LEGO has long been a children’s favourite, but there were no kids around when the University of Southern Queensland’s Springfield campus hosted a LEGO workshop of a different kind this week.
Educators and service providers from across the state took part in a two-day workshop in LEGO Braille Bricks, organised by Vision Australia.
It’s been just over a year since LEGO launched the new version of its iconic plastic bricks in Australia.
The specially designed bricks enable children who are blind or have low vision to develop tactile skills and learn the braille writing system in a fun and engaging way.
The workshop participants learned from international trainers Marc Angelier and Marie Oddoux, from the LEGO Foundation, by participating in pre-braille and school-aged braille activities.
Dr Melissa Fanshawe, an inclusive education researcher and senior lecturer at the University of Southern Queensland, is Vision Australia’s education ambassador for LEGO Braille Bricks.
She said the workshop allowed the participants to build on their knowledge and understanding of the pedagogical concepts when using the bricks to teach braille.
“Marc and Marie wrote the framework for using LEGO Braille Bricks as educational tools to learn braille, so we were very excited to have them come to Australia to teach us the tips and tricks of braille bricks,” Dr Fanshawe said.
Dr Fanshawe has spent the past year working with Vision Australia to train more than 400 practitioners who work with students learning braille about the LEGO Braille Bricks.
She said the bricks created powerful learning opportunities for students who are blind or have low vision.
“Sighted students can play with regular blocks and move them around to make words, but you can’t do this with printed braille,” Dr Fanshawe said.
“LEGO braille bricks enable this flexibility in literacy and numeracy.
“It’s been wonderful to see many students not just engaged in braille, but enjoying learning.”
Dr Fanshawe’s work will soon take her to LEGOLAND in Denmark, where she will meet other LEGO Braille Bricks education ambassadors from across the world and learn what they have been doing in their countries to support braille development.
More information about accessing LEGO Braille Bricks and training can be found on the Vision Australia website.
University of Southern Queensland’s Melissa Fanshawe with LEGO Foundation instructors Marc Angelier and Marie Oddoux.