At the end of June LEGO announced that it would introduce "Education WeDo" which the company describes as:
a new product that redefines classroom robotics, making it possible for primary school students 7-11 years of age to build and program their own solutions. Bridging the physical world, represented by LEGO models, and the virtual world, represented by computers and programming software, LEGO Education WeDo provides a hands-on, minds-on learning experience that actively involves young students in their own learning process and promotes children's creative thinking, teamwork and problem solving skills
Having spent a lot of my youth playing with LEGO and considering that the XO is definitely my favorite toy these days I'm certainly very excited about being able to combine these two platforms:
One LEGO USB Hub connects directly to a Mac/PC laptop, desktop, OLPC XO or Intel Classmate computer to allow control of hardware input (tilt and motion sensors) and output (motor), thereby bringing models to life
How great would it be to be able to control the machines and robots built with LEGO bricks from an XO, with say something like Scratch or Turtle Art? Or process the sensor input from these robots on the XO? It certainly sounds like a lot of fun!
Especially since I always expected the XO to create somewhat of an eco-system around it, similar to what exists for Apple's iPod brand which can be enhanced by a million different accessories and add-ons these days. Unfortunately that somehow hasn't really happened so far. If you had asked me 12 months ago about the state of peripherals and extensions for the XO I would have said that I expected things like the $1 microscope, the $30 projector and the $15 Tam-Tam piano-extension to be available by mid-2008.
Now with LEGO Education WeDo becoming available I finally start to see this happen and I hope to see more companies follow suite by making their products compatible with the various 4PC solutions available today. The challenges in this area are the same as with any other project when it comes to ICT-for-education:
- making it affordable (e.g. will be interesting to see how much the kit ends up costing)
- making it usable (e.g. translations of the software and instructions?)
- making it available (e.g. will there be an activity for the XO?)
- integrating it with existing curricula