“Don’t underestimate the power of games”

By: Geneviève Bisson

We all play a series of different roles. For me, a teacher is one I play very proudly. It has become a core piece of who I am today.

I was over the moon when I was accepted to teachers college. So were my friends and family. I always felt like education would be the best way I could leave my mark. Being part of someone’s education is like being part of something untouchable, and it is a big responsibility.

The in-classroom teacher isn’t where life has taken me. I’m sure that it will eventually but for now I love exploring the many facets of education. I have taught abroad – sailed around the world teaching. I’ve taught people in extreme poverty with minimal resources, and others who have 4 helpers in their house. I’ve taught everything from archery to poetry to people ages 3 to 80. It’s been one adventure after another and in all occasions I’ve been the student as well. From this diversity of experience I have questioned, challenged, defined and redefined my views on education. Here are a few things that I have come to believe:

1- Connection is what it’s all about

As an educator you need to be the bridge between theory and practice. You need to make people feel connected to what they are learning and why they are learning it. Start with their interests, with their questions. Start with them in mind.

Taking the time to get to know your students is one of the biggest investments you can make.

2- The journey is the reward

The “no pain, no gain” doesn’t have to be a part of this process. Learning itself is a rewarding experience and the process should be enjoyable. Of course it takes discipline, of course there are challenges, but when you feel inspired, curious and dedicated it becomes part of the learning experience.

It is also essential to respect everyone’s own path and journey. Not everyone learns the same way and at the same pace.You must be patient. Sometimes you can see results and impact right away, but more often you have to trust that the seed is planted and with them it will become more and more cultivated.

3-  Don’t underestimate the power of games

I always enjoy finding fun activities to match the lessons I’m teaching. Learning through games should never be underestimated. Learning is about interacting with your environment. You can find lessons everywhere in life. Investment in monopoly, leadership in basketball, patience in line, grammar in music lyrics and empathy in an online virtual world like Pandoo Nation.

The trick is to enhance the lessons through these experiences. In some sense, being exposed to many diverse activities is powerful. However, you miss out on a great opportunity if you don’t take the time to talk about it.

Going through the motions is not enough. We need to tie it all together by truly deconstructing the lessons before us.

You play a game, your students have fun and then, “bam!” You explain the connection to the classroom lesson.

4- People want to learn

I believe that humans are creative, curious and want to move forward by nature. However, I have also heard many say that as we get older we grow out of these natural desires to extend our knowledge.

Even people that call themselves teachers sometimes lose that enthusiasm. That is sad. We need to believe in learning to teach. The best teachers know that they are as students, as well. It’s not only about setting an example (although that’s very important) it’s about honesty.  Who has the right to tell someone to read, write, think, respect and all that jazz if they don’t do it themselves?

5- Teaching and learning comes from the heart, the mind and the soul

People will respond much better when they feel that you are genuinely in tune with them and the environment. Smile, laugh, think, inspire. Be your best self if you want others around you to rise to the occasion. Simple as that.

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I do miss being in front of a classroom. A classroom full of kids, personally, is one of the best places to be.

Although right now I get to create and be a part of an amazing tool that, for me, will resonate with that I wrote above. This virtual world that we are creating is, in my teachers eyes, a gem.

Pandoo Nation covers such a variety of important angles and I am excited to see the impact it will have. The concept of starting with something that children are naturally drawn to and maximizing the learning process in an exciting and meaningful way is ingenious.

Love is in the details. We spent a week last month in England discussing the final tweaks that need to be made to the game – the fun, the connections, the adventure, the learning, the impact and everything in between.

I believe that children want to learn about world issues and they want to help.  Many great initiatives are being implemented in schools to expose kids to things happening around the world.  At the moment, one of my best friends is doing a fundraiser to cater school materials to a community center I support here in Cebu. Their response has been astonishing.

Pandoo Foundation is what brings our game to the next level. It exposes kids to real world issues in a fun, engaging and educational way.

We sometimes hear that kids these days are so “connected” that they become disconnected. Every generation will have their strengths and challenges. It’s up to us to find solutions and grow positively alongside technology.

I believe that we are really tapping into something that can be powerful. Through technology we can teach kids empathy, teamwork and build a movement of change makers.

Let the games begin!