Fantasy Geopolitics

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Students use their PEDs during Draft Day to maximize their picks.

My Grade 12 students tend to zone out in early May with their case of “Senior-itis.” Once conversations of Prom and post-secondary acceptances begin, it becomes more challenging to motivate. Earlier in the spring, I came across a link to Eric Nelson’s Fantasy Geopolitics (Kickstarter campaign). This would be my solution to May disengagement.

Fantasy Geopolitics is essentially mimics a sports fantasy draft. Instead of players, students draft countries which then earn them points depending on how many times the country is mentioned in the New York Times.  Nelson’s online app for Fantasy Geopolitics automates the draft, scoring and links to the NYT. It’s a management tool to make this sort of activity very easy. His newest verison also makes links to the UN Millennium Development Goals.

Nelson says,

We’re not just trying to gamify learning. We’re going after the “learnification” of gaming. We encourage students and teachers to get curious about the world in which they live and then become fans of global competence, all the while playing, reading, and learning!

Three days before our Draft Day, I introduced my HSB4U Challenge and Change students to the program. In teams of two, they went off to research what countries might provide them the greatest end score. We would be playing for 3 weeks and students could swap their picks later if they wanted using the FG App.

Draft day was intense. Students were forced to make last minute decisions when their top picks were selected by others. We ate potato chips. We chirped each other’s choices. It was a hoot. It also only took about 40 minutes.

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The “Scores” tab in the Fantasy Geopolitics App

As the game progressed, students got down to business and used the “Scores” tab to help predict “up and coming” countries.

I planned to award prizes for 1st, 2nd, 5th and second last. That way, even the students who ended up with the countries least interesting to Western eyes, could still be engaged. (I also found this helpful to lead a discussion about why countries like Malawi or Laos rarely make North American news).

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screen shot of game play.

Each subsequent class, we’d analyze who was winning, which countries had gained points over the last 24 hours and why. Students realized France was more than its Cannes Film Festival (while we played, the country was making headlines for a shift away from its a role in the European Union and for problems between citizens and refugees).

Students came to class with stories about the countries they had selected. Others were excited about a potential point coup because they had traded Vietnam for Thailand – “Ms! They just issued Martial Law! It’s gonna get crazy!” Each new idea was a great win for global awareness and global connections.

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2014 ChaCha Fantasy Geopolitics Winners

Other lessons started with “Africa is not a Country” themes. We would conclude with Countries of Africa (or other continents) on the smartboard.

We discussed what limitations the New York Times had in teaching us about world issues. We sought out alternative news sources like Al Jazeera and New Internationalist, and discussed the differences between coverage of events in the BBC and CBC.

After 3 weeks and Post-Prom, we had our winners. Nelson had been following our game on Twitter and sent us t-shirts for our winners.

Short surveys indicated my students really enjoyed the game. Eighty percent said they spent more time reading about international issues. Sixty percent said thought more about global issues and media coverage. All students said it helped them stay interested in the course over an otherwise challenging period.

I would use this program with grade 7 – 12. It’s got clear links to the 2013 Geography- History- Civics curriculum. Strand A2 focuses on Transferable Skills developed through investigations. The  grade 9 Geography program asks studetns to analyse selected national and global population issues and their implications for Canada as part of Strand D. I would also use it in Civics to “assess ways in which people express their perspectives on issues of civic importance (C2).”

One of the suggestions I got from a student was that each person choose the rank he/she would want to meet. For Example, Nic and Matt want to end up 6th. Jill & Carrie want to end up in 4th position rather than all students aiming for 1st. That way, they would have to be more strategic to select more media-heavey countries or those less in the spotlight. This helps to reduce disengagement when one country seems to have a lot more points than anyone else.

What might you do or try with this program? Let me know in the comments or drop Eric Nelson a line!

Nelson and his team are seeking small donations to keep the site up and running. This allows you to commission as many leagues as you want for a year. It’s worth it. Pay the guy.

You can follow Eric Nelson here: 

 

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Games

Here are a few games you can use in your classroom. I believe all can be adapted and modified to fit many elements of the history, civics or social science curriculums.

10 Out

Object: be the last person in the game.

  1. Sit on the desk. – on desk = in the game, in chair = out of the game.
  2. Count numerically from 1 – 10.
  3. Each player says up to 3 numbers sequentially.  (ex, 1 or 1-2, or 1-2-3…)
  4. move around the group in the same order.
  5. you are trying to force others to say 10.  If they do, they sit back in their chair and lose.
  6. Start again at 1
  7. repeat until you only have one person on their desk. They are the winner

The Tower

Have students work together to build a tower from paper.

PDF Instructions (I’m sorry – it’s a terrible copy).

Nuclear Simulation

Students make judgements about who can survive after a nuclear war destroys the planet.

instructions

Possible extensions:

  1. Create a set of cards with “communist” vs. “non-communist” McCarthy-like assumptions. Students have to categorize who is arrest and who is not.
  2. Create a set of cards with qualities possessed by different immigrant families or individuals. Students then determine who can come to Canada and who cannot. This may be done for immigration policies for 1900 as well as current practice. Perhaps students can determine the best criteria.

Here’s a similar game where students have to determine what items should be taken from a crash site.

Scategories

Instructions for this game can be found on one of my older posts.

The Ball Toss

Object: Say 5 topics within a given category before the other players pass an object around the room

  1. Students sit in a circle.
  2. One student is “it.”
  3. The Game Master selects a category in which “it” must list 5 terms. He/she must do this before the rest of the class passes the ball around the circle.
  4. “It” wins if she/he lists their words quickly and correctly. The class wins if they pass the ball effectively.

Rock Scissors Paper – Marxism

this is an awesome game used by Greg Kulowiec at The History 2.0 Classroom.

Purpose: The game is played to demonstrate Karl Marx’s view of capitalism, exploitation of the working class, the control of the means of production & the difference between the bourgeoisie & proletariat.

Rules:

  1. Each player is given two paper clips (units of money).

  2. One paper clip is the minimum necessary for your survival.  Any more than one paper clip allows you to do with what you will.

  3. Everyone has the same opportunity to earn more money by challenging others to a game of rock, paper, and scissors.

  4. You may accept or refuse a challenge to play, except from a player with more units of money, in that case you must accept the challenge.

  5. You may go at it alone, pool resources, divide winnings or create alliances.

  6. The winner of each challenge takes one unit from the loser.

  7. Once a player has not units and loses a match, they become the employee of the winner of said match.

    1. As an employee, the individual must challenge others on behalf of their boss.  Once two units are earned for the boss, the employee keeps one unit, gives one to the boss and gains their independence.

  8. If an employee with nothing loses to another, he becomes the employee of the new winner, unless the new winner is also an employee.  Then both work for the original employer.  (The employee plays with his labor, not the units of the employer.  If your employee loses, you lose your employee to the person who won, and he works for the new employer.)

  9. Employees may not challenge their boss.

Discussion

  1. What was it like to be an employee?
  2. Why did you become an employee?
  3. Was it easy to gain your independence?
  4. Was it easy to become a boss?
  5. Was it easy to stay a boss?

Got any more ideas or links to new strategies? Please tell me in the comments!

Resources: Even Bad Ones can be Great!

This week I challenged my class of Bachelor of Education candidates to think outside of the box. I asked them to evaluate a variety of print and electronic resources and discuss alternative ways to use these resources in class.

Often, teachers are given limited resources but are still required to inspire students to enjoy history. Sometimes an dusty old box or a pile of worksheets can be given new life through a little creativity. Other resources can be used in lessons about “why don’t we use this sort of thing anymore?”

Here’s what my teacher-candidates came up with. I have provided as many links as possible so that you may use these ideas too!

Tops and Tails

Tops and tails encourages students to get up, interact and think about the text they have and the ones they encounter.

Students are provided a portion of a quote on a sheet of paper or cue card. Their job is find the other half of the card. This can be a great icebreaker as students can be required to introduce themselves to people to whom they talk.

Variations:

1) A definition and the term

2) A date (or a decade?) and its significant event

3) Sentences from a text (students find other half and then, as a larger group, try to put the text in the right order and PHYSICALLY stand in this order)

4) Literacy – Have students discuss why certain matches didn’t work together

Example:

History Tops and Tails – quote scramble

How to:

1) create your phrases (Make sure you have enough for all your students!)

2) cut in individual pieces

3) give to students

4) Fun ensues.