In an earlier post we started this brainstorm series – thinking about a simulation that could be designed for a large class (400 students) to get them engaged and interested in basic development and conflict. Since then we received some comments and suggestions from Rex, Lucas and Michael and some feedback from Professor X, so we have more to go on now. Here is some of that conversation and some more information:
…there’s a strategic decision to be made as to whether one wants to simulate a broad system (for example, WTO negotiations) or focus on a particular scenario/theme/issue (for example, the various stakeholders in a major investment or aid initiative). Both approaches have strengths and weaknesses.
Professor X wants to focus on a scenario, in fact, he has one that he has used as an example in earlier courses, it goes like this:
There are two people stranded on an island, Robinson Crusoe and Xena, the Warrior Princess. Both can spend their time eating, collecting Coconuts at the rate of B per hour. Alternatively, they can spend some of their time fighting over the collected coconuts, call the energy devoted to this G. Any unspent hours are used for leisure which has its own value.
Using this simple model in the course, Professor X goes on to discuss optimal production, redistribution and possibility production frontiers. It is an easy, accessible example used to demonstrate to undergrads how important security of property and property rights are in our economic models of production. Now, is there a way to create a simple game for 400 people based on that model?
how much class time does one want to devote to this, and over what period of time? Is it a simulation one would run in a class or two, or periodically over the year? Will it be done in class time (and largely face-to-face), or outside of it (and perhaps largely electronically).
My perception is that he would like to spend some class time on this. Maybe this could be a fifteen minute exercise four or so times during the course. If it was simple enough and short, it could be run more than that. This is strategic, since one of the objectives is to get students more engaged in the course. Hypothetically, this could also contribute to participation scores.
Running the game multiple times addresses some of the other points raised by Rex and Lukas:
Doing multiple identical simulations is useful for compare and contrast – and allows you to change one variable. If you have 40 teams, and provide one meaningful twist in the instructions, you can demonstrate in a powerful way how that influences the outcome of the situation.
Maybe by starting very simply, the game could be expanded and complicated over multiple iterations – helping the students to learn along the way what the effect of these changes are.
What if the game [Untitled, any suggestions?] went something like this:
First Round – Basics of Production – Have students form cooperatives that produce something [Any suggestions?]. This should involve utliity maximization between production and leisure.
Second Round – Basics of Redistribution – Introduce the strategic option of stealing. Perhaps some cooperatives are given the choice to steal from neighboring cooperatives and they must declare, simultaneously, what action they are taking. [Suggestions or considerations for keeping this playable or making it fun?]
Third Round – Basics of Enforcement – Introduce the role of guardians, cooperatives or agents that can limit redistribution if they are nearby. [Again, need suggestions for ways to keep this simple and easy to execute in a class of 400]
Repeating this very simple game (possibly repeating some of the rounds multiple times) with learning actors might also demonstrate how dynamics change over time. If there is any element of geography incorporated (you can only steal from a coop sitting less than three seats away) – the class may naturally develop different dynamics in a large lecture hall as actors respond to their environment (or change their seats!).
This has a long way to go and I am sure I am missing lots of considerations – but that is what brainstorming is for – so feel free to jump in with questions, comments and suggestions for Professor X as he develops this farther.
Is there any way to score this? Is scoring important? Could scoring lead to participation scores? Should it?
Will students do this? Will they stand up if they need to move or act in some way? What will get them involved?
Does this teach the right lessons? Will students game the game or will they learn from the process (can the game game the students?)?