Teaching with social media

Facebook_like_thumbReading Casey’s post, I have been reflecting on my own use of social media in the classroom. Here at Surrey, we’ve long been active in this field, because we recognised the value of developing new spaces of communication as a way both of getting more from our teaching and of preparing students for the world outside the classroom.

The value of that has become clearer over time, not least in the facility that our graduates have demonstrated in using those media to make themselves more attractive to employers and to support the community of learning they developed during their time with us. For our part as educators, we have see real benefits from connecting and engaging with a far wider community than might have been possible in the bad old days of the 2000s (sic).

But all of this raises a number of questions, not least of which is the matter of how one gets to a situation where social media can reasonably be brought into the classroom.

In part, this is a transitional issue, since usage of social media becomes more and more pervasive. Certainly, as everyone seems to be using social media, so the pressure to join in becomes ever higher, and the barriers ever lower: the amount of technical expertise needed to use Twitter (for example) is minimal, even if optimal use still requires some work.

However, we have to recognise the limits to this: I still encounter groups of students who have no experience at all with particular media (including my own class, last week). Precisely because there are so many platforms to choose from, there remains a distinct possibility that your students won’t use (or know how to use) the platform you want. Put it like this: none of us use Pinterest.

In such cases, either you have to train people up – as I’ve done for my Twitter negotiation – or you have to use a Bring-Your-Own-Device model, where the substantive content can be accessed via multiple platforms. The latter is more flexible for students, but requires much more technical expertise on your part.

Surrey’s approach has been to create a more general environment in which social media are mainstreaming into different parts of our provision. That means active Twitter and Facebook pages, which get used to connect prospective and current students, programme information and specific content within modules. By trying to link together elements, we raise the overall visibility and introduce the different platforms to users.

A good example of this is our use of hashtags in Twitter, to highlight particular campaigns: currently, our #PoliticsMonth events are bringing in a range of activities to the university, and students can not only see those more easily, but also contribute more easily. When I chaired a hustings for the general election for our Politics Society last month, I could gather questions from the floor using the event hashtag, which meant more efficient gathering and organising of their input to the panel. A similar system could be set up for large classes, with the lecturer getting instantaneous feedback to their device during lectures, which could then be fed more seamlessly into the content.

Likewise, the encouragement of students to use social media to talk with each other and with teaching staff provides a rapid and accessible means of supporting student learning: a tweet or a Facebook post can be read by others who might be in the same situation. In terms of general student support, this has been a great boon, especially for our students out on professional placements, often overseas.

The keystone in all of this is then a degree of engagement by staff. If they don’t use social media, and use it often, then it’s very hard to get students to do the same.

In that, I have been very fortunate to have the group of colleagues I do, since we have had a very high level of buy-in to the social media work. That has covered Twitter, Facebook, blogging and other platforms. Importantly, it’s also required a maintenance of activity over a long time-frame.

Indeed, that time-frame is effectively open-ended: we’re about three years into this and we’ll carry on as long as necessary. That needs someone to keep reminding people to do it, until it becomes almost second-nature: certainly, many of my colleagues use social media very reflexively, which is easy for them and reinforces the message about the value of doing it for others.

Even without the kind of massive investment that some other units have made into this field – LSE is a good example of what can be achieved online – I would hope that our example will show how even a modest application of effort can have significant pay-offs.

Multiple and Parallel Worlds: Simulations in Large Classes

For faculty that teach in large classrooms with several hundred students, lecture can seem like the only possible method of instruction. Discussion, let along simulations and games, are seen as better employed in TA-led sections, where the number of students is much more manageable. This may seem especially true for some of the games we discuss on ALPS, such as Diplomacy, which in its classic version is meant for only 7 players, and even in teams becomes unwieldy with more than 21.

At first glance, not the most appealing environment for gaming and role-play. Source.

There are simulations that can work really well in a large classroom setting. A Model United Nations, for example, run as either a General Assembly or split into committees, can be great with 200 students. The same principle holds for any organizational simulation, such as a Model Congress or Model European Union. The Hobbes Game also works regardless of the number of students.

But in other games, 200 students is about 170 too many. Groups are too large, there are high incentives for free-riding, or lots of dead time where students have to wait for others to act. Running one large game in this kind of environment is likely to be unsuccessful, if the game itself is not easily scalable.

Luckily, there is a trick to managing this problem. It involves the use of multiple or ‘parallel’ worlds, where instead of running a single version of the game, you run multiple simultaneous versions, with students split into several smaller groups and each group plays its own self-contained version of game. If you wanted to play Diplomacy, for example, you could bring in several game boards and run 3 or 4 different games at the same time, with a TA adjudicating moves for each independent game. In a UN Security Council simulation, you can run 2 or 3 different security councils, all working on the same issue.

There are several advantages to this. First, it lets you use games and simulations meant for smaller groups in a manageable way, whether during sections or during the main lecture meeting. Second, it lets students see how the same exact starting point can lead to very different results, and allows them to discuss the reasons for those differences (structure? social? individual ability?). It also creates some neat opportunities that smaller versions of the game may not have. For example, in Diplomacy, you could allow teams representing the same country in different game worlds to talk strategy with each other. Students can then see how the same strategy or goals can have vastly different effects depending on the actions of other teams and players.

So if you teach large classes and want to try out a game or simulation in your class, consider the parallel worlds model. It’s a great way to bring some more active components into the classroom!

For more on this, check out Jason Keiber’s paper, “Dividing Up the Game: From Serial to Parallel
Simulations”,
presented at the 2013 APSA TLC.

Meet the Press

Today is the second of a series of posts by a guest contributor, Casey Delehanty, doctoral candidate in political science at Florida State University

Meet the Press 2In my previous post, I argued that larger classes are an opportunity and not a drawback for using simulations: existing roles can be expanded and made more intricate, lending more depth. Large classes also allow instructors to experiment with new roles that can further deepen a simulation while taking some of the work off of the instructor’s hands. In this post, I will share some of my experience with one of these roles: media actors.

Roles for media actors can fit into almost any preexisting simulation and enhance students’ experience in multiple ways. First, making the media a playable actor can help demonstrate the idea that information is limited and that biases held by media actors can drive opinions and behavior. Second, introducing a media actor can bring more “eyes” to events within the simulation, which encourages students to more fully embrace their roles and allows the instructor to more easily keep tabs on a larger classroom via news updates. Finally, media actors can create a written record of events during the simulation, which serves as a reference during debriefs.

Meet the PressHere are some tips on using media actors in simulations:

Embrace technology: In my simulations, I allow media actors to create Twitter accounts, which are displayed in real time at the front of the classroom for all to see (a helpful suggestion picked up from the 2014 APSA TLC Simulations and Role Play Track). This feed allows the entire class to be aware of important events happening around the classroom, and it forces media actors to roam freely with smartphones to cover the latest news.

Make the media relevant: In larger simulations, instructors must often adjudicate the various events from a simulation session and release the results to the classroom. When operating a simulation with media actors, make sure to release as much simulation-related information through the media as is possible. This reinforces the political importance of the media and can help to empower the actors themselves to adhere more closely to their roles. Instructors can also strategically release information through the media that can keep other actors within the spirit of the simulation. For example, if the leader of State X is acting out of character, the instructor can ask the media to cover the growing unrest of State X’s citizenry, encouraging its leaders to react to their constituents.

Create multiple perspectives: While many of the above-described tasks can be accomplished via one media actor, it can also be helpful to create multiple media sources with differing perspectives. This eases the burden on any particular media actor and introduces competition to the media landscape. Differing media perspectives can be included ex-ante within actors’ position descriptions.

Allow room for creativity: Beyond the Twitter feed, I allow each media actor three minutes of “air time,” wherein they can command the attention of the class to present “the news.” Uses of this space can vary from interviews with notable figures in the simulation to investigative pieces on the plight of the downtrodden. The “air time” allows people with media roles to showcase their creativity, inform fellow students, and add realism to the simulation.

Don’t be afraid to require a bit more: In my experience, media roles are some of the most sought-after positions within simulations. As such, instructors can lean on the media actors a bit harder to produce relevant material for the class (for example: a short bulletin-style news brief to be shared with the class). Generally, the same impulses that led students to desire a position as a media actor will drive them to put in a little extra work within the simulation itself.

Feedback is welcome. Questions can be asked by posting a comment here or people can email me directly: cpdelehanty[at]gmail.com.

Simulations for Large Classes: Problematizing Unitary Actors

Today is the first of a series of posts by a guest contributor, Casey Delehanty, doctoral candidate in political science at Florida State University.

Large ClassAs an instructor at a large state university, one of the main challenges of active learning exercises is employing them in large classes. Many existing simulations are designed for classes of 10-30 students, and adapting them to larger classes can be intimidating. Despite this, I encourage folks to think of large classes as an advantage rather than a hindrance. Rather than presenting students with the necessarily simplified world of a small simulation, you can introduce students to even more complex concepts. Here are a few tricks I have picked up from using simulations in classes with 50+ students:

Simulations or games built with smaller classes in mind have to make certain assumptions about the internal decision-making structures of the actors involved. A larger class offers the ability to add internal political structures that introduce students to the notion of juggling domestic interests versus international possibilities. This notion does not have to be limited to simulations of state actors; non-state groups can also be assumed to have internal decision-making structures.

Students who comprise actors that are expected to multi-task in a simulation can be assigned distinct roles to perform. However, a major problem in larger classes is the tendency of some students to free-ride. It is imperative to make roles specific, varied, and incentivized to avoid the following pitfalls:

First, students often do not immediately understand how their roles fit into the overall simulation. As much as this may be obvious to you as the designer, students often need some time fully grasp their role within a larger system of interlinked pieces and what actions they should take in order to maximize their effectiveness. It can be helpful to give students guidelines about possible actions they can take and strategies they might want to pursue. I create advisory guides that are no longer than one page to orient students to the simulation (“your role can determine the fate of X”) as well as giving them some ideas as to how to be effective (“should you want to accomplish goal X, you might want to explore paths A, B and C”). While it is important not to reveal too much and let students find their own path, limited class time makes this kind of advice necessary.

Second, students often obtain the impression that their role is being adequately performed by others within the simulation. This tendency in and of itself can lead to a lecture on free-riding, but it can sometimes alter the balance of a simulation. Moreover, shirking tends to be contagious; if one student is sitting to the side checking Facebook, etc. it will be much more likely for others to do the same. It is therefore important to make student roles unique, so that each student is solely responsible for a single aspect of an overall mission. It can sometimes be beneficial to assign more than one student to a specific role, but I avoid assigning the same function to more than two students in a simulation.

Third, students often lack incentives to play their roles effectively when forced to compete with one another. Sometimes students would rather depart from their role than perform actions that might put them at odds with another student. This can be very damaging to an otherwise effective simulation given that competitiveness between students is often designed as an institutional constraint. To solve this problem, I introduce goals tailored to each actor or group of actors for students to achieve, with “bonus points” as a reward. These goals often compete and conflict with those of other actors, and it is nearly impossible for any one actor (or group of actors) to achieve all of their goals. Instead, these goals function as a tool to incentivize certain behaviors within the simulation. I separate these points from other forms of assessment, since I don’t want the competitiveness of some students to adversely other students’ grades. Instead, I award bonus points for goal completion. These points are, of course, almost insignificant when it comes to students’ final grades, but I find that they generate much more competitive behavior. Students are suckers for points.

Can we do all our learning & teaching using Lego?

Off the back of the great response to my post last week on The Lego Movie (apologies again to Borja Garcia for ruining his enjoyment of said film), I have obviously returned to the subject, albeit in a slightly different way.

While searching for the official movie website, I stumbled across Lego Serious Play. ‘Stumbled’ here should of course be understood as ‘spent ages browsing the online shop, buying a kit, then browsing some more.’ That box has now arrived, so the next step of my investigation continues.

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Of course I have even more Lego on my desk. Don’t you?

Essentially, LSP is a system for promoting team interaction and creativity, using the bricks to allow people to visualise and manifest their ideas in a way that lets them explore new ideas. That’s the website’s take on it, anyway.

I’ll freely admit I’m not so sure about this, not least because I’ve still to see it in practice, but I’m willing to have a bash at it.

As readers with long memories might recall, I’ve been using Lego in the classroom for a long time. Some years ago, I made a video explaining different voting systems, using Lego squares, because it made it all much easier to visualise. Similarly, my negotiating class get to use Lego to explore the difficulties of communication, because it allows for very subtle usage.

Whether and how LSP might fit into all this is still unclear to me. The core development attribute seems to be about creativity, which does not easily fit into an applied module in a degree programme. That is actually rather a surprise to me – and probably a topic for another day – but it’s meant in the sense that creativity is a cross-cutting skill, so probably belongs in an early phase of a programme. Moreover, students rarely remain with the same group for any problem beyond one module/course, so even if team skills are developed, then some of them are lost as the group breaks up.

But even as I write this, I recall that I do have one group of students who will be together for a long period and – additionally – will be able to work as a single group: the first cohort of our Liberal Arts and Sciences programme, of which I am director and teacher for the first compulsory element.

My plan then is to use LSP to trigger a discussion about disciplines and about their relationship with each other. I’m not going to get into details just yet, since I’d like to try it out on them first, but essentially I’m using the Lego as a way into the subject, to distract them for the weightiness of it all.

Distracting students is something I really like doing, albeit with care not to get too distracted. Whether it works remains to be seen, but I’m pretty sure I’ll enjoy the journey.

To come back to the question in the title, obviously we shouldn’t do ALL our teaching using Lego, but if we can recognise the value of multiple paths to learning and scope for using everyday objects to create an environment for problematising and challenging students, then that can open our eyes to large new areas of pedagogic practice. In essence, Lego is a means, not an end, and we should never lose sight of that.

Having a media element in your simulation game

A while back I was having an email exchange with Philippe Perchoc at my alma mater, the College of Europe, on the use of media elements in simulations. I’ve been thinking about it a bit more, so I thought I’d share it here.

Press Conference In Amstetten On New Details
“Errrm…”

Essentially, what this covers is having some participants play a role of journalists in a simulation, providing another channel of information exchange alongside the more conventional ones.

The reasons for doing this a multiple.

Firstly, in the context of politics/IR games, it reflects the reality of a situation, where political negotiations are covered by the media. That’s sometimes a passive aspect, but increasingly (and especially in international contexts) media strategy becomes an active part of the process, with selective release of information to bolster your position.

Secondly – and more generically – it highlights to students that they do not control a negotiation. That information release might seem to give control, but once something’s out there, you don’t own it or its interpretation. Likewise, the other side(s) will also be releasing information, just as the media itself will be rooting around for what it can find.

Thirdly, on a practical level, it creates more roles to be played: when you have large numbers of students, this can be a simple (and flexible) way to give people something to do without just further sub-division of roles.

What the media function looks like will very much depend on the game itself. Typically, you need to have a game that is big in some way, if only because otherwise its value is minimal: journalists will need time and space to collect, process and disseminate information, and more time is needed for to have an impact. Therefore we usually encounter it in games that last at least a day and/or where there are multiple negotiating parties (e.g. MUN-type affairs). I’ve used a ‘market’ function that does something a bit similar in my two-hour long austerity game, but that is much more limited in what it can achieve.

Typically, journalists will get a free hand to find whatever they think is interesting/useful and then have an outlet. The free hand involves them having to find information, so they practise interviewing people, extrapolating from materials provided and (occasionally) finding ways to discover things they aren’t supposed to know: this last often provides a learning moment about data security for a player! Of course, it’s also possible to make your media more partisan, either in favour of one negotiating party or of its own interests: just pick your own local real-world example of this to work out how you might play this out.

The outlet can either be something relatively static and fixed – regular bulletins on a noticeboard in the corner – or much more dynamic and speedy – a twitter account or a blog. The classic form would have been a short newspaper printed once or twice a day, but with new technologies, I’d think it makes more sense to capture the new dynamism, especially because it also teaches about the consequences of mis-/dis-information in a rapid news cycle.

Of course, in all of this, it’s important to remember that a media function is not without its challenges.

Depends the main difficulty is that it means some players are not ‘in’ the same simulation as the rest: they won’t get the same opportunities as the others and that might be a problem if you’re assessing them on the same basis. Two solutions offer themselves up: either you don’t assess anyone, or you assess in a differentiated way. Philippe’s solution has been one that I’ve seen elsewhere, namely to find some willing journalism students to play these roles, which they do very professionally. If that’s not an option for you, then you need to consider how you might handle it all.

The other big challenge is one of distortion. While it’s good to learn about the power of the media, if that power becomes the main game dynamic, you risk losing out on learning about the object/process that the game is nominally about. This takes us back to our old friend, learning outcomes: what do you want to achieve? To manage this, you might consider imposing some kind of limit on what the media can do: they might have to get at least two sources for stories before publication; they might be restricted to time-delays or fixed periods/cycles of publication; they might be subject to official censorship. The difficulty is obviously one of balance: having a media that does something, but not too much.

Ultimately, having a media function can be deeper enrichening for a game, adding another layer of activity and space for reflection. If you’ve got ideas about how you can use (or have used) media in games, then we’d love to hear about it.

The Personal Touch

Personal TouchTwo recent news items argue that how professors teach matters more than what they teach. First, the New York Times has profiled ten wildly popular courses at different universities around the USA, including one on cultural anthropology where students participate in an interesting simulation. Enrollment in these courses ranges from a dozen to over a thousand students, pointing out that classes don’t have to be small to be effective — they just have to be taught in a way that gets students interested in learning.

Second, Inside Higher Ed discusses the research of Christopher G. Takacs and Daniel F. Chambliss. Their work suggests that an inspiring professor in an introductory course influences a student’s choice of major more than disciplinary content.

If only doctoral programs and the tenure process took the above processes into account . . .

The Terrible Twos

TantrumTwo brief items in honor of the second anniversary of MOOCs.

First, David Caputo at Pace University has created a MOOC on the 2014 Congressional elections, which started on March 3 but for which people can still enroll. Additional information can be found at the link above or at the Blackboard Coursesites catalog (just look for the title of the MOOC).

Second, MOOCs.com has an interesting post about how MOOCs are doing in five dimensions that were proposed by John McArthur of the Brookings Institution: motivationexplanationtutorshipinteraction, and feedback. Of particular interest to me:

  • Evaluations of MOOCs that focused on low retention rates lacked validity because they didn’t account for the varying intentions of MOOC participants.
  • MOOCs have made the traditional practice of classroom lecturing — one-way instructor to student content delivery — obsolete. If you don’t want to flip your classroom, someone else does.

Enjoy.

Teaching makes a difference – shock

Last week, I had a most unusual experience. After some contact time with students, one of them approached me and told me that I’d ‘changed her opinion’ on the matter in hand, and had ‘converted’ her to the opposite point of view.

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One out of 130 is pretty good, actually…

‘Oh, well done, Simon’, you might say, ’15 years of teaching and you finally got someone to agree with you: the law of averages strikes again.’ And you might be right, but there’s something more here.

Firstly, I wasn’t trying to get anyone to change their minds. The session was for the University of the Third Age, an organisation that runs educational events for seniors in a number of countries. I’d been asked to spend a day discussing “does the EU have a future?” with a group of 130 here in Surrey and I’d set out my stall at the very start of the day. My pitch was that while people might consider the subject to be important, they often don’t know much of the detail, so the day (4×1 hour sessions) was there to raise levels of knowledge, so people could understand the situation better and make more informed decisions. While pro-EU myself, I certainly wasn’t aiming to ‘convert’ anyone, merely to give them the tools to make up their own minds.

For me, as a political scientist, I have absolutely no problem with that: all our teaching is predicated on this basis. I would hope that none of us sets out to produce mini-mes, but rather individuals capable of self-reflection and -criticality, who can articulate their own views.

The upshot of this is that I spent as much of the day talking about what they wanted to discuss as about what I’d planned to cover. Sat in a concert hall, interaction was necessarily limited, but we managed to get a good flow of questions and comments going, and I got repeatedly buttonholed during the breaks.

Now, at this point I have to admit something here. I know from the literature that increased knowledge is associated with increased levels of support for the EU. However, I also know that this is a population-level effect, rather than one of “I teach you about the EU and you love it.” Hence, it wasn’t something that I felt was that relevant to the situation in hand.

And this is the second point. As much as this was about doing some teaching, it was also about contributing to a wider public discussion.

We spent a fair amount of time talking about the possible referendum on EU membership that might be coming to the UK in the next few years. My position is that such a referendum would be a bad idea, for while it might be ‘the voice of the people’, it would more than likely be their voice about something other than EU membership. Referenda are notoriously second-order, and so are votes on government performance rather than the matter in hand. And in this particular case, levels of knowledge about the EU are some of the lowest in the Union.

Seen in this context, my main exhortation to the audience was that they needed to continue their learning and their discussion with others, since that will be the best way to find solutions to the current impasse in policy. While I have my views about what that way should be, I’m also a democrat, so I have to respect what the population at large decides. My role – and the role of all teachers of politics – is to try and support that discussion and debate. If we can do that, then that is worth even more than changing someone’s mind.

Simulations in theory, simulations in practice

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The SocialSIM14 team

I’ve had the great pleasure of spending the weekend with colleagues at the University of Freiburg, talking bout their SocialSIM14. The team – Mikko Huotari, Larissa Mogk, Antonio Farfán Vallespín and Judith Müller  – have secured funding from their university to design a large-scale simulation, as a structure within which students from a number of different disciplines (political science, social anthropology and sociology, with economics to join later) can site experiments and social research projects.

In part through the good offices of this blog, they got in touch with me and I’ve spent the last two days talking with them about their choices and their possibilities. Suffice to say that even many hours’ discussion and debate, we didn’t cover everything we could have and there were as many questions as at the beginning (even if not the same questions as before).

The simulation gameplay is a day-long event for 150 players, putting them into communities that can gradually build additional capacities in a number of different fields, each with benefits and costs, effectively creating new societies. In so doing, it asks players to recognise their responsibilities are not limited to themselves alone.

It’s not my intention to talk you through their game – I’m working on them to write that for us themselves – but I do want to consider some wider lessons that come from our debates, since it has generated some very big questions for me.

What’s it all about?

Perhaps the biggest take-home point for me was the need for clarity about the purpose of a simulation. A lot of our time this weekend was concerned with realising (me as much as them) that the large majority of specific points of interest depended upon the identification of that purpose for SocialSIM14.

As I’ve explained it to you so far in the opening lines – the simulation as a research platform – that might not seem to be a problem. However, the team wants to run the game with players not only from other parts of the university but also with non-students from the community. Thus it also has a social mission, not least in its gameplay, which offers the possibility of building new forms of society. These social and normative factors are not the same as the research one and the consequence is that they pull in rather different directions.

The acknowledgement of this already helped to unblock a lot of matters, by giving a more definitive way of judging the utility and impact. It also helped in starting to think about you communicate the game to players.

Importantly, it was a good demonstration of that way that we often end up creating simulations: we have an idea about doing something, and then work back to a justification for doing that. That’s fine, as long as you recognise that the justification is important in giving overall direction and focus.

I love it when a plan comes together

The second big area that emerged was the need for good resources.

The SocialSIM14 team have the additional hurdle that – while they are designing the game – they are not running it when it actually happens.

The upshot of this is that there can be no relying on on-the-go fixes when it happens, but instead they have to provide documentation to both players and organisers that is sufficient to cover every eventuality.

Obviously, they didn’t need me to tell them this, and they’ve been meeting regularly for some months already and will continue with that through to the summer: they know the organisers and have brought them into planning meetings as well. The paradoxical situation is that there is not much that is written down yet, because the team is small, cohesive and has all the info in their heads.

Sadly, “in their heads” isn’t where it needs to be, but in a form that can be shared. Partly as a function of the discussion about objectives, I suggested that they start now with producing three manuals.

  • The first would be for the players, to explain the objectives, the rules and all relevant practical information. It doesn’t have to include everything that the player will eventually have to know (for example, the team will be introducing more tasks during the day), but only what they need to get going;
  • The second would be for the organisers. The focus of this would be more on practical organisation and contingencies for various scenarios. This would be read with the first guide to give the organisers all the information that they might need;
  • The third would also be for the organisers, but would be a more reflective piece, of ideas for developments. SocialSIM14 is intended to be run repeatedly, which further exacerbates the disconnect of designers and organisers. However, it also raises the possibility of incremental change in the game.

My model in such things is “keep it simple” and this meant that at several points in the weekend I felt like a party-pooper, saying that perhaps the team should leave the more ambitious ideas for another time, and focus on the core game mechanics. The third guide is a way to preserve all those ideas (“maybe we have a news service”; “maybe everyone has an RFID tag, to produce real-time data collection”*) for future generations of organisers to consider and possibly to implement. Indeed, one would even insist that each new iteration of the game must have a new element to it, followed up by some kind of impact assessment.

Ambition and reality

If I’m honest, my main feeling as I left Freiburg on the airport bus was a certain sheepishness. The SocialSIM14 team have created a huge simulation, whose ambition is much greater than anything I have yet done. They have brought together a multi-disciplinary team, secured institutional funding and managed to keep their heads. Any one of those things would be an achievement, so to do them all is genuinely breath-taking. Their sense of what is possible has taken them a long way.

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Handling a crisis in a systematic fashion

Ultimately, what gives me confidence about this not stopping SocialSIM14 is that they have a good team dynamic: to give a simple example, they very confidently handled the small crisis game I gave them to do. Having others with whom one can have thoughtful and frank discussions is still probably the most useful resource one can have in building a simulation, even if they are no more knowledgeable than you about it.

The Freiburg team and I have promised to keep in touch and look forward to seeing how it all plays out this August. We could all learn something from it.

* That last idea was mine and it sounds brilliant in what one might do with it, but I also recognise that it’s a very major project by itself and not really what this game needs. It’s also well beyond my technical means, so if you want to run with it, then be my guest.