SIMAGES 2015.1 – Interview with Mohamed Bahgat

Mohamed Bahgat, First-Time NASAGA Participant
An Interview by Linda Keller

Bahgat is the founder of SeGa Team which focuses on learning and performance improvement through simulation and educational gaming activities. With a background in Systems Engineering and Educational Psychology, he consults in the Middle East and other international regions as a master coach and facilitator. This was Mohamed’s first NASAGA conference. He agreed to debrief his experience at the conference in this interview by Linda Keller, a NASAGA member since 2007 and creator of learning initiatives at the International Monetary Fund.

Who traveled the farthest to attend the NASAGA Conference in Baltimore? That distinction belongs to Mohamed Bahgat who journeyed all the way from Cairo, Egypt!
KELLER: How did you hear about the NASAGA Conference and what motivated you to travel this far to attend?

BAHGAT: I am passionate about educational gaming for adults and discovered the NASAGA online community. I joined several Twitter chat meetings – even if they did start at 3:00 AM in Egypt! The NASAGA Conference was interesting because it offered a specialized focus on educational gaming.
I am a great fan of Sivasailam “Thiagi” Thiagarajan and his simple yet effective techniques so I signed up for the Educational Game Design Certificate Program facilitated by Thiagi, Raja Thiagarajan, and Brian Remer. I came to the conference with 12 years’ experience across a wide range of audiences and contexts so this was an opportunity to benchmark myself and to discuss these concepts in depth with masters of our craft. I considered them my coaches during the conference.

KELLER: Was the conference what you expected? What surprised you?

BAHGAT: This exceeded all my expectations. It was an immersive educational gaming experience. At most conferences, you attend and listen to other people talk – very passive. At NASAGA we spent the entire 4 days passionately learning, cooperating and collaborating. In one session I would be learning from someone and in the next session he was beside me listening to others and the next session we were playing together with a third facilitator. The support was fantastic.

KELLER: You took many photographs during the conference. Do you have a phot that represents something you learned or found memorable?

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Remer, Bahgat, and Thiagi strike a pose during Goose Chase at the gala.

BAHGAT: All of my photos speak of an enjoyable, effective educational experience. Here is one from a keynote session where everyone in the room played GOOSE CHASE. Thiagi, Brian and I got points for striking an Egyptian Pose. Do we look like we are having fun?

KELLER: What were some of your favorite highlights of the NASAGA Conference

BAHGAT: The pre-conference meeting for newcomers was a wawoo experience. Instead of having the usual ice breaker game, we designed games for introductions. Within 45 minutes we designed and played four different games. So, even before the conference started we were collaborating, learning making friends and having fun. Next was the certificate session with Thiagi and Brian. It was a great experience.

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Bahgat, second from right, during the Unconference.

The third highlight was the “Unconference”. This was a new experience for me. Participants got to propose session topics. I proposed the topic “experiential coaching” to discuss a strategy I developed combining experiential learning and group coaching. I was able to introduce the concept and receive feedback from professionals in the field.

KELLER: Have you added any new strategies since attending the conference?

BAHGAT: I use many cooperative learning strategies, team building games and spontaneous role play simulations with my clients. What I am doing more since the conference is using different card and board games strategies.

KELLER: How do your learners react to these types of strategies?

BAHGAT: They have interacted very well with a very high positive feedback. I sometimes meet learners after a year or more in a new program and they remember the games and the feedback

KELLER: What advice do you have for someone coming to NASAGA for the first time?

BAHGAT: Live the full experience. Interact and network with all of the people that come – they are all very good and passionate about this topic.

KELLER: Is there anything else you would like to share with readers or your NASAGA friends?

BAHGAT: This is what I knew before and what was reinforced at NASAGA. There are two important phases for getting the maximum impact out of the design and facilitation of educational games. The first phase is readiness – focusing on the participants and how to transition them into and through the activity. The other phase is the reviewing phase after the activity. Besides my respected colleagues at NASAGA, I have learned much from Dr. Roger Greenaway and suggest a visit to his website.

KELLER: Thank you very much for sharing your NASAGA experience with us!

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