Thursday, August 11, 2011

Computer Games Chapter 4

The Pandora Project

There are more and more subjects that students need to learn each year.  Whether or not the education system is responsible for teaching values has been debated for years but the bottom line is that students learn values in school from teachers whether intentional or not.  Having students participate in a game that helps them see more than one side of a situation is a definite life skill.  They learn what professionals think of as "important, interesting and meaningful"(105)

This game is based on a medical controversy where there are five different view points all vying to get everything their way.  The game players have to think globally and be aware of the risks and benefits of complex science based public health issues.  As I see it, the main objective of this "game" is for students to realize that in the real world you have to give a little to get what you want.  They learn to negotiate to achieve each groups "best alternative to a negotiate agreement".  They have to learn to research to see what each viewpoint's needs will be and, as in debating, they need to come up with alternatives to what other groups want as well as to what they are willing to accept as compromises.  This game was only  played for nine hours in the classroom but was motivating enough that group members spent outside time researching and debating talking points.  They learned to prioritize issues and debrief afterwards to discuss and reflect on the results.

I see the benefits of this game being the group members learning to see more than one side, to weigh the options and think about the repercussions of political actions.  The chapter pointed out how some students opinions on decisions changed after playing the game and seeing how others might view the situations.  One player said, "In order to do it right, you had to look at everything from everybody's point of view."(123)  You couldn't just have your own opinion,  you had to understand all the other opinions in order to get what was best for your group.  This educational experience wanted students to develop and understand values as well as learn the skills and knowledge to communicate and understand others values.

This was about more than just values, it was about getting learners involved in the learning and motivated to learn.  There is a big difference between this and having students pick a view point, research and then write a paper on a controversial issue.  When you can get students involved in a discussion about a topic they are interested in, they will spend more time researching and thinking and less time writing.  It isn't about the knowledge, it's about the process.  This is a more motivating process.


  1. That is a huge benefit of game simulations you can get to the multiple interactions. Students have to manipulate multiple variables rather then one.

  2. My biggest struggle in school was that if I didn't have a personal interest in what we were studying, I had a terrible time paying attention to the lesson. I would be so bored and would barely be able to concentrate, which was quite often. At the time it seemed to me that so much of school was about learning stupid facts about things that I was never going to need to know or use in my life. On the rare occasion that I was really interested in something, I would become completely transfixed. In those instances, I wanted to learn as much as possible.

    I truly believe a big problem with our current school system is that it often fails to make that personal connection between what students learn. The results of which makes going to school feel more like it is a punishment and something being forced on you. When someone really hates what they are doing, they are not going to give it their best effort.
    So how do you get students motivated to work hard in the current system? It basically works like this: if you don't work hard then you won't get a good grade, you need good grades to get into a good college, you need to go to a good college in order to get a good job. The problem is that if someone doesn't care about grades or has no interest in going to college, the whole system falls apart. If you develop develop a personal connection to what you are learning, then grades are no longer the main motivating factor.

    I think games like the Pandora Project can help bridge that gap. They make everyone who plays become a stakeholder. The point of the game is to take a stance, even if it is just role playing. For many students, they may never have that experience of actually being invested in what they are learning. I would have loved playing any of the games discussed in this book and probably would have been a much better student as a result.

  3. Motivation is a huge problem in schools. I've tried to customize units to answer student questions about the topic, and I still see issues. Many jobs now, especially in Maine, require no higher education (think lobster fishermen). I know kids still in high school that drive a $40,000 truck and make 4 times what their teachers make in a year. How would you motivate them to put their nose in a book?

  4. With technology we can boutique education. Why we make students all focus on the exact same material (once past basic skills) is beyond me. With online education and tech centers students should be allowed to explore there interest. I am not saying they don't need to do any core content, but they do not need to take courses not focused on their interest. Now you can take courses anywhere, anytime, anyway you want or need.

  5. Pieter's comments get to a common challenge in education, getting (and keeping)student's attention. The Pandora project sounds exceptional because students were not only engaged but they were able to step out of their own skin and empathize with others.

    That is the goal. I suspect that all of us try these types of projects, although we might call them by names other than simulations, but I would also bet that the bigger issue is finding project that fits the students AND the learning goals for the class.