Playing with Purpose
This half-day, hybrid face-to-face/virtual workshop will explore the use of LEGO® as a flexible medium for designing, building, prototyping, and performing with musical instruments. We start from the position that musical instruments can be used for far more than solely playing music. Instruments can also function as a means of exploring, teaching, and collaborating in many other parallel fields. Moreover, building instruments from LEGO® poses not only challenges but also opportunities.
As part of a collaboration with University College London (UCL) and Kyle Berry I was presented (and participated) in a half-day shop titled, “Playing with Purpose.” The workshop focused on using Legos, music, and STEAM collaboratively to build skills and connections with learners of all ages. The attendees were from all different backgrounds (and continents!) and so the content of each presentation varied widely but they all somehow coalesced into a themed package that was inspiring to say the least.
I presented on how I use Legos to introduce composition to my 2nd-4th grade students. I’ve posted about it here (and you can watch the video below) but it was well-received and offered a unique perspective, opposite the tech and coding background of other presenters. We even managed to connect on a “dream app” of being able to turn Lego patterns into music in real-time by scanning it with smart devices. (like Google Lens). Chris Rogers from the Tufts School of Engineering seemed to think it was a worthy goal for their next ‘hack-a-thon.’ Chris’ presentation, and the work done at Tufts, was inspiring. It saw students building fully functional musical instruments out of Legos. His work has been written about again, and again and it was an honor to present alongside him.
This workshop, and presentation, was one of the first I’ve been to that honestly truly focused on bringing out the A in the STEAM acronym. All the presenters were focused on using music, the arts, and Legos as a tool to introduce larger concepts both for things like music composition or even coding. The soft skills learned like pattern recognition, icon/symbolic notation, planning, and repetition are useful to all fields. I really came away with many ideas of projects that could happen in my classroom, in our school’s Makerspace, or maybe even both. It was suggested that I invest in a few contact mics, and after that, I feel the sky’s the limit!
Other resources that were shared:
- Singing Fingers App
- Tufts University
- Danny’s Lab
- PV Productions
- LEGO Mindstorms
- UCL: Playing with Purpose
- Playing, Constructionism, and Music in the Early-stage Software Engineering Education