , they have not so good experiences with school, maybe even some in my generation as well. And they would like, they were just waiting to get out of there because this is not nice. With our, I would say more child centered approach towards learning and teaching. We definitely see and believe in that we will create people who wants to learn more. We don't want to create people who say that was it at school. We need, we need to have people who continue to be curious, who continues to be innovative and creative thinkers in whatever they do and see life as a journey. That starts of course, with how we are met in the system, how we met in the school by the teachers. If we are someone who are just sitting there studying to take a test, but it does not make meaning to , it's not meaningful to us. It's not, you're not being actively engaged in what you're doing. You're just being, doing what , doing what you've been told. Then I actually truly understand why a lot of people, they do not want necessarily to learn more because that's not so nice. So, so we need to have a more student centered and more child centered approach towards our learning, toward our pedagogies, and with that, we definitely believe that we will create these people who constantly are curious, who can help us solve all the challenges that we are facing going ahead.

Jonathan Wahl:

As adults, I think we often separate play and learning. So how do we redefine play and understand its importance in learning?

Per Havgaard:

I think maybe I think I got this question many, many times, and I think we, when we think about play, we see that childhood picture of ourselves running out there playing. When we talk about it, we often make the distinction between to be playful and the activity play. And you could say that if a play is well-designed, it will allow you to become playful. So you could, we could watch a recess time, kids playing in a, in a, in a playground. And we would see them come up with a play. They're playing something. At some point, the play breaks down. It's not fun anymore. Then they renegotiate or they try to see if we could change it, maybe. And then they go back into that game again into the play again, and they become playful one more time. Maybe, maybe it just breaks up and say, Hey, it's not fun anymore. I don't want to play more with you. And then they'll maybe try again tomorrow. Maybe they'll never do it again. But there is a distinction between the activity play and the state of mind to be playful. Children do this naturally. They're so good at it. The challenge comes when we adults interfere many times. And especially when we do it in a school setting, because it's actually quite hard to be playful in your state of mind in something where you're basically just copying someone else's work and trying to remember it to what's a test on Friday. That's not very playful. That is something else that requires a lot of other things, your ability to do that. So, so that is, that is very much, I will say what we're looking for. And we are looking for pedagogies and approaches towards teaching that allows for student agency. So, so if you are doing like a project project based learning, or if you're doing other pedagogies in that field, you have a say in what you're doing, you make decisions. You are the player, which is necessarily if you should become playful, if you're just someone who's tagging along, being quite passive, and you're not really harvesting all the fantastic things that we see happening when you reached that state, that state of mind. So if we can do what we supposed to be doing in school, we should be expert on content literature and all those things, but doing it in ways where you call more shots as a student where you are more involved in what is happening, you're actually being asked about what you like and prefer. Then we could actually get like the best of both worlds.

Jonathan Wahl:

Thank you so much. You know , LEGO is so successful and popular worldwide. So it for me, and I know for our audience, it's really exciting to learn about the philosophy behind it that we might not all all know about. So thank you for your time. Stine, moving over to you specifically about LEGO Braille Bricks, they add another layer of learning. Why is this important for the LEGO Foundation?

Stine Storm:

Okay. Um, so my colleague Per told you a lot about the philosophy behind learning through play. For me, LEGO Braille Bricks is such a tangible example of learning through play. Um, in this instance, and we have many other examples, but in this instance, it's , um, catering to the needs of children , uh, who are blind , um, in the Foundation. We also work within the area of other special needs, such as autism and ADHD. And we're working on ways to create similar kinds of concepts to, to ensure that these children also have access to learning through play and are able to develop the skills that Per mentioned. So for us, yes, this is very important and very essential in our work to give equal access to learning through play.

Jonathan Wahl:

And what kind of impact does the LEGO Foundation hope the LEGO Braille Bricks will create for students?

Stine Storm:

Um , well, of course we hope as Per was explaining that children become more motivated and engaged in their learning process, that they truly do become lifelong learners that their learning, how can I say, span, doesn't stop , um, too early, especially for kids with, with , uh , special needs. So , um, if we can help children who are visually impaired to learn braille in a more fun and engaging way, I think we've come a long way into trying to change their life trajectory to something that's positive and, you know , inspiring for them. Um, again, giving them equal opportunities in life.

Jonathan Wahl:

Well, thanks to both of you. I really appreciate your time. And we are so excited to see students and educators start to get the LEGO Braille Breaks across the U.S., and just to update people on the progress of, of, of how they're impacting students. So thank you for partnering with us on this project and for all the work you all are doing at LEGO.

Stine Storm:

Thank you .

Per Havgaard:

Our pleasure.

Jonathan Wahl:

Next we're talking with Paige Maynard, she's a TVI and Developmental Interventionist at VIPs or Visually Impaired Preschool Services. She works with parents and children in their homes, ages, birth to three. Paige, thanks so much for being on the podcast.

Paige Maynard:

Thanks so much for having me. It's really good to be here.

Jonathan Wahl:

Paige for people who don't know you, can you just tell me a bit about your background as an educator? I am a teacher of

Paige Maynard:

The visually impaired and developmental interventionists at visually impaired preschool services. We are based out of Louisville, Kentucky, and we serve children and their families ages birth to five throughout the States of Kentucky and Indiana. And my role at VIPs is to work with families and infants and toddlers in their homes , um , working within the context of routines and play , um, just helping those families to be empowered, to help their kids reach their highest potential. So I really loved my work. Um, it's, it's exciting to go to work every day. Uh , right now I am working , um , in my little workspace in my house, which has also been fun and exciting learning all of those new things. Um , but it's still good to meet with families and see the little babies across the screen. Um, and just to be allowed, I think into family's lives, I think is, is one of those wonderful things. And they bring so much joy, I think to me in my day. And I, I hope that I, I have that same impact on them. Um, I've been at the , um , coming on nine years and I just wouldn't be anywhere else.

Jonathan Wahl:

That's great. It's fun to hear about your passion for what you do . And I know VIPs really does a lot of incredible things. It's been fun to watch your work. More specifically, you've been working with APH and the LEGO Foundation on LEGO Braille Bricks. What is your role been in this project?

Paige Maynard:

So my role in this project , um, has been really fun and really interesting when the project started out. It of course, was before the pandemic started. And , um, let's see. Um, Kate at APH had reached out to this and asked about me joining on the LEGO Braille Bricks team , um, for a presentation at AER. And I was so excited about that. And we were, we were trying to kind of collaborate and get the team together on how we were going to present all the facets of the like overall bricks and, you know, the idea behind them, how , um, how learning through play works and everything. Um, and then we were so sad when that was canceled. So that was sad. Um, but the, the way that the project is working , uh, has, has definitely changed a little bit. And , uh , I think one of the good things about it is I , I hope that it will actually reach more people now , um , which will hopefully be good. But the , the role that that I'm having right now is to be the, the facilitator of two of the webinars that APH is hosting on instructional strategies for the LEGO Braille Bricks, so I think that I get one of the really fun parts of the job. Um, and I'm excited to get, to use the bricks with folks as they are joining in on the webinars. And we hope to play in real time together. And I think that it's just one of those exciting things that I get to say, Oh , uh, what did I get to do at work today? Well, I got to play with the LEGO Braille Bricks at wo rk t oday. So I'm excited about that part and excited about sharing that information with, u m , a ll of the professionals and, you know, anyone else who joins in on the webinars.

Jonathan Wahl:

It's fun to see all the eyes light up, even adults with this project, because everyone likes LEGO Bricks. I literally know no one who doesn't like LEGO Bricks, unless you're stepping on them in the middle of the night. So like everyone's excited.

Paige Maynard:

Yes. Yeah. When I, when I very first got , um, the kits that Kate dropped off at the VIPs office. I took them home and I started playing with them. And then I was playing with them at my desk and then people , um, who work at VIPs , my coworkers would walk past them . They're like, what are you doing? What are you playing with? What are you , you know, and they're , everyone's interested. And I think that has been really cool. And then , um , know of course I've had them at my house for some time. And , um, even before the pandemic , um, while I was, you know , still getting to know them, my , uh, my friend's kids would come over and I have pictures of the things that they've built and my nephew comes over and he always he's too . Um , and he asks , um, he, that he wants to play with the, with the blue LEGOs cause they're in a blue box. Um, so of course with adults, he loves to play with the Braile Bricks.

Jonathan Wahl:

So as part of this LEGO has 90 activities that are meant to be teacher led. And I know you've been through those activities. What are your initial thoughts on how those will be helpful , um , to make this more than just playing, which is, which is part of the idea, but what are your thoughts on those, those lessons?

Paige Maynard:

I think that the LEGO Braille Bricks website is, is just, it's so cool because it's, it's very easily accessible, I think, to two teachers and professionals, as we are working on designing activities. I think one of the really cool things that all the activities show , um, is that it's just, it's more than just using the bricks as a way to practice your spelling words or a way to learn letters. You know, like they, they show activities that teach so many other themes, but also through play as well, which was really cool. You know, there's, I think one of my favorite activities, which it's so simple, but I think that's really the beauty of it because, you know, typically , uh , play activities are something that's simple, but it's just so much fun that you're having with somebody else or it's meaningful to you or things like that , um, is one it's called save the turtles. And it's just the , uh, a set of, you know, a small amount of the bricks. And , um , you put them in a ball and the, the child or the student, or even the adults , uh , cause I did the activity myself. Um, you work on like rescuing the turtles and putting them right side up , um , on the , um, on the mat. And I think that's a really cool thing. So there are so many other activities like that that provide that meaningful, meaningful interaction with , uh , orientation and literacy and, you know, those tactile skills that have real readers need. And I think the, the activities listed on the website are really, really good for that. Another thing I think that the activities do a really good job of are helping to build that understanding of symbolic thought. Um, when I, when I worked in the classroom , um, for a couple of years at VIPs , um, I would, I would often notice that the children that I would serve who would have the least amount of vision who, you know, are typically going to be the braille readers , um, because they don't get to observe , um, the world through , um, uh , you know, through their vision. They, they may often struggle with symbolic thought, you know, pretending that something is something other than what it is and using their imagination, manipulatives and things. Um, and I think that one of the fun uses of these, of these bricks is allowing for that to happen. And I think some of the activities that are listed on like right now, I'm , I'm looking here at frozen penguins and you, you take two of the bricks and you just put them side by side, just pretending that they're those, those two little thing, ones that are, you know, together to keep warm , um, and having those, those sorts of activities I think are really helpful for building that understanding. But then we're also working on so many other things, too,

Jonathan Wahl:

Lego Braille Bricks. Won't be the only tool students who use to learn braille. But I know in my education, a lot of times for me, I like to learn things in multiple ways. So I would learn about the cell and the textbook, and then I'd get to play with the model of it. And then I might look at it under a microscope. Is that really what these bricks are going to provide? It just kind of another way to see braille and understand braille that just helps kind of diversify things for students.

Paige Maynard:

Yeah, I think so. I think it's just, it's another tool in the toolbox and it's a tool that I think is really accessible to , to everyone and, you know, many, many students, you know, whether they're braille readers or not, whether they're visually impaired or excited can easily engage with them. And so it makes them accessible. And then, you know, it's just this, this other thing that you can use that provides fun is something that students may already know about, you know, if they just have a LEGO set at home. So yeah, I definitely agree with that.

Jonathan Wahl:

I know because of the pandemic, you haven't been able to use these with your students and your clients, but how useful do you expect they'll be in a classroom setting?

Paige Maynard:

Well, I am so excited to see how teachers will use them in their classrooms. I think it'll be really fun to get, to see all of the variations on the ideas and how children and students who are visually impaired and real readers , uh , engage with them and then engage with them alongside , um, sighted peers as well. So I think there'll be really, really helpful for , um, bringing different kinds of learners together because you know, who doesn't love Legos and you can, you know, as you're, you're playing with someone else. And I think that it's really easy to do with this sort of tool. So I think it will be really helpful , um, in the classroom. And I, I'm just excited to see all the things that that people will do with them once they have them in their hands.

Jonathan Wahl:

Me too. I know the, the idea behind LEGO Braille Bricks, and really everything that LEGO does is that there is power in learning through play. Why do you think that's important?

Paige Maynard:

That's important too , because you know, it's just, it's, it's a truth that no matter what our ages, no matter what our background is, everyone learns best through play. I, you know, I can, I can think of some of the things, you know, that I've learned through quarantine , um, and being, you know, in my house , uh , all the time. And there are all the things that I've learned have been, you know, new skills related to something I was curious about and something that had meaning to me and, you know, for me as, as an adult , um , you know, learning how to make a new kind of bread or something like that really is my play. And I think the , the real bricks also , um, are just , um , an indicator of that, that if we, if we're learning through play it's to us, it , um, it's engaging to us. We can, you know, we can engage socially with others. Um, you know, we have that comfort level to where we're able to learn new things and it's motivating. And then also after that, it's memorable. And so I think that's one of the most important reasons why the braille bricks and the LEGO Foundation are , um, such big proponents of learning through play. So I think that's one of the things I'm really thankful for being part of this project.

Jonathan Wahl:

Thanks much pays for your time. And it will be exciting too , to hear more as we are able to get these into the hands of students.

Paige Maynard:

Yeah. Thanks so much.

Jonathan Wahl:

If you'd like to learn more about LEGO Braille Bricks, I will include several links in today's show notes, or you can just head straight over to legobraillebricks.com. That's it for today's episode of Change Makers. Be sure to look for ways you can be a Change Maker this week.