Knowing Your Resources: Help a Colleague, Help Yourself

The other day a colleague came into my office and said “hey–  I have class in twenty minutes on X.  Any ideas for a game I could use?”  I wish I could say that I immediately pulled a game on X off my shelf, dusted it off, and handed it to him, but X is a bit outside my usual wheelhouse.  We traded a few ideas for a way to make X into a manageable activity, but did not have a concrete plan by the time he had to head to class.  Afterwards i went online, and sure enough found explicit instructions for an activity on X, complete with teacher resources, handouts, and images to show students.  The site, by the way is The Foundation for Teaching Economics, and it is chock full of teacher resources and activities on all kinds of topics at the intersection of economics and politics.

A quick example:  whenever I teach international relations, I always start the class with this question: ‘how has the world outside of the United States had an impact on you today?’  They are skeptical at first, but as the answers come stumbling out, they eventually realize all the ways in which the world is connected and that serves as a solid foundation for why understanding IR is crucial regardless of their major.  The big reveal on this is when they realize that their clothing is usually all made outside of the US—rarely do they have even one thing on their person entirely ‘made in the USA’.  For me this is a short introductory discussion, but FTE has an entire activity on the subject, involving putting push pins in a map and discussion questions to follow.  I’m not sure that I want to upgrade my activity to this level, but its wonderful to see a version of the idea documented and free to use by instructors.

I always like finding a new source for games, and would not have found this one if not for my colleague challenging me to find one for him.  I get the satisfaction of helping a colleague, and in return, not only did I find new games for myself (the ones on water use will be particularly useful for my environmental and energy security class next term) but I saw evidence that my obsession with games and active learning is having an effect outside of my own classes.

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