Actually, it was my children playing with them 20 years ago that caused one of my greater epiphanies and led me to develop the concept of Learning Objects back in 1992 and I plan to post this fun story on the origin of Learning Objects here on OCOT.
Although my LEGO block model is often criticized for being too simple, I still find it to be a powerful and profound one precisely because of its simplicity.
So how could I NOT mention this is the 50th anniversary of the ubiquitous blocks that were introduced in 1958? According to a January 28, 2008 article on Gearlog, "There are about 62 LEGO bricks for every one of the world's 6 billion inhabitants" and "7 LEGO sets are sold by retailers every second around the world."
- Check out this fun timeline that Gizmodo put together on the illustrated history of LEGO.
- View this list from Jennifer DeLeo at PC Magazine of "The Ten Coolest LEGO Inspired Gadgets"? The list includes everything from LEGO iPod Stereo Speakers, a homemade LEGO MP3 player, a hard drive, a watch and a USB charger.
I've also previously written about "The LEGO of Gadgets" and the LEGO-like attributes of the fun electronic components from Bug Labs that you can literally snap together to create your own new devices. Check it out!
In the abstract and from my perspective, the LEGO block model:
- Makes infinite scalability a practical reality. It addresses what I've previously referred to as "Living in a World of Exponential Change" and "The Snowflake Effect" of mass personalization at a global scale by enabling you to create infinite new combinations or "assemblies" that are entirely (though not necessarily) created from pre-existing blocks.
- Is based on having a large collection of very, very small "blocks" that can be created in advance of a given need or use. This is a key part of enabling a strategy of "readiness for the unexpected" and dealing with exponential rates of change.
- Adds to the "pool" of blocks for future reuse and re-purposing, because in many cases the creation of new assemblies causes new blocks to be made.
- The "blocks" can come from any source at any time and with no need for any pre-agreements or design.
- Is based on a low-level and simple standard that enables each block to be "snapped" to any other block (size of "pins" in actual LEGO blocks is always the same)
- Each block is "just right" in terms of size—as small as possible, but not one bit smaller (to misquote Einstein)—when it meets two criteria:
- It can stand by itself, ready for use.
- It would almost never be used by itself, since it is too small to be of value on its own.
- It enables models that cover both ends of the spectrum, providing for maximum repurposing AND maximum relevance and personalization.
And just to be clear, these "blocks" and this LEGO block model can be applied to literally anything and is certainly not limited to content. For example, I've worked with others to develop applications of this same model for human competencies, software, music. You can also see examples of "hard" objects, such as those in the top ten list mentioned at the beginning.
What applications or ideas do YOU have for the application of this LEGO block model?
Happy 50th Birthday, LEGO! I, for one, am planning on using you more than ever in the next 50 years AND I plan on being here to help celebrate your 100th anniversary!