In 1996, teachers Johan Roos, Bart Victor and David Owens, and Lego executive Robert Rasmussen developed the Lego Serious Play (LSP) methodology, which aims to broaden creativity and enable a new form of learning for adults. This method has been widely applied in corporations to engage employees in the context of “play” to develop better communication skills, collaboration, problem solving and innovation.

I have been applying LSP in the classroom since 2017 as a way to engage students in discussion and imagination about the uses of computing technologies across history. This activity is part of an undergraduate course titled “Creative Processes in Digital Media”, which provides a panorama of social issues regarding relationships between digital media and society. Most students that enroll in this course are millennials and digital natives. While they are familiar with platforms and social media, they approach them solely as end-users, and they are not aware of early internet stories, potentials, and affordances. During this course, we discuss the cultural and technological expectations and practices that emerge in the early 1990s regarding internet connectivity and explore how internet imaginaria transform in the following decades to forge media concepts, cultural practices, and forms of technology appropriation.

While in corporate environments, LSP is applied as a method to resolve an organizational challenge, in this course, students must engage in critical thinking by building conceptual models with Lego bricks. The method is based on four steps that will lead participants in answering a question. Before this activity, students engage in discussions regarding assigned readings. Then students sit in small groups and we execute a few ice-breakers and warm-up block building low-stakes challenges. 

Step 1: I present students with a question they must answer by building a conceptual model made of Lego bricks. The questions are closely related to the assigned readings and class discussion. Some examples of questions are: Which are the potentials and affordances of participatory media? How are the notions of biological and artificial bodies redefined with wearable computing technologies?

Step 2: Students build a model within a predefined time limit. In this phase, students connect with each other, activate prior knowledge, bring forth other associations. As they manipulate Lego bricks, they intellectually and sensorially engage with the question. They explore theoretical concepts while creating narratives that tie them into applicable situations, they build three-dimensional models and also let the tactile exploration guide them through possible storytelling paths.

Step 3: Next, it’s time to share. Each group shares the stories and explanations presented through the models. In the process, students gain other insights and augment the story in the narration process. Questions and comments from other students also enrich and expand the narratives.

Step 4: Finally, the fourth step is a reflection of the presented narratives. As a way of internalizing and interpreting, it stimulates reflection on what has been heard, spoken and shared.