Basking in the Long Room: The Old Library at Trinity College Dublin

As someone who studies and researches library space, I could not pass the opportunity to visit Trinity College Dublin. Ireland’s oldest university is home to the famous Old Library ‘Long Room’, a space that is the epitome of a traditional library. What better space could I find to absorb and reflect upon the sheer wonder of the library. Certainly a great fit considering my doctoral thesis:

I’m not quite sure there are words to fully capture the majesty of the Long Room. Those infamous all-wooden bookshelves that frame beautiful windows at a 90 degree angle. Shelves that run from floor to (mezzanine) ceiling, crammed fully with books. In the same way that I discussed the Library as synonymous with books, knowledge and learning in my thesis, the Long Room is perhaps the ultimate symbol of it. It is the epitome of knowledge and learning. In this space, there is little sign of the comforts and technologies we associate with a modern library space. It is a space where the book is king.

“And it’s Ireland’s front room because every visiting head of state comes here.”

Helen Shenton, Trinity’s Library Director

My visit in pictures

The Long Room Restoration

Of course, for anyone who has recently visited the Long Room, you will note that most of the books have been decanted (see above). I’d missed this news – and the absence of the books did remove some of the impact of this room. But it is all with good reason. The books within this room are of immense value – some of them priceless. The 2019 fire at Notre Dame Cathedral served as a warning for the need to preserve such assets as the Long Room. As framed in the New York Times, the Long Room, as an Irish national treasure, was overdue restoration. All is not lost for tourists like me – they did leave a few bays of books which still give an excellent impression of what the room looked like.

So what does restoration mean? To safeguard the books for future generations, all books have been removed from the Long Room, cleaned, digitised and safely stowed in a climate-controlled facility off campus. As the space also has no modern fire suppression and is largely made of wood, it was at high risk of fire. While this is unthinkable, Notre Dame demonstrated a stark reality. The risks also went beyond fire, with the room not possessing the appropriate environmental controls to preserve the delicate books. The lack of environmental controls also brings risks from damp, pollution and mould.

The Long Room experience

A photo of Lee Fallin in the Long Room. He smiles as rows of books are behind him and the bust of Milton.

Visiting the Long Room feels a bit like being in a movie set. Serving as the backdrop and inspiration for movies and books alike, it was surreal being there in person. I’d forgotten about the busts that adorned the ends of each bookshelf row. It sounds silly, but is was still really odd being in such a famous space – and to see the reality of it. It isn’t just something from movies and films – it is a real space you can visit and immerse yourself in.

The big surprise for me (again – I hadn’t well researched my visit!) was to see our planet just hanging at the end of the room. I’d seen similar displays in my home city of Hull, hanging in Hull Minister. But I’d expected that when I went into the space. In the Long Room, it was sublime. The juxtaposition of dark wooden shelves to bring planet was striking. A beautiful contrast, and what better way to present such a display. Take it in for yourself:

The beautiful wooden roof and shelves of the Long Room are the host cite for an inflatable replica of the earth.
A shrub garden bounded by logs.

Taking to the woods for Forest School Level 1

I had the great pleasure of undertaking my level 1 Forest School training last week. It’s something I’ve had on my wish list for some time, and I finally carved out a day to commit to this. Forest School aims to deliver a long-term, learner-centred experience that supports exploration and scaffolded risk taking in a natural outdoor wooded area. In undertaking the training, I aim to be able to deliver such sessions in the future – but that is something a few levels away yet!

The training was delivered by Dr Jo Traunter and Kerrie Lee, both colleagues in the School of Education at the University of Hull. The training itself was also hosted in the beautiful grounds of Thwaite Hall Botanic Gardens in Cottingham. Forest School training at the University is currently only available to staff/students – so a good reason to study at Hull ????

So what did we get up to at Forest School?

I had no idea the Thwaite Hall Botanic Gardens has a fully-equipped classroom. It was a brilliant setting, and we were introduced to the concept of Forest School and where it originated. The ethos of ‘everyone helps’ hit straight at the start, as everyone helped to set up desks, boil kettles and sort out the chairs. The session was brief – giving us chance to get outside and cover the essentials of level 1. Forest School is based on six principles: long term, nature, community, risk, hollistic learning and leadership. More can be found out on the Forest School Association website.

Site safety walk

We started by walking the site, highlighting any potential dangers and identifying the boundaries. As Forest School aims to give learners freedom (and bounded risks), the ability for them to navigate freely is important – within the identified boundaries.

We also played some games to help ensure no-one gets lost. Everyone was given a number, and as a register, we’d each shout our numbers in turn. The Leaders were 1 and 15, ensuring they started and ended the roll call. This was a much quicker way of ensuring everyone stayed together. We also played the 1-2-3 where are you hide and seek safety game.

A grass field with some trees - identifying the boundaries of the Forest School.

With all the safety covered, we were able to work together to carry all the tools and other required items into the outdoor area for the Forest School session.

Den building

Yes! We got to build outdoor shelters. We were given access to some tarpaulin, pegs, strings and scissors. Other than that, we had our creativity and whatever materials we could find. One of the rules of Forest School is to leave no mark, so we were not to pull down any branches or damage the natural environment. An important part of the end of the day was also to disband the shelters! Building the shelter was a brilliant team-based activity, and we really got into it! I mean… I would have happily done this all day.

Lighting a fire

Before starting with the fire, there was lots of focus on how to keep safe. A rope was used to set boundaries, ensuring no one gets near to the fire – a useful reminder for when working with children (and also in the ethos of safe and managed risks!).

I’ve never used flint and steel before, so was absolutely thrilled at the opportunity to give this a go! We all were given a bull dog clip to bury in the ground, and a cotton wool ball to hold with it. We were able to practice setting the cotton wool ball on fire, before throwing the whole thing into the fire pit. As the fire began to take, we all gathered dry wood to build it up. Once fully blazing, we then had marshmallows and crumpets to toast. DELICIOUS! (Also a big thanks to Kerrie and Jo for bringing along gluten-free snacks too, which helped me feel super included!).

A toasted marshmallow. Very much in the spirit of Forest School.

Tool talks

As part of Forest School level 1, we had to learn the use of at least three tools. The key message on the use of tools was focused around safe usage! We learned to use knives to whittle and shears and saws to cut. When utilising any tool, we stool in a plastic hoop to indicate the safety zone. This is a useful way to help children keep a safe distance from each other. Part of the fun here was to state we are ‘Activating the Blood Zone’ – a useful phrase to help kids remember. For each tool, we had to wear a safety glove, wear a high-vis vest and stand in the hoop. This all helped to focus on safety first.

Doing all this felt a little silly for an all-adult group. But it wasn’t. It was a good reminder of how to keep safety to the fore, allowing young people to experiment as part of their Forest School experience, but to do so safely.

Identifying foliage

An ongoing part of our day was to identify different plants and trees. While this session was run in Spring, there was more leaf litter than leaves of the trees so we used Autumnal identification sheets. It was actually harder than I expected, but at this point in the season the leaves were pretty degraded. I also had some fun experiment with AI identification – but that felt a little out of the spirit of Forest School.

Heading back to the city

As a group, we had an absolutely amazing day in the Forest School. However, sadly, the day had to come an end. In the spirit of Forest School, we worked to clear up all our mess, take down our shelters and ensure we left no trace – just footprints. I really can’t wait to start level 2 – though have to wait for a new season (as it has to be in a different season to level 1).

Growth

My First 6 Months as a Lecturer: A Journey of Growth and Connection

As I look back on my first trimester as a Lecturer in Education Studies, I am filled with a deep sense of gratitude. After working for a decade in Higher Education in various capacities, transitioning to an academic role has been a refreshing and rewarding experience. In this blog post, I would like to share my reflections on the first six months of my journey as a lecturer. I’ll delve into my interactions with students, my growth as an educator, and my anticipation for the future. This long overdue post continues the blog series I’ve written reflecting on my new career.

While I am not new to the University or education, in moving from Learning Development to Education Studies, I am joining a new community of practice (Wenger, 1998). I still feel I have a lot to learn in this broader field, and I have supplemented my academic memberships to include the British Educational Research Association. I’m also renewing my efforts to get involved with the Society for Research into Higher Education, as well as retaining my scholarship of learning development via ALDinHE.

The student community

One of the most significant highlights of my teaching experience has been the connection with my students. I’ve commented on this multiple times before, but their enthusiasm, curiosity, and dedication have been genuinely inspiring, and it represents something I didn’t get as a Learning Developer – at least not in a sustained way. As a lecturer, I have thoroughly enjoyed witnessing my students’ creativity, especially during workshops and from marking written assessments. Reading their reflections has not only allowed me to observe their growth but, thanks to the international nature of my students, it has also provided me with valuable insights into other places on the planet. As I further integrate into the School of Education, my interactions with students have fostered my understanding of their needs, which I can now better address in the planning and delivery of my teaching. This is refreshing also – as I speak to a consistent audience, education. No need to wear multiple hats as a Learning Developer.

Supervision

Personal and research supervision have been very new aspects of my role. While I encountered pastoral issues in Learning Development, it was not part of the remit and so I would always refer the student to student support services and personal supervisors. As a Learning Developer, I actively supported research but never had the deciding role. As a Learning Developer, I would muse on ethical issues with students; I am now signing off applications as an academic. This was the kind of challenge I needed. Teaching has been a staple of my career as a Learning Developer, but there are new things to learn and do as a supervisor.

I have found personal supervision to be a surprisingly fulfilling aspect of my new role. Engaging in one-on-one discussions with my students has allowed me to establish a deeper connection with them and provide targeted guidance tailored to their individual needs (Knowles et al., 2014). Personal supervision sessions have led to many meaningful conversations, enabling me to better understand the challenges and aspirations of each student.

Research supervision has been really rewarding with my undergraduates. Although I am only supervising three students, it’s been a great way to start before heading towards PGT supervision later this month. I am genuinely looking forward to supervising master’s research projects. Though I know it will be hard work, I am excited to see the innovative and ground-breaking research our students will produce. These projects allow students to delve deep into a topic of their choice, and I am honoured to guide them through this process. I plan to attend a training session with the Teaching Excellence Academy to help develop my supervision practice. I’m also looking forward to further experimenting with OneNote as a means to manage supervision.

Internationalisation of my practice

Working with international students has been an enriching and eye-opening aspect of my new position. I have gained a wealth of knowledge from their diverse perspectives and experiences, particularly concerning the different educational systems they have been exposed to. This has broadened my understanding of global educational practices and has given me the tools to incorporate these insights into my own teaching approach. As a result, I am now better equipped to support and guide students from various cultural backgrounds, enhancing the inclusivity of my teaching methods. This is, however, a long journey – and something I expect to vary as international students vary and we attract from different regions over time.

Curriculum

The opportunity to develop and shape the content of brand-new modules has been invigorating. Working on the third-year dissertation and research module has been great as nothing is written, giving freedom to develop something brand new. I’ve really been able to contribute to the support of literature-based dissertations and can’t wait to develop this further. Being able to draw upon my expertise and experience, I have been able to design courses that are relevant, engaging, and catered to the needs of my students. This process has been challenging and gratifying, pushing me to continuously expand my knowledge and skills. As I look forward to the year ahead, I am particularly excited to support the curriculum design process for the new master’s program. I am eager to contribute my insights and ideas to this innovative program, which promises to provide students with a comprehensive and cutting-edge education.

I have enjoyed researching contemporary topics and incorporating them into the curriculum, ensuring that our students receive an education that prepares them for the ever-evolving world of education studies. My numerous posts on Artificial Intelligence and education are good examples of such learning and experimentation. This emerging technology presents countless possibilities for enhancing teaching and learning, from adaptive learning systems to AI-driven assessment tools. I am eager to integrate it into my practice further and observe how it transforms the educational landscape.

Final thoughts

In conclusion, my first trimester as a lecturer in Education Studies has been an incredible journey marked by growth, connection, and discovery. I am thankful for the relationships I have formed with my students and new colleagues, the personal growth I have experienced, and the opportunities that lie ahead. My increased understanding of global educational practices, the incorporation of my AI into my understanding of future learning environments, and the development of new curricula have all contributed to my growth as an educator.

As I move forward in my career, I am eager to continue expanding my horizons and making a lasting impact on the field of education. By staying current with the latest research and trends, engaging in meaningful collaborations, and fostering a genuine connection with my students, I hope to create a learning environment that empowers and inspires future educators and scholars.

Through my experiences thus far, I have developed a newfound appreciation for the immense responsibility and privilege of being a lecturer. As I continue to grow and evolve in this role, I am committed to maintaining the highest standards of professionalism, fostering a spirit of curiosity and passion in my students, and contributing to advancing the field of education studies. With anticipation and determination, I look forward to the many opportunities and challenges in my journey as an educator.

Reference List:

Knowles, M. S., Holton III, E. F., & Swanson, R. A. (2014) The adult learner: The definitive classic in adult education and human resource development. Routledge.

Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice: Learning, meaning, and identity. Cambridge University Press.

Using prompt engineering to find out what GTP-4 knows about you

Last night, @S_J_Lancaster suggested we ask GTP4 to:

Say something profound and insightful about the impact of AI large language models in higher education in the style of a @RacePhil collaboration with @ProfSallyBrown #lthechat

Well… I couldn’t help but give it a go! I copied Simon’s tweet and used it as the prompt for GTP-4. Here is the response:

In the harmonious melding of @RacePhil’s emphasis on assessment and feedback, and @ProfSallyBrown’s dedication to transformative learning experiences, the advent of AI large language models in higher education serves as a catalyst for innovation and equity.

As digital companions, these AI models foster an environment where learning transcends traditional boundaries, enriching the educational tapestry with the threads of diverse perspectives and personalized support. Empowering students and educators alike, these models facilitate the co-creation of knowledge, nurturing critical thinking and adaptability, essential skills for the ever-evolving landscape of the 21st century.

However, we must remain vigilant in the face of potential ethical pitfalls, ensuring that the AI-driven future of higher education is built on a foundation of transparency, fairness, and inclusivity. By mindfully integrating AI into pedagogical practices, we can harness its transformative potential to augment human intellect, democratize access to quality education, and inspire a generation of lifelong learners. #lthechat

GTP-4

I was honestly surprised it managed to do it!

This raises a serious question:

What does GTP-4 know about us?

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AI drawn fish and chips

Using AI GTP-4 to grade & linguistically analyse text

In my final experiment of the day with GTP-4, I am using the earlier AI-generated blog post, Debunking the myth of Learning Styles as the base. Peter Hartley spurred this post, acknowledging there was more fun yet to be had with GTP4 and this base material. He was right (and I promise the image at the top of this article will make sense by the end!).

First up – let’s see how the AI grades itself.

Using GTP4 to grade writing produced by GTP4

As I still have the entire conversation detailed earlier in AI-led blogging: An experiment with GTP4, DALL-E & Grammarly, I was able to prompt the grading directly. I asked:

Grade your earlier message that is Titled: Debunking the Learning Styles Myth: A Call for Evidence-Based Educational Practices

You are a Lecturer working at a prestigious university in the United Kingdom. You are to grade this work on a number scale from 0 to 100. A score below 40 represents a fail. You will need to provide detailed feedback to justify your grade, and you should identify areas of improvement to help your student take their work further next time.

Prompt

And the grade it gave itself?

Title: Debunking the Learning Styles Myth: A Call for Evidence-Based Educational Practices Grade: 85/100

Feedback:

Overall, this article is well-written, presenting a coherent and compelling argument against the concept of learning styles. The language is formal and appropriate for a specialist audience, and the structure is clear and organized. The article also demonstrates a good understanding of the relevant literature.

Areas of improvement:

  1. Depth of analysis: While the article covers the main arguments against learning styles, it would benefit from a more in-depth analysis of specific studies that debunk the concept, providing a more comprehensive critique.
  2. Counterarguments: Addressing potential counterarguments and providing refutations can strengthen your argument. Consider discussing the reasons behind the popularity of learning styles and possible alternative explanations for the observed effects.
  3. Practical implications: It would be beneficial to discuss specific examples of how evidence-based practices can be implemented in educational settings, giving readers a clearer understanding of the alternatives to learning styles.
  4. Source integration: While the article cites relevant sources, it could benefit from a more seamless integration of these sources into the text. Using direct quotes or paraphrasing specific ideas from the sources can help build a more robust argument.
  5. Originality: Although the article presents a well-established critique of learning styles, try to incorporate more original ideas or unique perspectives to make the argument more engaging and thought-provoking for your audience.

In summary, this article demonstrates strong writing skills, a clear structure, and an understanding of the relevant literature. To improve the article, focus on deepening the analysis, addressing counterarguments, discussing practical implications, integrating sources more effectively, and incorporating original ideas. Keep up the good work and continue to develop your critical thinking and writing skills.

GTP4

Evaluating the feedback

Not a bad evaluation. In reality, an actual university assignment probably wouldn’t score this well in presenting only one view (unless that was the task). It is correct in that counterarguments are required.

It is also interesting to see it suggest the use of direct quotes – something we’d generally ask students to avoid in order to demonstrate their own understanding.

The nod towards originality and depth of analysis very much capture the goals required for higher-level grades.


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Artificial intelligence robot head

AI-led blogging: An experiment with GTP4, DALL-E & Grammarly

This is a long post – so bare with me. It goes into detail, step-by-step as to how I produced an entire blog with the use of four AI tools. You’ll find all the prompts and responses contained below:

This morning I had my first conversation with OpenAI’s GTP4 model. It managed to trigger me with reference to learning styles in the very first reply it sent to me…

This led, however, to a fruitful and interesting conversation about learning styles – and led me to publish a fully AI-generated blog post:

Debunking the myth of Learning Styles – Dr Lee Fallin

Read on to find out how I created this article – but as you read, the questions to reflect upon are:

Does this represent some horrific future where I’ve handed over work to an AI, de-skilling myself and removing my authorship?

OR

Have I demonstrated a high level of AI literacy, helping me to produce solutions quicker?

Thoughts in the comments.


Using AI to generate a blog post from scratch

The idea sparked during a conversation with GTP4

It started with an uncomplicated prompt. I’m working on a PowerPoint for a workshop I am giving next week. I’m pretty much done but was interested in how GTP4 would approach this. I prompted:

I’m a lecturer in Education Studies, trying to persuade my foundation year students that data is important. Can you give me some examples of application

Prompt

GTP4 happily replied:

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Growth mindset: A visual representation of a growth mindset, such as a seedling growing into a tree, to emphasize the importance of fostering a growth mindset and avoiding stereotypes associated with learning styles.

Debunking the Learning Styles Myth: A Call for Evidence-Based Educational Practices

This post stands as an independent article on learning styles, and I wanted to publish it as such. However, it is part of a wider experiment as this whole article – text and images are generated by an AI. Find out more here: AI-led blogging: An experiment with GTP4, DALL-E & Grammarly

Introduction to Learning Styles

Learning styles have been a popular topic in education for decades, with various models suggesting that individuals have different preferences for how they process and absorb information. Some of the most well-known models include Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic (VAK) learning styles and others like Kolb’s Experiential Learning Theory and Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences.

However, the validity of learning styles as a concept has been widely debated among researchers and educators. Numerous studies have attempted to validate the existence of learning styles, but the evidence supporting their effectiveness is weak, and some even suggest that the concept is a myth. Critics argue that the idea of learning styles may oversimplify the complex process of learning and lead to ineffective teaching methods.

Instead, contemporary research points to the importance of adaptable evidence-based teaching practices that focus on learners’ diverse needs. This includes employing various teaching methods, engaging multiple senses, and addressing different skill levels rather than focusing solely on learning styles. In this way, educators can create a more inclusive and effective learning environment that benefits all students, regardless of their preferences.

The concept of learning styles has enjoyed widespread popularity in education for decades, despite a lack of empirical evidence supporting its efficacy. This post aims to challenge the legitimacy of learning styles and provide a compelling argument for why educators and researchers should be critical of their propagation. Learning styles ultimately harm learners, and the education community should embrace evidence-based practices instead.

1 – Lack of Empirical Evidence for learning styles

A cornerstone of any effective educational theory is a robust body of empirical evidence. However, numerous studies have failed to provide conclusive support for the existence of learning styles or their impact on learning outcomes (Coffield et al., 2004; Pashler et al., 2008; Willingham et al., 2015). Meta-analyses have revealed a consistent lack of empirical evidence to validate learning styles (Coffield et al., 2004; Pashler et al., 2008), indicating that the concept is built on shaky foundations.

2 – Oversimplification of Learning

The idea of learning styles oversimplifies the complex and multifaceted process of learning (Geake, 2008; Hattie, 2009). Learning is not solely determined by individual preferences but is influenced by a myriad of factors, including prior knowledge, cognitive abilities, motivation, and socio-cultural context. By reducing learning to a set of static styles, educators may inadvertently neglect these crucial aspects of the learning process, hindering their ability to cater to students’ diverse needs (Dunn & Griggs, 2000).

3 – Perpetuation of Stereotypes

The propagation of learning styles may reinforce stereotypes and an overly deterministic view of learners (Scott, 2010). By labelling students as “visual,” “auditory,” or “kinesthetic” learners, educators may inadvertently constrain students to a particular mode of learning, limiting their potential for growth and development (Dweck, 2006). This typecasting may contribute to self-fulfilling prophecies and hinder students from exploring alternative learning strategies, ultimately hindering their academic progress (Dweck, 2006).

Classroom diversity: A photo of a diverse group of students engaged in various learning activities. This image can demonstrate the need for evidence-based practices that cater to individual differences, rather than relying on learning styles.

4 – Misallocation of Resources

The continued acceptance of learning styles may misallocate educational institutions’ resources (Paschler et al., 2008). Schools and districts divert valuable resources away from evidence-based practices by investing time and money in training teachers and developing learning materials based on a concept with weak empirical support (Hattie, 2009). This misallocation has significant implications for the quality of education and students’ academic success.

5 – The Opportunity Cost of Ignoring Evidence-Based Practices

By propagating learning styles, the education community risks neglecting evidence-based practices that have been shown to improve learning outcomes (Hattie, 2009). These practices include formative assessment, feedback, metacognitive strategies, and collaborative learning (Hattie, 2009; Zimmerman, 2002). By focusing on debunked theories such as learning styles, educators may miss opportunities to implement strategies that genuinely improve student learning.

Conclusion

The persistence of learning styles in educational discourse is a concerning phenomenon that warrants critical examination. Given the lack of empirical evidence and the potential harm caused by the propagation of learning styles, we urge educators and researchers to abandon this outdated concept and embrace evidence-based practices. Doing so can create a more inclusive, effective, and empirically grounded educational environment that benefits all learners.

References

Coffield, F., Moseley, D., Hall, E., & Ecclestone, K. (2004). Learning styles and pedagogy in post-16 learning: A systematic and critical review. Learning and Skills Research Centre.

Dunn, R., & Griggs, S. A. (2000). Practical approaches to using learning styles in higher education. Greenwood Publishing Group.

Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. Random House.

Geake, J. (2008). Neuromythologies in education. Educational Research, 50(2), 123-133.

Hattie, J. (2009). Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. Routledge.

Pashler, H., McDaniel, M., Rohrer, D., & Bjork, R. (2008). Learning styles: Concepts and evidence. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 9(3), 105-119.

Scott, C. (2010). The enduring appeal of “learning styles.” Australian Journal of Education, 54(1), 5-17.

Willingham, D. T., Hughes, E. M., & Dobolyi, D. G. (2015). The scientific status of learning styles theories. Teaching of Psychology, 42(3), 266-271.

Zimmerman, B. J. (2002). Becoming a self-regulated learner: An overview. Theory into Practice, 41(2), 64-70.

A box of bricks from the LEGO BYGGLEK Set

LEGO Serious Play: The IKEA & LEGO Dream Team

This blog post discusses the possibility of the IKEA LEGO sets for LEGO Serious Play. In 2018, IKEA and LEGO announced they were going to play together. This led to the development of the BYGGLEK LEGO collection, available exclusively at IKEA stores. This product range included a series of LEGO storage boxes and a set of 201 LEGO bricks designed for free play. As described by IKEA:

Creating more space for play
The BYGGLEK LEGO® collection offers play storage solutions and a LEGO brick set unique to IKEA. The boxes easily find harmony with your home so the creations can be put on display, keeping the story alive until the next play time.

IKEA website

Having used LEGO Serious Play as an aspect of my research and work for some years, I’ve recently considered how the BYGGLEK LEGO collection can be used for LEGO Serious Play. Before I get into this, however, a brief introduction to LEGO Serious Play:

What is LEGO Serious Play?

If you’ve not used LEGO Serious Play before, it is a creative approach to meeting facilitation that uses LEGO bricks as a form of collaboration and communication. It has a track record of success across education and business – shaking up traditional meetings and learning opportunities with the use of LEGO. This has taken it beyond meetings and into the classroom and sphere of research.

Think about all the times you’ve set out Flipchart and pens – and most groups struggle to settle on a scribe – ‘You do it’ – ‘No! You!’. This doesn’t happen with LEGO Serious Play. Everyone is in! I’ve used LEGO Serious Play with participants of all ages for research, learning and business strategy purposes.

Using the LEGO Serious Play Method
Serious work: How to facilitate meetings with LEGO Serious Play Method
How to facilitate LEGO Serious Play online

IKEA and LEGO Serious Play

So far, my LEGO Serious Play practice has focused on a large collection of bricks that all participants share. I blogged about the sets used to build my LEGO Serious Play collection, and since 2021, that collection has been the staple of my LEGO Serious Play kit. I’ve recently wanted to explore individual LEGO Serious Play kits so each participant has their own bricks. This can reduce the scrabble for bricks between participants and reduce much of the noise in the session (something some participants can find distracting).

There is also a potential for equity. One of the LEGO Serious Play practitioners I worked with insisted on participants having the same bricks. This raises the question – what bricks to use? My colleague went to a LEGO Store and used the Pick a Brick wall to build a collection of identical sets. This has always been too risky for my liking – too reliant on the store’s stock of bricks. It’s also a bit of an administrative hassle, especially if the store is busy. Then came the BYGGLEK LEGO Set:

A photo of the BYGGLEK LEGO set - a white box features both the LEGO and IKEA logos.

Digging into the BYGGLEK set

This IKEA-exclusive LEGO set contains 201 bricks, including a brick remover. Within the set there are a range of plates, bricks, a door, some windows, a range of small bricks and enough parts for two Minifigures. As I’ve come to get to know this set in closer detail, I’ve become more convinced it’s a perfect range for LEGO Serious Play. It has a really nice range of bricks, allowing participants to communicate a whole range of ideas. So you can get an idea, I’ve laid out the bricks in this box below:

A box full of the BYGGLEK LEGO set to demonstrate how it could be used for LEGO Serious Play.

At 201 bricks, it feels a really nice size for individual use. I love the variety of bricks included in the set. There is a handful of regular bricks, but the body of the set includes a variety of brick colours and sizes. It has some nice, intricate details. I love the inclusion of some leaves and green elements alongside some food pieces, windows and a door.

Just the right size and configuration

This catalogue image unintentionally shows some potential LEGO Serious Play uses for the set.

This catalogue image gives you a good idea of the scale of the set – or the scale of the models that can be built with it. It isn’t enough LEGO to make the larger, more dramatic models – but it’s good enough for some detailed and intricate models (which is my favourite kind – every brick has meaning. The two Minifigures are nice and echo the days of plainer characters, a contrast to a lot of the licensed figures that dominate now.

While there is debate over using Minifigures for LEGO Serious Play, I’ve always included them in my sets. Yes – it can funnel participant responses around more concrete than the metaphorical use of LEGO, it can also enable the metaphorical messages. I’ve had too many participants wasting time building something to represent people or a person. Minifigures just cut straight to it! As mentioned above, the plainness of these figures also stops the message from getting conflated with a licensed character.

Keeping things tidy – the BYGGLEK Storage boxes

IKEA brought their famed trend to the BYGGLEK collection – flat-pack LEGO! Yes! They’ve managed to create flat-pack LEGO in a way only IKEA could. The BYGGLEK collection includes four different sizes of LEGO storage box. The two smaller sizes are fully assembled and come in a box of three (one small box, two extra small boxes). The two larger size boxes are the ones requiring assembly. It’s a tool-less construction, and the pieces click well together to create a solid box, perfect for storing LEGO. More importantly, the box lids double as LEGO base plates. The boxes themselves can also be used as part of the build, and the larger boxes have LEGO-compatible recesses.

The BYGGLEK Storage box

So – back to LEGO Serious Play! The medium-size BYGGLEK box (26x18x12 cm) is great for storing those individual LEGO Serious Play kits. The BYGGLEK LEGO set fits within the box nicely and includes some nice LEGO-compatible studs that can be used in models. There is also enough space for digging through the pile of bricks to find what you need – within the box. The box itself can also be used as part of the models, of course. Unfortunately, the lid sits on top of the box – it doesn’t click securely. As such, I tend to use elastic bands to hold things together when I’m on the move. Not a great look – but it does the job.

Over to you!

I hope this post has been useful! Let me know what you think. I’d also love to hear if anyone else has used the IKEA + LEGO combination for LEGO Serious Play ????

List of Generative AI Tools

This post lists the leading Generative AI tools that produce outputs based on natural language text prompts. This page is inspired by @aaronsiim’s Generative AI list, but focuses on the text-based tools and provides accessible links to them.

Text-based tools

Text-to-audio

These tools turn text into audio using AI to produce more human-like speech, including tone and inflexion.


Text-to-code

These tools can turn text-to-code or can be used to complete/suggest parts of code based on what is already done.


Text-to-image

These tools use natural language prompts to create an image.


Text-to-text

These tools use natural language text prompts to generate text (and are perhaps the most famed!).


Text-to-video

These tools use natural language prompts to make video (often inclusive of speech).