The Serious Use of Play and Metaphor: Legos and Labyrinths

The Serious Use of Play and Metaphor: Legos and Labyrinths

Alison James (London College of Fashion, London, UK) and Stephen Brookfield (University of St. Thomas, St Paul, MN, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/ijavet.2013070101
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Abstract

In this paper the authors wish to examine kinesthetic forms of learning involving the body and the physical realm. The authors look at two particular techniques; using Legos to build metaphorical models and living the physical experience of metaphors in the shape of labyrinth-walking and its attendant activities. The authors begin by discussing their experiences using LEGO building bricks as a reflective tool. While LEGO lends itself particularly effectively to metaphorical modeling (not least through its status as a globally known iconic toy and connection to childhood) the process can take place using any set of objects that are used to represent something other than their real nature. This will be apparent to anyone who has sat at in a restaurant and used the salt and pepper cellars to describe a relationship, car maneuver, choice between two options, altercation or offside rule in Soccer. Buttons, sticks, candles, pots, peas, matches, or any other assortment of items which the user finds sufficiently rich to embody their ideas and convey their intentions work just as well. The point is that the user assigns specific meanings to the materials to illustrate some sort of process or relationship.
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Serious Play In Action

Let’s turn to a concrete example of LSP in action for 130 international students on a Diploma course designed to prepare them for progression to a UK fashion course with a design, business or media orientation. In this introductory course LSP was used to help students make sense of the experience of studying abroad. It was part of an innovative program intended to engage students through drawing, visual research and professional practice, and to introduce them to concepts of cultural and historical theory as well as more traditional academic components of study. The overwhelming majority of students did not speak English as a first language, and they came from a broad range of countries – China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Indonesia, Korea, Europe, as well as the USA and Australia.

The context for the specific use of Lego building was a three-hour workshop run by Alison on personal and professional development, in which students reflected on how they had grown and changed during their study abroad, and how their abilities, dispositions and relationships had evolved. LSP was applied at a time of student transition when the participants were coming towards the end of their preparatory studies and needing to consider options and next steps.

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