TEDx Magda.. tee hee

9 04 2011

For some odd reason they didn’t want to change the name of the event… odd…  Just kidding :D..

I will write later, but I thought I would post my ‘speech’ for those who were interested but unable to make it 🙂  The truth is I didn’t really follow my script and I can’t really tell you how far off of the ‘reservation’ I went until I see the video.  But here’s hoping it was good.  There was a lot of really good positive feed back, and I had a great time.  I’m heading out to see some people, but here is what I wrote.   http://tedxmonga.com/en/tedxmonga-ii

A few months back I lost my voice, not for a day or two, it lasted almost a full week.  And as anyone who knows me could tell you, this was a personal disaster.   It was also a potentially professional one as well.    As a teacher this was an especially difficult and challenging situation to face.  Imagine if you will, that your livelihood depended on your being able, to not only express ideas, but to also expand on them, to interact and communicate in a deep way with others.  Suddenly conventional methods are no longer available.  What do you do?

I could have done what most people suggested and just stayed home, but that didn’t seem quite right to me.  I genuinely believe in innovation and creativity in Education.

And that is why I am here today. In spite of how exciting a story of a mute teacher might be, I want to tell you about what we can accomplish with a little creativity, even in a seemingly rigid environment.

Asia has a very strict and busy education system. It’s extremely competitive over here, and to be successful many feel you must be the best.  To be the best you must work harder and longer than the other millions of people that you are competing with.  It’s a tall order and as a result students are loaded up with hour upon hour of assignments, homework, and extra classes.  It can start in kindergarten and the pressure, classes, and extra homework continues to increase over the years.

Kids here don’t often have much of a chance to be kids, at least in the minds of many who are observing and coming from a different background.  Speaking for myself, I never had to do 6 hours of homework after class, not even in senior high school when prepping for university.  I remember many a happy afternoon spent pouring over books, playing games and just generally relaxing and having fun.

So with all of this pressure and competition, is there any wiggle room for fun and new ideas?  In the past I have frequently been told by many an educator, and administrator there isn’t.   And I have always felt that that is pure and unadulterated garbage.  There is always another way.  So a few years ago I took matters into my own hands, I ignored the negative Nancy’s who told me that Taiwanese parents would never let their kids play games and just have fun;  That there must be tests and homework, writing assignments etc to prove the value and worth of any form of education. I started talking to kids and parents about something new, something different.  A way to study and learn that wasn’t about writing the same thing 1000 times, doing drills, or any other boring form of study.

So where did this all come from?  Honestly, I regularly play board games with my friends and on some level I wanted to find a way to bring my play to work. While playing, I learn and practice things about history, science, new vocabulary, math skills, and the psychology of others, critical thinking and problem solving.  And I do this all on my own time, for fun.   Sounds like work, doesn’t it?  Well it is, and it’s not.

Games have built in reward systems; there are points, achievements, constant progression and movement toward goals throughout the games.  They are riddled with puzzles and problems to solve both big and small, every success is marked and noted.   This all got me thinking, what if there was a way to use this great device to help bring a little fun and excitement into the educational lives of my students.  So I decided to just start using board games, as a learning tool.

You might not believe me here, but I swear to you it’s the truth.  It was fun.  I know, pure blasphemy, no fun should ever be had, in the sanctity of the learning sphere.

When using unconventional tools for learning, such as board games, we provide students with opportunities to communicate in a different way.   Different parts of the mind are engaged and activated, it encourages a more well rounded and active learning experience. Have you ever tried to learn a new subject, language or task simply by reading about it?  How about only being told?  Now think of a time where you were able to immerse yourself in the learning.  Where you actively took part in what you were trying to learn, you had to complete tasks, collaborate and communicate with others who were also involved.

Inhibitions are left behind in the excitement of the possibility of tromping your opponents.  You stop worrying so much about your personal short comings, and focus on the task at hand.  Sometimes it’s a cooperative effort, sometimes it’s competitive, and other times it’s a combination of the two.  Regardless it helps build relationships, not only with what you’re studying but also between the participants; there is a certain comrade-ry that arises.  Additionally, vocabulary and phrases are used over and over again, math skills are needed to calculate and manage your money or scores.  All of this results in becoming more interested and engaged in the topic allowing for a more rounded learning experience.

Studying, words, sentences and grammar from a book in a classroom is effective but it’s also very one dimensional.  Being actively involved in a game is an exciting and fun way to not only practice what you already know and understand, but to also to learn new things in a dynamic fashion.  Allowing you to not only remember more easily but understand on a deeper level.

I was told this would be difficult if not impossible to do in Asia; that local children would never be allowed to waste precious time on such an unstructured activity.  That adults and parents wouldn’t be interested or buy into something so unregulated.  Yet, I have been running a very successful program at a school doing just this for a couple of years now.  I use these games as learning tools in my Adult classes, and am constantly being asked for more game time.

I have also been doing guest lectures for student teachers, and tutors from schools that are interested in this new way of engaging the students.  More and more people are looking for something new, something different and more importantly something interesting.  I have even done a seminar with Junior high and high school teachers from all over the country; telling them of the benefits, and helping them brain storm ideas and ways that they can adapt these kinds of games and activities into the current school system that they have to work within.

Being invited to speak to other teachers, and seeing them embrace these ideas and principals of learning, has been a really gratifying experience.  In recent years there have been more and more people interested in board gaming as a social tool, which can easily be seen by the massive growth of the BoardGameGeek site.  And I believe we can clearly see that utilizing these games as an educational tool not only has the potential to take off but has already gotten many excited about the idea.

There is so much we can learn from a little play.

Here is a little video to give you a small taste of what I’m talking about.





Christmas Reruns…

11 12 2010

So if you’ve been checking ye old blog recently you may have thought to your self… wow Magda has been writing again!  Promptly followed by a strong sense of deja vue.

Yes, they are older posts thatI moved to the front of the blog.  I did this because at the TEDXmonga thing, my name and web page were in the book.  Now I have absolutely no idea if anyone will even look at it, BUT they might.  And the only thing I had posted recently was a rant about the TSA.  Didn’t seem very TEDdy ;).

Plus, I have written some pretty good stuff in the past, I just haven’t had the writing bug lately.  I was also hoping posting and rereading all that stuff might motivate me to get off my duff and get back to writing, and life n stuff.

So there you go, the reruns explained ;P





TEDxFormosa

2 10 2010

So I did something silly, I applied to be a speaker for the TEDx thingie in Taipei this December.  While it’s not particularity likely that the powers that be will choose me to be a presenter, you never know I’ve seen odder talks before.  Honestly, I applied because it certainly doesn’t hurt to try, and it would be SO cool if I was chosen to participate.

But what the hell could you possibly talk about?  Have you met me?  I could talk about anything but something that might be TED worthy?  Well the topic is things that work well in Asia, so any innovations, ideas or practices that work and are more Asia specific.  Well I have my board game project, which has gotten me invited to be a speaker to a few different things.  Actually I just finished a speaker seminar type thing today.  This time it was more on conversation classes, which I also have a little experience in, but not really the same passion for.

I think the whole board games as an educational tool is a really fun and interesting topic and I feel rather passionately about it.  Perhaps it is just because it allows me to have fun and interact while introducing people to games.  But mostly I think it’s an untapped resource to aid in learning and study.

Regardless, I think it’s pretty cool that there will be a TEDx conference in Taipei this year.  And it would be so very cool to be involved.

Eeep, I’m kinda sleepy and run down from my speech today and getting up early to go running, like a good girl.  That will be all, I’ll keep you posted.  J