LEGO Digital Designer Adventures – Year 1.

I was looking for a substitute for the LEGO Build online activities that we have used for the last 2 years as part of the Y1 Houses project, where students build with real LEGO bricks, then replicate their designs online, after having practised some of the preset templates. These were no longer available, but I then walked into LEGO Digital Designer and although at first glance it looks like it’d be beyond Y1, I decided to road test it and it’s great !

This morning I went to one of our Y1 classes to introduce it and was met with much excitement. Selecting a few different colour real bricks, students were then asked to come up and help select some of the blocks digital twins on screen. Connecting the 1st four pieces, they were asked if all views / perspectives of the model look the same – a happy chappy jumpped up and said, “Ooh, Miss Iles, if you turn it this way [tilting sideways and turning it towards the class] it looks like it could a space ship !” – Brilliant, the ‘next steps’ door was open…


Connecting my 4 initial pieces to a base board helped to demonstrate how to tilt, rotate and model how you could see the underneath of a construction too. From there we explored the 4 directional arrows via the IWB [directions worked better leading from PC and mouse than via IWB], while tilting/rotating the base board and then trying to get the on screen model to replicate what we had done.

One of our students is able to only see a short distance in front of him, and having watched the modeling on the IWB was super keen to come up to the PC, handle the base plate and move it, then create the same movement on screen independently.

When trialing on PC pods [6xPCS], I experienced some issues with older PCs [Dell 755s] where the app loaded pixelated and crashed, but newer machines worked great [without advanced graphics card].

I quickly acquired an assistant, my new friend Pedro who I asked to be an app tester after he appeared later on, beaming, with a model in hand that he wanted to ‘digital make’ as he called it. Together, we explored making wheels, connecting axles to wheel rims, creating figures and sending the parts ‘into space’ via the View Mode and changing backgrounds. Stomach lurching effects of moving a craft through space had a BIG impact for Pedro and turned my thoughts towards the potential of a design project lending itself brilliantly to inspiring writing as story starters, scene setting etc.

Digital Designer has icons that are familiar to students, e.g. Undo and X Delete, and some new, like grouping tools that I’ll be interested to see how our younger students handle. I’m also curious to see how they react to and understand the notion of ‘orbiting’ a model and what they see/feel as they move models through a virtual space.

It is easy to Save As designs in Build Mode or Screen Capture when in View Mode to build evidence of designs at different stages. Ours will be saved to a Digital Evidence folder on a shared drive that can easily be shared in class to invite peer review, positive feedback and provide design inspiration.

A year on in 2015, students and teachers are skilled in using Book Creator [LINK]. Rather than saving images to a shared folder, teachers will be creating a New Book and capturing an interactive record of student designs and images that can easily be shared digitally.

Book Creator offers a great way of capturing learning moments that can incorporate text, image, video, penned annotation of designs as well as sound options to record students commentary on their work, challenges and successes!

A living record of their LEGO Digital Designer journey – what’s not to love about iBooks ?





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