Made(upia) to measure

Like any university, we’ve got some odd spaces that we use for teaching.

By odd here, I mean simply anything other than a rectangular room with some desks arranged somehow. Usually that’s intentional, because we need computer stations or lab desks or a big machine to do physics-y stuff so visiting schoolkids think STEM is cool.

But sometimes it’s just odd.

A case in point is the room I’ve been stuck a couple of times this semester, as part of someone’s project to see just how much of the campus I can visit with my students.

The room is flat, with individual desks in the middle (currently in a socially-distanced grid), plus a series of booths up each side, each with space for a couple of students.

I have no idea why it’s set up like that, but the key point is that it prompted me to make specific use of that space.

True, I also needed to make a new exercise because I couldn’t use any of my previous ones because of Covid, but it’s also good to refresh more fully from time to time.

The game scenario concerns power in a political system and you’re very welcome to use/modify the document for your own needs.

Here I will only note that I’ve made particular use of those booths and of social distancing requirements. Interestingly, on the latter point, while I thought that giving control to the government to manage movement around the space, their feedback was that it was actually rather anxiety-inducing, for fear of annoying people who might feel they had to wait too long to move.

However, the wider point here is that we can benefit from the constraints we operate under. Feedback on this exercise was very positive and we had a great debrief afterwards on the power dynamics and how it related to negotiation theory, so we hit our learning objectives big time.

I even got to use this as a basis of some work for the online students to consider what might be an optimal strategy to pursue: not quite the same as actually playing the scenario, but still a way into the key issues (and, incidentally, a starting point for a very constructive discussion with one student about what works for online students in this module).

The take home: they’re not constraints, they’re opportunities. Which is lucky, given that we’re all on the verge of getting some more opportunities dumped on us shortly.