“Be the content itself and lead students” – Thailand

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.  For Team JubJub, trying again made all the difference. After participating in the 2009 Imagine Cup, but being unable to submit their game because they ran out of time, Team JubJub was extremely motivated to make a successful game in 2011. The second time was the charm. Their videogame, Junk Master, about recycling (the 3 R’s) and educating players about garbage classification, earned them a semi-finalist position in Game Design at the 2011 Imagine Cup and the Recognition Award from the SIPA Game contest in both Console and PC.

Team JubJub sought to create a fun and educational game about important environmental lessons. They wanted to make players realize how crucial the very small act of garbage classification is.  And for the team, their reward was truly the journey, not the destination. “We would like to say that the most impressive experience is not being in the final round with other teams,” says team spokesperson Wasin Thonkaew. “Rather, it is the time that we worked together once again to solve problems, develop new ideas, prepare the presentations, fix software bugs, gather equipment, and even walk around the city together.”

Here, Thonkaew shares his view on what today’s students need from their educators to push them to succeed.

Can you describe how your professional achievements have advanced
innovation in education?

As a team, we personally were able to become role models to junior students in our faculty, other faculties at the university where we were studying at that time, and also students who wanted to create games in notable universities in Thailand (especially those who decided to join in the Imagine Cup: Game Design competition).  What we created (the game) was like an un-seeable or un-touchable medium in our region, and it can now be used for educational purposes.  Students in our country rarely engaged in this creative way, so we paved a way for them. We thought outside the box.

What has changed as a result of your efforts?

It gave more energy to students. They engaged in trying new things they wouldn’t have done before, especially participating in competitions. They now pull out their own potential.

We also saw interesting reactions from children (when we gave them the games personally), and teachers as they tried to think about new approaches for studying – both in terms of course projects and ordinary class content. Yes, I would admit that most of them saw “games” as something to pass free time, something with no core value. But now as it raises attention and awareness from their own students, things have changed.

How can others facing similar challenges implement what you’ve learned through your work?

We aimed to create a game that embeds so-called “knowledge” without stressing that
too much or too obviously to the players – it should be FUN! And that’s the main difference; we bridged the gap and were able to engage more children as a main audience.

How have you applied technology in innovative ways to support your
work?

We started it all with the PC as we tried to pop up lots of cute graphics and animations as well as the fun factor, but also included challenging game play. Not only that, we ported the game into Windows Phone 7 with some cut/added features along with several enhancements to be played on a touch screen. Now the message we would love to send can be spread to even wider audience.

What is the biggest obstacle to ensure students are receiving a quality education?

It’s the traditional teaching approach that has made a large portion of students (and, importantly, those students in their early stages of study) not actively engaged or wanting to participate in open discussion. Those traits make education so boring, and they definitely affect other aspects of learning as a whole.

What is your country doing right now to support education?

I should speak straight and admit that I don’t feel impressed with their efforts. Two things: first, the “central testing system.” Most students and parents are very skeptical of its objective. If you take a look at each test question closely, what you see will surprise you as to whether it’s “a test for students” or “a testing ground for those who wrote the questions down on paper.” Second, the “One Tablet Per Child” campaign. I don’t think we’re ready yet to give out modern technology to youngsters. My thought is that we’d do better to invest in something that doesn’t include price tags, or trends. There’s definitely something more suitable for them; it’s about their core – what is lying inside, which we have to seek first.

What conditions must change in your country/region to better support education?

Turn around the traditional approach in teaching and the learning environment. Engage more in open discussion and opinion, rather than pure theory and lots of text just to have students memorize and put into test.

What is the best opportunity for innovation in education?

“Thinking outside the box.” Its context means that whenever we leave theory behind for a while, after investing a reasonable amount of time studying it, then switch to open discussion, experiment, field studying, or just plain action. Then hopefully we would see a light go off, and it would trigger us to continue thinking, and learn how to overcome challenges. And that’s how innovation happens.

What advice would you give a new teacher (or to anyone wanting to make a difference in education)?

Be the content itself and lead students. Students need freedom to think, and a guide to let them engage in a problem at hand in unique and different, but creative ways on their own. It’s not about the quantity of information digested by students, but how they take that information and apply it. It’s about desire and will.

If you could give one educational tool to every child in the world, what would it be? Why?

Bravery and creativity. “Bravery” will help them dare to take a first step on their own path. Creativity will polish and leverage the previous trait, or view challenges they face along the way in unique and interesting ways. Creativity encourages you to continue moving on.

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Celebrate Microsoft Imagine Cup 10th Anniversary! 

2012 marks the 10th Anniversary of students using technical innovation to solve some of the world’s toughest problems and this video takes you through the 10 year journey, from the first ever Imagine Cup to today!

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About Wasin Thonkaew
Indie Game Developer, Imagine Cup 2011 Game Design Semi-Finalists – Thailand

BirthplaceYala, Thailand
Current residenceBangkok, Thailand
Education:  BSc (First class honor) Information and Communication Technology (ICT)
Website I check every day:  Several. I subscribed to people I found interesting either they are in my career domain or not at all. I love to listen to their thoughts, adapt them, or even discuss with them.
Person who inspires me most:  John Carmack
Favorite childhood memory:  Being a goalkeeper that saved four out of five in penalty shootout.
Next travel destination (work or pleasure):  Sweden
When was the last time you laughed? Why?:  Yesterday, why be sad ? 😉
Favorite book:  Masters of Doom: How Two Guys Created An Empire and Transformed Pop Culture by David Kushner
Favorite music:  Paramore
Your favorite quote or motto:  “Just do it”

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Meet Tim Rogers, a student at the European Social and Political Studies at University College London. Tim develops for the web and also for mobile! Check out what Tim has to say about his experience as a student developer. http://bit.ly/yJ7g0T

Sign-up today to change the world on www.imaginecup.com!

The world’s toughest problems will be addressed one solution at a time. But who will lead the change? Compete in the Microsoft Imagine Cup student technology competition and you’ll join thousands of students from around the world who are stepping up to the challenge of global change. It all starts with you.

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