The Brand New Subway Game

nyc-subway-mapFor anyone teaching geography, urban planning, or public policy, the Brand New Subway game is a fun digital tool. Created for a competition in honor of the book “The Power Broker,” it allows players to design New York City’s subway system. Players can create an entirely new system from scratch, or modify past, present, and future systems. The game also includes an option for creating subways from scratch for other U.S. cities.

Players get three kinds of continuous feedback on their designs:  the price of a single fare, the average weekly ridership, and the overall rating of the system. The overall goal is to design a system that attracts the largest number of riders and efficiently gets them to where they want to go at the lowest price. The trade-offs between ridership, operating cost, and system quality make the problem very difficult to solve.

The game’s user interface is fairly easy to figure out and players can save works in progress. A simple way to use this game: have student teams compete against each other to build the best subway. Include as part of the competition a presentation where each team defends its design against questions from other teams.

Unconventional Movies As Conventional Pedagogical Tools: The Dark Knight

Gigi GokcekToday we have a guest post from Gigi Gokcek, associate professor of political science at the Dominican University of California. She can be contacted at gigi.gokcek[at]dominican[dot]edu.

Professors have long relied on movies like Dr. Strangelove (1964), Red Dawn (1984), and Thirteen Days (2000) to teach about the dangers of nuclear proliferation and the Cold War. While the active-learning literature validates the effectiveness of using movies like these, today’s college students may relate better to more contemporary movies. Do unconventional movies, from such franchises as Fast and Furious, Star Trek, DC Comics, and Marvel’s X-Men and Avengers, work just as well? My experience suggests that they do. When combined with activities derived from the cognitive domain of Bloom’s taxonomy of learning, I find that they are valuable tools for teaching important political science theories and concepts.

Although many students may have seen these movies by the time they enroll in my courses, I often leave this activity until the end of the term so that they have acquired sufficient knowledge of course material. The key to the assignment is that students are not told where the course content is portrayed in the movie. Students have to think more critically while viewing the film, and thereby apply what they have learned to a new setting. They use this worksheet to help make these connections. Continue reading

An Excel-lent Simulation

Steven JacksonToday we have a guest post from Steven Jackson, professor of political science at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He can be contacted at sjackson[at]iup[dot]edu.

It’s there on your computer: Microsoft Excel.  Maybe you use it to calculate grades.  Maybe you use it for charts in your PowerPoints.  Maybe you just ignore it.  But have you ever thought of teaching with it?

Excel can be used in instruction in a number of ways, from a simple interactive graphing tool, to a random number generator that is much more flexible than dice, to a sophisticated engine for designing interactive simulations.

For my introductory World Politics course, I designed an Excel-based role-play simulation in which students act as a U.S. trade representative in the late 1980s. Players must satisfy different parties involved in a trade negotiation: the U.S. President who wants a minimal number of trade agreements; the protectionist “Senator Maddux” who opposes too many concessions, and the Japanese, who want their own issues favorably resolved, all within a fairly short time period.  Failure to meet all four criteria results in the user getting “fired.” Each of the twenty possible issues in the simulation is based upon an actual dispute between the U.S. and Japan. Continue reading

The Twitter Communication game

I’ll confess that I’m disappointed that my wit and charm weren’t the biggest talking points from last week’s ALPS workshop here at Surrey. Instead, people seemed more interested in one of my games, which they got to play. Therefore, I’m going to try and do the ju-jitsu move and try to write about said game in a witty and charming manner.

The premise of the game came from an observation many years ago that Twitter (which I didn’t use at all) seemed to be a nonsensical medium: you pump out stuff (in tiny short chunks) and maybe someone reads it. Sounds lame, my (deeply suppressed) American side said.

So, not being one to waste an opportunity to share my powerful insight, I thought about how I could turn this into a game for the negotiation module/course I was re-writing at the time. The result, with only minor variations, stands before you. Continue reading

Teaching EU online communication through simulation – the twitcol case: Guest post by Jon Worth

Guest author Jon Worth works across Europe, offering consultancy on a range of subject areas. This post was originally posted on his own blog and is reproduced with his permission.

wOb93E7uFor the first time in the academic year 2015-16 I am a member of the faculty of the politics department at the College of Europe in Bruges. My own MA is from the College of Europe (in 2003-04) and it is good to be back there as a teacher this time. The College operates a system of a kind of flying faculty – we are called upon to run courses or seminars, but are not actually based in Bruges. My own course is a short, optional one entitled Online Communications in EU policymaking, but this post concerns my contribution to a compulsory course for all 96 politics MA students run by Pierpaolo Settembri andCostanza Hermanin – the EU legislation simulation game.

The basic idea of the simulation game is relatively well known – each student gets allocated a role, and all of the aspects of an EU legislative negotiation are played out by the students playing these roles. Pierpaolo is the author of a book about how to use these sorts of games to teach about the EU. Continue reading

Needed: Hired Gun

This Gun For Hire PosterSoomo Learning, an innovative web-based academic publishing company that supports this blog, is in search of a political science development editor. The person hired for the position will oversee content creation and courseware support for the company’s political science products. Familiarity with the scholarship of teaching and learning in political science and the literature on student success is highly beneficial, as is:

  • Experience teaching online, in community colleges, or in open-enrollment institutions.
  • A solid understanding of political science in general and Intro to American Government in particular.
  • Study in American Government at the graduate level.

The full position description and information on how to apply is here.

As regular readers of this blog know from my posts about higher education, in my opinion a traditional academic career as a tenured faculty member in political science is becoming an increasingly rare commodity. If I were to go to graduate school all over again, I would jump at the chance to work for a company like Soomo. The environment is dynamic and the skills that can be acquired are widely applicable outside of academia. And Soomo is located in fabulous Asheville, North Carolina — home to hiking, kayaking, live music, microbreweries, Little Pigs BBQ, and Heiwa Shokudo sushi.

Twitter Campaigning, Part 2

Today is the second of a two-part series by guest contributor Tricia Stapleton, Director of the Society, Technology, and Policy Program at Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

Twitter ScreenshotI recently wrote about incorporating a social media activity into my Intro to IR class as part of the IRiA sim. For the assignment, students developed Twitter campaigns to support their efforts to win objective points in the game. In order to prepare students for the assignment, I gave an in-class lecture on the uses of social media in politics, followed by an in-class activity on social media audience.

Before the in-class activity, I gave my students a small task for homework. They had to create a Twitter account, if they didn’t already have one, and come to class with a laptop or wifi-enabled device. For the in-class lecture and discussion, I reviewed examples of social media use in politics, such as how ISIS uses social media or how social media users may be ahead of traditional news outlets in reporting events. I wanted to get them thinking about how both citizens and government can use Twitter or other modern technologies, like text messaging, to mobilize. We also reviewed how social media efforts can completely backfire or lead to satirical analyses of politics and culture.

After I completed the lecture/discussion, the students completed an activity based on one that Simon shared. Students were required to find everyone in the room on Twitter and follow them. They weren’t allowed to use any form of direct communication, such as talking, messaging through Blackboard, email, or Facebook, although I did allow them to use the internet. I let them work for about 15 minutes, and then we stopped to discuss how well they had done.

I was surprised to find that about 75 percent of the class had never used Twitter before, and had only created a profile for the first time as homework. I asked several students to share their methods for finding people in the room, and we followed up with a discussion about what key pieces of information needed in order to have a social campaign reach a specific or wide audience. Despite their lack of familiarity with the platform, most of the students found each other fairly quickly by developing and searching for hashtags. The most successful hashtag was our course number (#GOV1320). The activity was a great demonstration of the need to prep students for a Twitter campaign that they would complete for credit. It was also useful in getting students to know each other’s names and engage in discussion before they were split up into teams for the sim.