As the coronavirus pandemic exposes educational inequality throughout the United States, LEGO is looking to revamp the way digitally disadvantaged elementary and middle school students learn via a new 'purposeful play' program funded by leaders in tech and education.
Esben Staerk, LEGO Education president, explained that the toy company division has joined the 'Creating Learning Connections' initiative meant to ensure every student has "access to quality devices and quality internet connection."
In partnership with CDW-G, GE, Intel, and First Book, the initiative poured $7 million into the fund to develop tools and products that guide teachers and entice students to engage with their learning materials.
"The pandemic has exacerbated the divide. A recent study by First Book actually indicates that around 40 percent of students lack access to quality devices and almost 40 percent lack access to quality internet connections," Staerk said.
The physical aspect of LEGO Education's learning tools, according to Staerk, makes learning fun and is a better source for information retention.
"All the LEGO Education solutions are based around hands-on learning, and they're based around a playful learning or learning to play approach," he explained.
As parents and teachers express having difficulties with children learning from home, Staerk said the purposeful play program isn't just meant to level the educational playing field but also to "make sure that these communities and these students are engaged in their learning."
For Staerk, the choice to join an equal education initiative was easy since the importance of access to quality education is essential for the ability to be "life-long learners," he noted.
"It's important that we spark student creativity, their problem solving, their critical thinking, but not least, also build their confidence in learning and their resilience," Staerk added.