Our Interview with Branża Dziecięca

Our co-founder, Jon Maiden, was recently interviewed by Anna Orleanska, the editor of Poland's leading toy magazine Branża Dziecięca. Anna met Jon in Germany at the world's largest toy fair where she said: "It’s my 7th year at Speilwarenmesse and Panjango is the best idea I’ve ever seen.” The interview was printed in Polish but here's the translated version for you to read below. Enjoy!

Tell me all about Panjango :) What inspired you? What's the big idea?

We believe the education system is no longer fit for purpose. It makes young people learn information almost solely for the purpose of passing exams. This has very little real world relevance and fails to capture the true value that young people can offer to society. So we’ve set out on an ambitious journey to transform the way the world learns!

We want to gamify and give context to learning so that it is far more enjoyable and engaging for young people - and so that they are developing the practical knowledge and skills needed to thrive in life after school. We also want to help young people to find their purpose in life by discovering their hidden talents and the exciting, real world applications of their knowledge and skills.

So we’re creating a world of experiential learning, both online and offline, to connect learning to life and help young people fulfil their potential. We have already launched our Panjango Online platform for schools and have now created a series of exciting new board and card games that can be enjoyed in either the classroom or the family home.

Our team is comprised of individuals with a range of education backgrounds including teachers. Before co-founding Panjango, I was the director of an arts education charity which used creativity and the arts to bring about transformational social outcomes for young people. A lot of that creative approach has been carried forward into the games we have developed at Panjango.

How do you play The Panjango Game? How many people can play etc?

The Panjango Game is a fast-moving, quick-thinking board game exploring the world of work. Players both compete and cooperate with up to six players as they complete a wide range of challenges, from Tool Twister to Story Chains, and Unscramble to Disaster Plans. There are 24 challenge varieties in total in four different challenge piles - Question, Action, Team Play and All Play. With so much variety, it guarantees a fun exploration of the world of work!

We also have two card games based on the popular trumps format. Panjango Trumps is a unique twist on the classic game that pits 50 different careers against each other in a fun battle of stats. The categories includes Brain Power, Social Good, Physical Effort, Expected Salary, Study & Training and Robot Risk (the risk of the job becoming automated). Each trump card also comes with a Job Description and a Fun Fact to really bring the careers to life for young people.

Our Future Jobs trumps game explore the future world of work and jobs that don’t even exist yet! The game allows young people to discover 50 weird and wonderful future jobs from Data Detective to DNA Reprogrammer, or Memory Surgeon to Meat Grower!

How did you create a list of Future Jobs? Did it come from your imagination or have you consulted with experts?

We started with a huge amount of research on futurism reports and studies. This helped us create a long list of options to include within our Future Jobs pack. Then we consulted with some of the world’s leading futurists to refine the list. This even included the UNESCO Chair of Future Studies! We also asked the futurists to produce their own ratings for the categories so that we could generate informed and objective data for the cards.

We’re delighted with the result! The game will really open young minds to the fascinating possibilities that will exist in the future - and some of the really exciting ways young people may be able to solve some of the problems we face as a society. For example, they could work as a Geoengineer to tackle climate change, or an Extinction Revivalist to help restore the wildlife we have lost in recent decades.

I've been trying to find a kid who actually likes going to school. But mostly I've heard: "I hate it. They want me to only learn information to pass exams." Do you think Panjango can help teachers to make learning exciting for children?

This is exactly why we created our games! We want to show children the exciting, real world applications of their learning. We also want to help them develop the 21st century skills that they need in the modern world, but they just aren’t developing in schools because of the focus on teaching to the test. Our games better reflect the way that children learn in the real world i.e. by playing and exploring, and they tap into children’s natural curiosity for learning. 

We’re still obviously very early on in our journey, but we have ambitious plans to transform the way the world learns. We want to create whole series of educational games, massively expand our existing Panjango Online platform, and see millions of children worldwide using our new Panjango app once it is launched!

All of our products will gamify and give context to learning, and therefore demonstrate an alternative way of learning. We hope that educators around the world can follow our example and we can ultimately become a catalyst in shifting education into a new era.

Have you tested Panjango in schools? What are teachers saying about the games? What are children saying?

We worked alongside teachers and pupils throughout the development process of each of our games. They were instrumental in informing the design and content of the games and make sure that we struck the right balance between learning and fun! Since the launch of the games, we’ve received glowing praise from teachers using the products.

Dr. Richard Gerver, UK School Head Teacher of the Year and best-selling education author, said the following: “Panjango is a powerful, immersive experience which helps young people understand why their learning is important and how it is used in practical settings in the world of work. The games bring learning to life, making if fun, interactive and meaningful.”

We’ve also got dozens and dozens of reviews from children but I’d say this one is my favourite: “I loved how it makes education fun!”. That right there is why we’re doing what we’re doing so it’s wonderful to hear that children themselves think we have succeeded in this tricky challenge.

You've presented Panjango this year at Spielwarenmesse (the world’s largest toy fair). What was your impression of this toy fair? Did you find some interesting contacts there?

Speilwarenmesse was our first time exhibiting at any trade show so we certainly threw ourselves in at the deep end by attending the world’s largest toy fair! It was a wonderful experience though. We met with a great many useful contacts from around the world - whether retailers, distributors, potential partners or just enthusiastic members of the public who loved what our games are trying to achieve. My favourite visitor to our stand was Branża Dziecięca’s very own Editor, Anna Orleanska, who said "It’s my 7th year at Speilwarenmesse and Panjango is the best idea I’ve ever seen.” That certainly brought a smile to my face! We’ll definitely be back at Speilwarenmesse next year - hopefully with several more new games.

At the moment, are there only English versions of the games?

Yes, but we are working with partners we met at Speilwarenmesse to explore the possibility of translating the games into other languages, including Polish. My granddad was Polish so there’s nothing I’d like more than to see our games translated into Polish.

While you all wait for translated versions, I think it’s important to note that our games make fantastic English language learning tools as they incorporate a range of fun word games and challenges and, given the international language of business is English, they help children to learn important vocabulary relating to the world of work.  

What are your plans for Panjango in 2019?

We have exciting plans for 2019! We’re currently working on plans for a Panjango app which will immerse children in fun journeys through the world of work and give them the opportunity to use their knowledge and skills to tackle ‘real world’ scenarios like a virus outbreak, bridge collapse or prisoner escape! Watch this space for more…