Tuesday, July 3, 2012

What matters most? - Activities for critical thinking about values and opinions (Part 1 of 3)

Here I am, as always, taking these games so seriously!
Back in March I compiled some resources for game that can be used as an activity for critical thinking. Now that I have had more experience with the game in the classroom and I have mined some other examples of its use, I am doing a three part segment on its potential for education in a variety of settings.

One article will list the fun, free activities based on the game.  The final segment highlights the most important lessons I have gleaned from playing it over the past decade.

Update 8/7/2013:  My friends at Fair Play Games have one edition of this game on sale for $7.99 for four copies.  That's enough for the whole class to play!  Check this post out for more information.

But first I want to emphasize the value of this type of activity in school.

Thinking critically and continuing the conversation

When I first created What’s It To Ya? I was teaching math and it didn’t cross my mind to use the game in the classroom. Game design was my hobby and I often immersed myself in it as a break from education.

But one year I found myself teaching a course about life goals and success to high school seniors. I realized then that What’s It To Ya? made a great activity to kick off lessons about priorities. Since that time I have created many interactive classroom activities based on the game. I also have gathered feedback from others who have used its primary activity and the cards for more than just a party game. It has a unique potential to create meaningful discussion and reflection in a fun way.

In fact, the game meets a pressing need in education it has become a mission for me to bring it to others. At a time when groups across society are at all extremes on questions of values and social policies, conversation is vital. In the classroom, though, I found my attempts to encourage any discussion (or even personal reflection) about important topics with many viewpoints would end almost immediately. I had a similar experience in my graduate courses as a student myself.

There was a resistance to open discussion on topics of religion, religious people, politics or morality even if the point of the discussion was merely to uncover facts (as opposed to changing anyone’s mind). The sense that it would be fruitless, too personal or too volatile a subject won out. Most would say something along the lines of, “Everyone sees it differently,” and be done with it. If we are to get along as a society as a whole and if we value diversity as we say we do, I think we must do better at discussing our differences. When important questions are merely ignored and convictions cannot be articulated, emotional outbursts will win out over rational debate and we will only find ourselves more divided.

From personal experience and feedback from others, I am convinced this game and the activities based on it can provide useful skills and a common language for meaningful discussion between people who disagree strongly on important matters. This opens the door to an environment were vital problem solving can take place.

Please see the next posts in this series for a complete picture of how this game can be useful in education.

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