Learning through a Magic lens

I am currently residing in a hotel room. And not even a fancy one at that. If it was just because I was on vacation in a warm, sunny place, with freeflowing drinks, it would probably be more than alright. But no! The weather isn’t exactly anything to brag about, here in Copenhagen I must say.

But okay, the long story short, is that I am lucky enough that my employer has seen it fit to grant me some time off to further educate myself. This means I am following a module of a master in Adult Education and Acquiring of Competences. By all means great! I love to learn, and it is both relevant and very interesting, this course.

But following a course in Copenhagen means that I have to leave wife, kids and home for a couple of days each month. Now this shouldn’t be a problem, and it normally isn’t when I am traveling work-related, but this time it has been quite the strain. When I left Monday morning, my youngest had been sickly for almost a week, and I couldn’t help but feel a little like a dick. When I engage on work-related travel it is something different. Then I can “cast blame” on my employer, for forcing me away from my daily life and responsibilities, but when I am “just” on education, there is really only myself to blame.

And generally I have been in a strange mood of combined feelings of melancholy, home-sickness and a weird feeling of not being where I belong. Maybe some nostalgia in the mix? I don’t know. My mood hasn’t really been for learning and excelling in a non-home environment, to say the least.

This is the exact mood and feeling I normally expel by gathering some wizards around my (or one of theirs’) kitchen table, and start slinging some spells. And by magic, a couple of hours later, the feeling is long gone.

But alas, it hasn’t been possible for me to do so here. And I don’t even have that many cards with me (but I do have some – of course, I do). So the next best thing to playing magic is of course to write about it, and that, I will do.

Personal learning journey

And I will take my vantage point in the aforementioned education or course I am following this fall. Because when we met for the first time back in September, I had another insight about how Magic has had a profound effect on my life – and still has (you can read some of my other thoughts on that matter here).

Because on that first day, we were asked to draw our personal learning journey. Now, what might that be? You ask. Great question, thank you for asking that.

The personal learning journey is a visual collection of some of the most radical or deep-seated learning experiences you have had throughout your life. It could be the time when you cracked the code to the magic of reading, it could be that time, when you experienced how your words have true and meaningful impact on your surroundings or it could be when you stood with your newborn in your arms the first time. The point is, that this learning journey encompasses all major – and possibly personality defining – learning instances throughout your life. Both in formal educational contexts and others.

And why am I writing this, on this exact blog. Well, first of all because this is the blog I have access to write on, and I really think it is a very inspirational and can-be enlightening way of looking at your life to make such a learning journey. Also – and, admittedly, maybe more importantly – because the first mark on my personal learning journey was when I started to play Magic the Gathering.

Learning on many levels

See, it is not because learning or playing Magic was the first important or life-altering thing I ever learned. Learning to read, write, and do (very basic, thank you!) math all precedes my magic learning process in time. However, I cannot remember any of those learning points. I cannot remember my feelings when I learned to read and so on.

But I do remember when I started playing Magic.

When I showed my personal learning journey to my study group and explained what the little “Magic” at the very beginning meant, several of them were surprised about the fact, that I would put something so – in the eyes of an outsider – trivial as an offset for a learning journey. A journey that also contained learning points of great privilege when confronted with the poverty of India, a strong insight when confronted with an academic way of arguing, the loss of an unborn child and the birth of two healthy children.

How on earth could I think that learning to play a game, could ever earn the right to be on the same scale as the others?

Well, first of all, and as I have written elsewhere (link above), it may be one of the most defining moments of my life, when we take into account the side effects it has had.

But what occurred to me was that the game of Magic has not only been a factor in the very important aspects of getting friends and establishing a family as well as learning to think strategically and be able to save up money. It occurred to me, that Magic has had – and still has – a very subtle way of impacting my life.

A framework for learning

What I learned through working with and trying to explain my personal learning journey, was that Magic has in many aspects been a lens through which I make meaning of the world. My experience with Magic the Gathering helps me understand and make sense of the world around me. It helps me learn. Magic is simply often a frame of reference when I am confronted with otherwise incomprehensible or insurmountable challenges.

How so?

Well, not by thinking “What would Sol-Kanar do?” The answer to that is easy, as we all know: Smash face. That is simply not a very prudent tactic of survival and prospering!

And no, not even by thinking “What would the Enchantress do?” either. She would probably just wait out in her forest, hiding until the challenges withered or evaporated. Another not so great strategy.

No, it is a bit more implicit than that. Let me try to give a couple of examples.

When, for example, I am confronted with a difficult, academic text I have to read and understand, I instantly try to figure out what the “real” focus is. What are the most important, central points I need to understand: what is it the author wants? What is the aim? I don’t always start out by reading what the author actually writes, but instead try to figure out, what he or she is writing up against, what is his or her metagame?

Having established just a rudimentary metagame, often makes it a lot easier to understand why some choices, that was otherwise a bit surprising to me, was made. It was a necessary choice, to heighten the text’s chances in the expected metagame – the academic discourse it is trying to enter or even redefine.

In some ways, it is the same thing – just the other way around – when I have to solve some complex task. I often start out by establishing what I want to achieve, and what I am up against. I then assemble the most prudent weapons for the task, and build my deck. And just as when I am deckbuilding, the important cards or elements are the ones, that will have some direct encounter with the opponent or the end-users of whatever task I am solving. I always say, that the rest is just logistics: Manabase (economy), a draw engine and protection for your central cards (back-up plans) and maybe some disruption or removal for opposing threads (communication and dissemination of the task).

I like to think that I instinctively see a lot of my world through a lens of Shivan Dragons, Lords of the Pit and Forces of Nature. It makes the everyday tasks and chores so much cooler. Also, it is simply way more fun, to think of it this way.

And now, see! The mood has lightened, and tomorrow I will be back home with my family… Have a great day/night/morning wherever you are, and thank you for reading!

Oh-oh-uh! Just one last thing – this is an Old School Magic blog after all, right!

I mentioned at the very beginning, that I do have some cards with me. So without further ado (the last three pages will be enough ado for you tonight) here are a couple of nice alphas and my Mirror Universe who has been out for loan for a year or two, but is now firmly back in the grasp of my hands…

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