Students use Legos to learn technology

Mark Pawlak

Legos and candy-filled pi¤atas may be ingredients of a child’s birthday party, but playing with them is part of the everyday routine for one class.

As part of Iowa State’s “Preparing Today’s Teachers For Tomorrow” program, Computer Engineering 370 – Toying With Technology – helps pre-service teachers in the education department learn how to use technology in the classroom.

The class constructed robots out of Legos and controlled them with computers to break tissue-paper pi¤atas.

“We’re trying to teach them how to use Legos in the classroom,” said instructor Melinda Gallagher, graduate student in curriculum and instruction. “This is an activity made due in multiculturalism in the classroom, and this is how they would tie everything together using Legos.”

The next project for the class will be using Legos to create a golf course with robotic holes. Previously, the class has done a robotic egg hunt, in which Lego robots used light sensors to detect eggs and move them to a nest.

The new ways of teaching taught in this class will benefit both the future teachers and their students.

The class “gives us a lot of good ideas for ways to incorporate fun activities,” said Jessica Bradley, sophomore in elementary education. “A lot of times with math, it gets to be chalkboard, pencil and paper.”

Using Legos is helpful in teaching problem-solving techniques.

“It’s completely different from anything else you learn,” said Kelly Kennedy, junior in elementary education. “You never really think about using Legos the way that we use them, and you never really think of trying to come up with problem-solving activities like we’re doing in this class.”

Earlier this month, the class taught fourth-grade students about measuring with Legos.

“I think they had so much fun with the Legos because it was something different, and it was more like they were playing while they were learning,” Bradley said.

The 21 female students in the class are part of a cohort program and will be taking technology-related curriculum together for the next two years.

Having technical skills in the classroom will be important to the teachers of the future.

“They need to have a wide range of skills about technology going into the classroom, so they can assist their learners in learning technology and learning through technology,” Gallagher said.