Tamer Asfahani Creates the Curriculum Around the Game | Episode 334

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The founder and director of Checkpoint, Tamer is dedicated to changing our perception of learning and the technology we use to enable learning. Advocate of gaming cultural wealth and the benefits gaming has, Tamer has spent years developing pedagogy through Checkpoint to help us benefit from our digital fluency. Driven by the failure of governments and education systems globally during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the hypocrisy around “screentime”, Tamer focused on showcasing the benefits of gaming on well-being, education and as a social platform for children. This led to a partnership and study on the impact of gaming in education with Brunel University which proved incredibly successful.

Tamer is also an award-winning producer and journalist who has worked across print, broadcast (TV and radio) and online.

 

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Full episode transcription (AI Generated)

Rob:
And welcome back, engagers. We have another guest today. As always, as every single week, we have today with us. Tamer. Tamer.

Rob:
And I didn’t even ask you before in the pre interview chat if that’s the right way to pronounce your name before we that. Are you prepared to engage?

Tamer:
I’m prepared to engage, yeah, engaged. I’m prepared. I can’t even talk. I’m prepared to engage. I obviously am not prepared to engage.

Tamer:
My mouth is not working with my brain.

Rob:
And is Tamer a good way to say your name?

Tamer:
It’s actually Tamir, but yes. There we go. There we go. You can try my surname, it’s fine. Right?

Rob:
As for honey.

Tamer:
Very good. Well done.

Rob:
Well, I had to try to get one right. So we have Tamar with us today. He is the founder and director of Check Point and he’s dedicated to changing our perception of learning and the technology we use to enable learning. He’s an advocate of gaming, cultural wealth and the benefits that gaming has. He spent years developing pedagogy through checkpoint to help us benefit from a digital fluency.

Rob:
He was driven by the failure of governments and education systems globally. During COVID-19 pandemic and the hypocrisy around what we call screen time. He focused on showcasing the benefits of gaming on wellbeing, education and as a social platform for children. This led to a partnership and study on the impact of gaming in education with Brunel University, which proved incredibly successful. He’s also an award winning producer and journalist who has worked in print, broadcast, tv and radio and online.

Rob:
So, Tamer, many things that you’ve done. Quite an interesting background. Is there anything that we’re missing? You want to make sure that we know?

Tamer:
No, I don’t think so. Thank you for the lovely intro. Yeah, I mean, my specialty is in audience identification and high quality journalism, and it’s that kind of, I suppose, that journey, that seeking of truth and knowledge, that was what transferred me into the education system, really using video games as that catalyst.

Rob:
Really amazing, amazing. So, Tamir, what does a regular day or week or month look like? We want to sort of feel what it feels like to be you nowadays. Where were you at, basically?

Tamer:
Well, it’s very interesting question, checkpoint. So, for those that don’t know what checkpoint is, we look at the impact of video games on society, culture, politics and education. That’s the basic top line. And what we’re trying to do now using video games as a vehicle is create a knowledge base that’s accessible for anybody, as I say the video games is a vehicle. So when we look at things like big data, for example, we look at how video games look at big data.

Tamer:
So games like Watch Dogs and Quantum break and other games that look at big data, and we ask the question of this is being portrayed in a video game? How real is this? You know, are all the stuff that we’re seeing in videos, can this be done now? Can it be done in the near future? Is it a far future thing?

Tamer:
And then we look at the difference. We speak to the developers to in the example of big data, we’ll speak to hackers, we’ll speak to academics, we’ll speak to law enforcement officers that look at digital to get a very holistic approach to see whether or not video games are representative or reflective of what’s actually happening. And more often than not, they’re very accurate. More often than not, developers don’t realize how close to the truth they are with some things, especially if those developers haven’t done the research. A lot of developers now do a lot of quality assurance and research.

Tamer:
So, you know, a lot of things that you see generally are or can be perceived as true, but that’s just one element, right? So it’s about understanding the impact that ubiquitous cultural wealth that video game has that is able to span cultures, span languages. Many people say that love, the language of love, or the language of music is the language of love. My argument is actually video games are. Everybody has a video game reference.

Tamer:
Doesn’t matter how old you are, you don’t need to have played a video game. So it’s that ubiquitous cultural wealth that we look at kind of promoting and pushing. So through the magazines, through our podcasts, through our learning materials for children, through our research, our academic partnerships, through our AR and VR experiences that we’ve created, it’s always about trying to inform. And you can tell now that I’m a former BBC person, that inform, educate and entertain. And that’s what, what we’re trying to do really with the video game knowledge base that we’re creating, allowing access for anybody, whether it’s industry, whether it’s individuals, we want to be a hub of knowledge that utilizes, promotes and celebrates the use of video games to help us understand the world better.

Rob:
Huh? Plenty of. That’s a mouthful.

Tamer:
It’s really hard to explain because we haven’t even touched on everything that we do. And trying to get this into a pitch or a two minute elevator pitch been a difficult thing for checkpoint because we do everything and we don’t do everything all at once, at the same time. But we absolutely focus. And again, it’s this, it’s the power of video games that is able to transcend culture, language, socioeconomic disparity. And if we’re going to be dealing with the big issues of the world, things like climate change, things like socioeconomic disparity, things like cultural misunderstandings, then we need to have access to the same database, that same knowledge base.

Tamer:
And I think video games is one of the few, very few mediums that allows us to unite and doesn’t judge us for our culture, our creed, our race, our age, our sexuality, any of that stuff.

Rob:
Interesting, interesting. I fully agree with you to the point of remembering that, as in any software, the software itself is agnostic of all of this, but it does also reflect the understandings and any biases that we might have as designers when we create that software. So we always talk about the biases introduced through AI even. Right?

Tamer:
Yeah, well, AI is a whole different kettle of fish as well.

Rob:
And bias, that’s the bias in AI. But if you see video games as well, there is a certain level of bias that could be introduced in there. However, you as an avatar, you can be whoever you want. It doesn’t matter where you come from.

Tamer:
Right, exactly.

Rob:
So there’s, there’s, there’s a lot, a lot into that, for sure. So, Tamer, let’s actually go for a story now, as a journalist as well, I’m sure storytelling is one of your things. So let’s dive into a story of a time when you are trying to do one of the things that you’re doing, especially along the gaming and all this that is involved in education, and, well, things did not go your way. We want to be there with you and find out what, you know, one or two of the lessons that you learned from that experience. How would you do it differently, perhaps?

Rob:
Like, we want to be there with you, essentially.

Tamer:
It’s a difficult question, because ultimately, Rob, if you ask me, I’d still say things aren’t going the way that they should be going anyway. You know, it’s a very difficult thing to be sitting in a Venn diagram of video games education and policy. And, you know, nobody in that Venn Diagram takes you seriously. I think the most difficult thing there are, there are two really pertinent things I think stand out. And is this misunderstanding of the true power of video games.

Tamer:
And I speak a lot about this. I’ve spoken a lot about this in a previous podcast I did, how video games have helped me with loneliness, how video games have helped me to assimilate into different cultures, you know, and how I use video games as a vehicle for my own learning journey. You know, you could play civilization and all of a sudden you’re going down a rabbit hole trying to figure out who ham Barai of Persia was. So you’ve got all of these incredible stories that are being told within video games and even people that talk about Fortnite and Roblox. There are still huge advantages from being involved in playing something like Fortnite.

Tamer:
You know, you’ve got resource management, you’ve got reactions, you’ve got to be aware of your situational awareness. There are a lot of things that games do that they don’t force you to do, they encourage you to do, because it’s quite simple, really. If you don’t pick up the controller, remove the controller, you’re not going anywhere in the game. That’s the point. You have to be an active participant in that game.

Tamer:
Now, trying to translate that into something like education and going, well, look, how can we take those principles of gaming and apply them to the learning sciences? How can we bring in this idea that actually, if you don’t engage with the material, then you’re not going to achieve anything from. And as gamification is not necessarily a phrase that I’m particularly fond with, in fact, I don’t like at all. But how do we play ify, which is something that was mentioned on a thread that I did. How do we take that advantage of that access that video games gives people that freedom, that agency, and how do we apply that to learning?

Tamer:
And there’s a whole conversation around that because the education system is not built for people to be intellectual. And that’s the first problem, right? The first problem is that you go speak to somebody about, well, look at the incredible opportunities that video games give learners, whether it’s accessibility, whether it’s non judgment, whether it’s looking at subjects or themes or specific things, and you’re immediately met by resistance because the first thing people think is, oh, it’s a video game, what are we going to learn? And the first thing they think of is, you play video games and there’s no real learning in video games. And actually it really comes down to the quality of the teacher.

Tamer:
So our journey for about four years has been very much trying to change this idea that video games and their content cannot be used as feasible learning materials. I think that’s the very first thing that we need to kind of address. The second thing is, and I kind of hinted on this a lot, is gamification. And I’m going to say this, and I know that you may not necessarily agree with me, Rob.

Rob:
Gamification, which is fine.

Tamer:
Which gamification doesn’t work, because what we’re doing is a game’s inherent appeal, is the entertainment purposes and the. How can I put this? The decisions that you make within the game are your decisions to be made, and you don’t feel judged for them because of the way that you’ve made those decisions. That a game gives you agency. It gives you the framework to play.

Tamer:
It gives you a sandbox to play with it, but it never tells you, unless it’s taking you through tutorial, how or what to do. It allows you to figure that out yourself. And the education system does not do that. It doesn’t allow for the individual to find their own learning technique or their own learning path. So what gamification does is it tries to shoehorn these principles, whether it’s marketing, whether it’s an education purpose, whatever it is, that the outcome that they’re trying to gamify immediately undermines the game itself, right?

Tamer:
Because all of a sudden, it’s not a game anymore. It becomes a tool for education or a tool for marketing or a tool for promotion or whatever it is that gamified version is. And even when we look at, you know, Roblox is a perfect example of this ecosystem where it allows advertisers and marketers to come in and do it. Now, you could go in and do the Duracell battery. You recharge stuff and run around in Fortnite, but it’s still Fortnite.

Tamer:
It’s still skinned as Fortnite. Right? Still skinned as Roblox. So you’re not actually getting any brand awareness from it. You just recognize the brand, fine, but you’re not playing the game because of the brand.

Tamer:
You’re playing the game because of the game. So there’s a huge failure. And I think that, for me, has been a huge problem when we start looking at gamification or defining gamification, because, like digital literacy and like edtech, everybody has a different idea and a different definition of what that thing is, right?

Rob:
So, yeah, there’s many, many definitions.

Tamer:
Absolutely. So nobody really agrees on what gamification is. Nobody agrees what the outcome should be. So it becomes problematic. It becomes hugely problematic, because all of a sudden, a game stops being a game and it starts becoming a marketing tool.

Tamer:
And I think that’s one of the biggest problems that we’ve had to face as an industry as well, is we need to be a little bit more protective over the vocabulary that we use. We need to be a little bit more protective over the way in which we define these things. And we need to be more gatekeepers of our brand. Ips, not everything, you know, just because Duracell or Kellogg’s is given Roblox or Fortnite or Epic or whatever, $10 million to do their advertising, that’s not necessarily the best way forward. And it takes away trust, I think, from gamers.

Tamer:
And all of a sudden you. I feel that, you know, especially as we move on with web three, web four, whatever that next iteration of the web is, I feel that we’re going to lose games to gamification as a tool that kind of muddies the water of what games are. So those things, I think, have been the two most difficult things for us to deal with, which is why we decided to academically evidence everything that we.

Rob:
Were doing, because you have delved into different topics there, which I love and I think we will get into as well. There’s one thing you did not get into, which is a time where, you know, I want to. I would like to have a specific story about a time when, you know, you were trying to do this and, you know, whatever it was because the company didn’t understand it or you were trying to do this to show the industry this or that and it didn’t work out, that’s exactly where we want to be because we want to take some of those lessons home. Like, I’m sure that from that experience that you’ve had, there are things that we could do differently. Right?

Rob:
So what are those things? Like, what would that look like? Is there a time, maybe you’re talking to somebody, a stakeholder, somebody in particular, and something happened. Like, I’d love it if you could share one of those stories with us. Again, if you don’t want to name or you can’t name specifically, that’s fine.

Tamer:
I think we’ve done. I think the best stories to explain is we create lesson plans that we deliver to schools. And I think it’s really important for people to understand that we write these lessons from the ground up. We look at what it is that we want to impart knowledge to the children, skills to the children. Not just knowledge, it’s skills and knowledge.

Tamer:
And then we look at the outcomes that required from the curriculum and we look for a game that’s suitable and we build this lesson. It takes about six to eight weeks to create and design a lesson. That then gets academically. So we send it back to our academic partners, who then make sure that it’s doing everything that we say it’s doing. One of the difficulties, I think one of the hardest things to do, what was really hard to try to explain to teachers was that we don’t play the video games in class and they don’t understand this.

Tamer:
You talk about talking about Sonic or Mario, and they’re like, what do you mean, we don’t play the games in class? And we try to explain to them that all we’re doing is we’re using that gaming wealth, that cultural wealth that the children have around gaming, to give them agency to talk about their conversation or to talk about the topic that they’re doing now. We’ve done a number of these, and actually, one of the most exciting ones, I think, was, and the other thing with our materials is if you read the academic reports that have been written, they are inclusive. So like a video game, they don’t care about your gender, your ability, your sex, your age, any of that stuff. They are inclusive.

Tamer:
And that’s come out from our academic reports that have been done by Brunel University, London, which has been, which is fantastic. Partners have been really supportive for us. But I remember doing a sonic lesson. So we had Sega. We’ve been involved.

Tamer:
Sega have been incredible supporters of us. So, you know, I have to give them a bit of a shout out. But when I first went to Sega and I said to them, listen, I want to use Sonic to do a lesson for children, they were very concerned, and rightly so. You know, this is an IP that is hugely successful. And anybody knows that.

Tamer:
Sega’s story knows that, you know, IP is the only thing that they can hold onto right now. So they don’t want to be doing anything bad with the IP. And we spent about two or three months going back and forth with Sega, trying to explain to them what we were trying to do, got an agreement with Sega to partner up with Sega to deliver these lessons and to do it. And our lessons, Rob, have really focused not necessarily the brighter children, but children that have English as a second language, or children that have come from a really bad socio economic background or children that, you know, don’t have. And we go into schools, specifically what we call in this country, pupil premium.

Tamer:
So children that have a disadvantage or less advantage than others, fewer opportunities to kind of present themselves to these children. And I brought somebody from the marketing team with me to the school when we were delivering this. And what we did was we created a whole lesson around design and technology. So what we showed the children, sonic colors had just been released or sonic colors ultimate. I can’t remember which one it was basically, it was Sonic was using wisps to get past Robotnik or Eggman and Robotnik, stroke Eggman was using robotic devices to capture Sonic, right.

Tamer:
So we tasked the children, we split them up in groups and we created this lesson plan around design and technology, asking the children to either create Wisp to help Sonic or a robotic device to help Doctor Robotnik, stroke Eggman to capture Sonic without hurting him. That was one of the. So that there were all of these kind of prerequisites that were required. And what was interesting was immediately these. So these children are all from this school was very heavily, you know, a lot of the children there, 90, 95% of the children there were either from an ethnic diverse background, sec English as a second language.

Tamer:
Most of the children in there had some kind of need, special need for a bit more attention. I say most children, you know, a good majority of the children, not most children, so, you know, the learning difficulties or special educational needs or what have you, and they didn’t wear the uniforms, neurodiversity, all of that kind of stuff. The moment sonic came on the board and the moment we started designing the lesson, everybody was on an equal footing. And there are two things that happened in that. And so what we do is we don’t just provide the lessons.

Tamer:
We provide the children with an experience post lesson that allows them to showcase a pathway into the games industry, right? Because if you ask any child if you want to be a gamer, they go, yeah, I want to be a youtuber. But they don’t know that you could be legal counsel. They don’t know you could be a narrative designer, coder, marketeer. You know, there are a million jobs in gaming and so we try to showcase and put them forward and we’ve done it with people like the European Space Agency.

Tamer:
The children have done lessons and have spoken to mission control and the guy flying the solar orbiter with an Xbox controller explaining how he used Kerbal space program for his degree, you know, so that’s some amazing opportunities that we provide the children, but the children, obviously, and they understand sonic. So back to the sonic class. We designed it. The children were all engaged. We provide a list of vocabulary that the children do and you just see them.

Tamer:
You just see them coming to life. You see them owning the lesson, owning the conversation, discussing with each other children that wouldn’t necessarily be involved in the class conversations are constantly talking, constantly putting. Teachers are controlling situation beautifully with children that may not have had an opportunity to talk otherwise. And it’s such an incredible feeling. I had a little girl next to me who was never very confident in her English and Arabic was her first language, and she turned around to me.

Tamer:
She was. We were in the middle of presenting, because they had to do this. They had to present their. Either their wisps or their robotic devices at the end of the class. And she said the word, and I can’t remember what it was, but she said, did I use that word correctly?

Tamer:
And it’s just things like that, Rob, that you think, wow, they’re taking this on board, and they’re listening, and they’re taking, you know, this is. It was a complicated word for her age, and she was using inspired. That was the word she was using. I was inspired by Mario Kart because she was talking about a wisp, and inspired is a word. And her teacher turned around to me, said, she’s never used a word of that length before, nor has she engaged in the class like she has done before.

Tamer:
And it was that pride that came beaming out of her face when I said, yeah, you absolutely used the right word. Well done. Very well done. Followed then by an interview with the executive producer of Sonic the Hedgehog, who then they presented their ideas, too. So not only did they do this incredible lesson, but then they were able to speak to the executive producer of Sonic, who told them how incredible their designs were and how he was maybe going to take some of their ideas and put them in the next game.

Tamer:
That kind of opportunity and that kind of access and that kind of ownership over something that you know really well, these kids know. So they were asking the executive producer, who’s Sonic’s cousin, and they were giving him all the background on the lore. Do you know what I mean? This is what they know. And it’s stuff like that, Rob, that we can absolutely learn from these children if we just give them the freedom to explore the things that interest them, give them the time.

Rob:
Totally, totally. And, Tamara, that sounds amazing. And a way to turn around from people not even understanding to actually getting to do that. So very quickly, is there a key lesson that you would tell the engagers to try and take away from that, something that helped you reach that face of success that you were actually mentioning?

Tamer:
That’s a difficult question, I think. Look, the key lesson is try. Just keep trying and don’t dismiss things that you don’t understand. What I always say to parents that when children talk to you about video games, shut up. Listen to them.

Tamer:
It’s one of the only things that they know more about, probably, than you do. And what you’re doing is that you’re, you’re doing many things when you listen to children, especially when they’re talking about something that they love, first of all, you’re telling them that what they feel and what they believe is valid and that it’s not. Not important, right? A lot of people will dismiss when children say, oh, I’ve just completed this level r, you’ve just done a game. Just go away.

Tamer:
Leave me alone. Go play your game. No. Sit down and listen to ask them why it was so important for them to beat the level, why, how they did it, what tools did they employ to do it, did they have to change their style of. And all of a sudden you’ll find that your child is actually a lot more aware of what they’re doing within the game than you think.

Tamer:
It’s not just something that you just pick up and play. The other thing is it allows the child to feel trust that they can come and talk to you about anything. If you’re going to listen to them about the things that interest them, then they’re going to listen to you about the things that they may not necessarily want you to listen to. Right? So it builds that trust.

Tamer:
But also, more importantly, as a grown up or somebody who’s probably lost that childlike kind of fervor, what it also does is it allows you to really understand a subject matter. If you sit down and watch your child play Roblox or Minecraft or Fortnite, I guarantee you you’ll be amazed at their reaction times, their situational awareness, their skills of that stuff. So I suppose that’s the one lesson I say to people is if anybody, especially if a child, your child, somebody else’s child, talks to you about video games, shut up and listen and engage and ask. All you need to ask is, how did it make you feel? How did you complete it?

Tamer:
Is there anything that I could do to help? How are you going to, you know, just ask them, just talk to them. Don’t dismiss them.

Rob:
Absolutely amazing. Thank you for that. I think it’s going to be useful for plenty in the audience, even though many might be already into games, and rightfully so, you say, well, that’s one of the things they might know more about than you. That might still be the case, especially of modern games, but some might even be, you know, a bit versed in what these kids are talking about as well, which is fine, but the part of sitting down and listening to them and having that perspective of, you know, it’s more than that entertainment that you had as well as a kid, it goes beyond that, right? Even if you’re enjoying it and you’re part of that movement, in a way, it can go well beyond that as well.

Rob:
There can be many things that they can take out of that, so let them talk. Absolutely love the lesson in that sense as well. So, Tamer, when you’re facing one of these, you know, you’re creating a lesson, as you were mentioning, or you’re doing one of the things that you do, I’m guessing you have some form of a process, a series of steps. I don’t know, how do you do it? Essentially, if we were to try to do what you do, how would we achieve something like that?

Rob:
Or if we were to help you achieve what you achieve, how would we do that?

Tamer:
Oh, we do have a process and we have a very. So we’ve developed our own tenets at checkpoint. So we have twelve tenets that guide our learning principles. We also have, so we’re partnered with the United nations. So we deliver on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Tamer:
So we have a responsibility to UN sdgs four and nine. So four is global education. We also deliver on the UNESCO pillars of education. So there is a process. And I.

Tamer:
Our goal is to. And the process, and this is why it takes six to eight weeks. And this is why we send it back to the academics for them to go through it. And our process involves everything. It involves what are the outcomes that we’re trying to achieve for the children?

Tamer:
How can we make it relevant to their learning? How can we make the child the center of the learning experience? How can we be inclusive for anybody? We’re not talking about just people that are in the UK or in the english school system. How can we make our lessons relevant using video games as that vehicle for a global audience?

Tamer:
What are the things that we’re trying to deliver on? And this is a process that we go through every single time. So we have to deliver on all twelve of our tenants when we’re delivering a lesson plan. But we also have to deliver on the sustainable development goals that we’re trying to fulfill. And the UNESCO pillars of education.

Tamer:
We also have our own pedagogy that we have to deliver to. And then when we design the lesson, we have to take into account things like white space, cognitive overload. So there’s a huge amount of work that goes into these lessons, and if somebody to look at them that you probably wouldn’t think that there was, but the process is really stripped back. It’s choose it if there’s something, especially if there’s something. And usually we pick up something that’s been kicking off in the news or something that’s been inspired by a game that we’ve been playing.

Tamer:
The last lesson that we did, for example, was about beavers, bats and bees. Now, these are endangered species in the UK. And so what we did is we looked at planet Zoo because planet zoo has an incredible zoopedia and supports all of the learning, which is really, really important. So actually, the. The accuracy of that data set within zoopedia, within planet zoo is incredibly powerful because it is true.

Tamer:
And we built a lesson then around conservation and what the role of zoos are within conservation, right. But part of that process was what animals do we use? And if we. If you were in South America, using this lesson plan, what animals would you replace the beavers, bats and bees with? And actually, bees are ubiquitous.

Tamer:
They’re a problem globally, if anything, when outside of the west. The western bees, I think, are more dominant at the moment and causing more problems than anything else. So we build that lesson from the ground up and then we look at the curriculum. We never really, because our pedagogy and the way that we deliver our lessons and the sdgs and everything else, we usually deliver way more than any national curriculum requires for any subject matter. But we also don’t.

Tamer:
And this is a really important point, Rob, we also don’t silo subjects. And what I mean by that is that we don’t take subjects and keep them in their own domain. So when we talk about science, in order for you to be able to express science, you need to have a grasp of maths, you need to have a grasp of English. Depending on the science that you’re doing, you may need to have a grasp of geography, or you may need to have a grasp of something else. So what we do is we build holistic lesson plans that deliver on multiple disciplines.

Tamer:
And this is, I think, a failure within the education system globally, is that each subject matter is done in isolation. So if you’re doing geography, you don’t talk about the communication needs for geography. If you’re talking about maths, you don’t talk about the applied maths if you’re doing pure maths. So what we do is that we become very niche in our understanding of a subject, but we’re not very good at communicating. And this is where semiotic domains start coming in when we start thinking about, well, okay, if I’ve got this idea around mathematics, how can I express this to somebody who’s a historian?

Tamer:
Do you know what I mean? So our subject matters are very holistic. So we will take three or four subject matters just because of the way that we deliver, and we deliver those national curriculum outcomes, but a lot more from them. So there is a process, we’re in the process right now of doing one on biodiversity. And the idea of that, is that right, what there’s so much around.

Tamer:
First of all, we need to define biodiversity, and many people don’t know what biodiversity is. And biodiversity, which I didn’t know until. And this is the amazing thing about the checkpoint learning materials. I learned so much in the process of doing it as well. Biodiversity is just the idea of having enough diversity for an ecosystem to continue to thrive or exist.

Tamer:
It’s not about the actual diversity in the ecosystem. It’s about the minimum requirement needed for an ecosystem to survive. And so when you look at that, the whole conservation thing is depressing because we know that we’re not going to win this. We can’t tell children this. We need to give them hope and think.

Tamer:
But so we. So this. So what we’re looking at biodiversity now is like, okay, so what can we do? What can we do? Soil has millions of bacteria.

Tamer:
That’s the foundation for everything, for all the life cycle. Let’s talk about biodiversity in soil rather than biodiversity of plants or. Because all of a sudden, anybody, whether you’re in Europe, whether you’re in Africa, you can go out, get a little bit of dirt from your garden and actually start to see how that works with, we’ve been thinking about terrariums, we’ve been thinking about small ecosystems that we can build, but then we need to find the relevant game to do it. We need to find the relevant. So it’s a process.

Tamer:
Sorry, I think I just went off there.

Rob:
Rob, I was going to ask you again just in a second, what will be those steps? If you were to summarize it in a phrase, like two phrases, what are the steps? What are the things that you do? You. I don’t know.

Rob:
You pick a game or before picking the game, you look into the objectives. I don’t know. What does it look like?

Tamer:
We don’t. We don’t. So the person. So I. It’s funny because my old boarding master, who was head of English for the east of England for a little while, and head of numeracy and literacy, retired a couple of years ago.

Tamer:
This is a very funny story, long and short, of course. For years I’ve been telling him to use video games in class. He was an english teacher, head of, like I say, was very well thing. He stayed in the classroom, so he never went through management. So he always dealt with children and one of the best teachers that I’ve ever known.

Tamer:
So Chris Winston Longley does all of the lessons, but we. The process is this. I turn around to Chris and I go, I want to do a lesson on flight, or I want to do a lesson on trains. I want to do a lesson on time. I want to do it.

Tamer:
And I think it’s important to note here that we aim for a key stage two, which is ages between the ages of seven and eleven. That’s our target audience right now, because we want to get them before they get to secondary school and the love of learning is destroyed out of them. So we try to teach them how to learn, not what to learn. That’s one of our tenets. So Chris and I will be chatting and I say, look, Chris, I want to do a lesson on flight.

Tamer:
So Chris will go, okay, fine. He’ll go away and he’ll come back to me and he’ll come back to me and go, look, we could do this. We could do this. We could do a lesson on. We could do a lesson on lift or drag.

Tamer:
We could do a lesson on actual a bird. Or we could do a lesson on density or whatever it is that he does. And then we’ll have a chat about it, and then we’ll think, okay, what game can we tie in with this to demonstrate? Because we use video clips from the game, or we use the, like I said, the inherent knowledge that. That children or other gamers have to then deliver it.

Tamer:
So when we talk about the odyssey, it’s a lot easier to talk about Mario Odyssey than it is to talk about the actual odyssey because children know that they’ve been through journeys, traveling through different lands, and so it becomes very accessible. We then agree on that. We then Chris then goes away and starts writing out the lessons, and he’ll come back and go, look, we’ve got a lesson here that can either include geography and maths and physics, or we’ve got a lesson here that can just include English and history. And then we’ll start looking at it and we’ll go through it, and then we go through another iteration of that. Chris then goes away and writes the lesson.

Tamer:
So once we’ve identified what it is that we want to deliver which subject matters. Chris will then and only then look at the curriculum objectives, because usually by that point, we’ve already delivered, we’ve already discussed it, we already know what we’re going to be doing. And more often than not, we create a lesson plan that is inclusive of two or three different subjects and certain objectives within those things. Chris then comes back to me. We go through it together in great detail, and I mean great detail.

Tamer:
We spend maybe three or 4 hours and we will argue about one word. So, you know, there’s a real quality assurance that goes into this. We will then build the lesson. He’ll do it all in word, and then we will get it to our designer, Paul, who’s the co founder, and he’s the guy that’s responsible for all the design language of checkpoint, which is amazing. Paul then takes the lesson and puts it onto a presentation slide, that presentation slide.

Tamer:
And as Paul’s doing that, he’s taking on board everything that we’ve said. But he’s also looking at the white space cognitive overload and he’s developing the slides that will help then make it easy for children to understand. Once that process is done, it then comes back to Chris and I to make sure that Paul’s done everything right. And we’ve double check everything, all of us together. And then that lesson goes to our academic partners, Brunel University, Brunel faculty of Education.

Tamer:
Then look at it, because they’re obviously, they understand what we’re trying to do. They will come back with any amends saying, look, you need to do a little bit more of this or a little bit more of that, or you say you’re going to be doing this and you haven’t done this, which, to be fair, isn’t really much of stuff. We get that back, we make those amends and then we send it back to Brunel just to make sure that everything’s all right. Brunel then sign it off and then that lesson is ready to be delivered to school.

Rob:
Amazing. Amazing. Tamer, sorry.

Tamer:
I’m really sorry, Rob. I know that you’ve.

Rob:
No, no, but that was brilliant because we like it is a very detailed view into what you guys are doing, and I’m sure many will benefit from that as well. But Tamer, it’s time for recommendations. We would like to know if there’s anybody you would like to listen to in an interview like this one, you know, chat between two people who are interested in this world to see what is going around.

Tamer:
Yeah, there are some. Look, there are some really interesting people. What I didn’t realize was the amount of people that were in this space. I mean, Rob, there were a lot of us in this community, but when we’re kind of disparate, we’re all in our own little thing. There are a couple of people that I think would be amazing.

Tamer:
There’s a guy called Raphael Brown. I don’t know if you’ve heard of Raphael Brown.

Rob:
No, not really Raphael Brown.

Tamer:
He’s an amazing guy, and he’s a gatekeeper. We’ve had our ups and downs. I’ve been trying to get him on my podcast for a while, but he’s seems to cut me out. But Rafael’s a really interesting guy. He’s had 27 years plus in the games industry.

Tamer:
He’s worked as studio heads, and he’s worked in virtual worlds and XR and education, and he’s done. He’s worked with Microsoft. He’s a lecturer now in. I think he’s in Spain, actually, where you are. I’m not really quite sure.

Tamer:
Oh, he’s in San Fran. But he’s a really interesting guy with really interesting insight into video games and the evolution of games over the last 30 years, which I think is a really interesting thing to do. So Rafael Brown is one. There’s another guy called. I don’t know if you’ve heard of Stephen Reed.

Tamer:
So Stephen Reed is one of the reasons.

Rob:
I don’t know.

Tamer:
Stephen Reed is the reason why Minecraft education is what Minecraft education is. So Steven was a teacher. He used to use Minecraft, I think something like 15 years ago, he was the first person to use it. And when Microsoft set up Microsoft learning and acquired Mojang, Stephen was brought on to Microsoft to head up Minecraft learning. He’s a really fascinating guy, and he’s a really cool guy, and he understands this really, really well.

Tamer:
So Steven would be a good one. There’s another guy called Garrett Milleron. Garrett Milleron is doing some amazing things with physics based gaming experiences. And again, this isn’t about necessarily the learning. It’s just about how utilizing physics within video games brings that interest to people.

Tamer:
And there are many. I mean, there are many more that I could go on. Fiona Murphy, who’s really interesting, she’s an amazing woman. And looking at the impact of esports and curricula within esports. There’s a guy called Dave Eng, or Eng who you may have heard of or know of.

Rob:
Yeah, yeah. Actually, he’s been on the podcast a couple of times.

Tamer:
He’s an amazing guy.

Rob:
He has an event as well, which we’ve, we’ve been at, for sure. Yeah. Amazing people, great recommendations. Tamer. I’m sure we could continue talking about these for a while.

Tamer:
I’ve got lots, so.

Rob:
Yeah, absolutely. Love it. Love it. Tamer. What about a book?

Rob:
If you were to recommend us one book, which one would it be and why?

Tamer:
Le Petit Prince. The little Prince by Antoine des Roxbury. I know it’s nothing to do with what I’m talking about, but. Antoine Desert, Augsburg french writer French was actually my first language, would you believe? Or my first western language.

Tamer:
The little prince, if you haven’t heard of or know, the little prince is about a alien prince who lands on earth and deals with love and loss and death. Really. But there are. It’s incredibly philosophical. It’s had a huge impact on my life.

Tamer:
It was the first book that was read to me from when I was a kid, and there is. I’m just going to read you something very quickly, if that’s okay, Rob, because I think this kind of sums it up. In the course of this life, I’ve had a great. This is the author. So this is about a pilot who’s crashed his plane in the Sahara desert during the second world war and is trying to figure out how to fix it.

Tamer:
And throughout his life, he’s been really childlike. He’s never really wanted to grow up. In the course of this life, I have a great many encounters with a great many people who have been concerned with matters of consequence. I have lived a great deal among grown ups. I have seen them intimately close at hand, and that hasn’t much improved my opinion of them.

Tamer:
Whenever I met one who seemed to me at all clear sighted, I tried the experiment of showing him my drawing number one. Now, drawing number one looks like a hat, but the author explains that it’s actually an elephant inside of him. So I tried to explain the experiment of drawing number one, which I’ve always kept. I would try to find out. So if this person was of true understanding, but whoever that grown up was, he or she would always say, that is a hat.

Tamer:
Then I would never talk to that person about boa constrictors or primeval forests or stars. I would bring myself down to his level. I would talk to him about bridge and golf and politics and neckties, and the grown up would always be greatly pleased to have met such a sensible man. And I just think that is such a beautiful way. And that has stayed with me since I was a kid.

Tamer:
I always thought I never want to grow up. And this matters of consequence, but, yeah, that would be my recommendation.

Rob:
Totally. Totally. And tamer, what’s your favorite game?

Tamer:
I can’t answer that question, and I refuse to answer that question. There are many games, and it depends on what I’m playing. I trained as a pilot, so I do a lot of DC’s flight sim stuff. I love civilization. I love first person shooters, board laboratories.

Rob:
I’ll have to stick you to one. Maybe you want to go one on the digital world, one on board games or card games. If you had to say one, which one would it be? Maybe two.

Tamer:
I can’t answer that, Rob, if I’m being honest with you, I really can’t answer that. I think. I think, look, DC’s right now, DC’s because it is the closest thing to a proper combat simulator, flight one to one simulator, because it’s not a game. It’s a simulator. So it’s not a game.

Tamer:
It’s a simulator. So. Yeah, but I. I don’t know, Rob. It’s a really.

Rob:
Yes. Let’s go for that.

Tamer:
Let’s go for DC’s. Let’s stick with DC’s.

Rob:
Put you down for DC’s. Yeah. So, tamer, we’re. We ran out of time a few minutes ago. That’s okay.

Tamer:
Sorry.

Rob:
But anything else you want to tell the audience before we take off?

Tamer:
No. Thank you very much for listening. And if you want to know more about what we’re doing, check out Checkpointhub dot in Fo, which is available. All of our content is there. Everything that we do is free.

Tamer:
That’s another thing I didn’t say to anybody. We don’t charge anybody for anything. I believe that if we want to change the world and have access to the same content and material and education, then we all need to be able to access it for free. So check it out, and please get in touch if there’s anything that you want to know more about. But thank you for listening.

Rob:
Amazing. Thank you very much. Tamer. There. We know where to find you as well.

Rob:
If you want to know more, there’s a few more links we’ll have on the show notes. However, Tamer, engagers, as you know, at least for now, and for today, it is time to say that it’s game over. Engagers. It is fantastic to have you here, and thank you for listening to the Professor Game podcast. And I’d like to ask you a very quick question.

Rob:
How are you listening to this episode of the podcast? If you are using any podcasting app. You know, anything from Spotify, iTunes, Apple Podcast, Google Podcast. I don’t know any app that you could be using out there. There’s plenty of them.

Rob:
And we are on all of those apps. If you are doing that, have you clicked on that follow or that subscribe button? Have you rated us? Have you rated this podcast? If you haven’t gone ahead and do that, please, please do so.

Rob:
This is a great way so that we can reach more engagers like you to achieve this mission of making engagement, retention and learning amazing using game inspired and gamification solutions. If you want the instructions, we created a quick one on Professorgame.com slash iTunes. And it’s itunes because that’s the one first one that we created. There’s a couple more in there. And as always, as we like to remind you, please, before you go on and do your next thing, please remember to hit that subscribe or that follow button using that favorite podcast app.

Rob:
And of course, listen to the next episode of Professor Game. See you there.

End of transcription

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