Can we improve our thinking about the future by creating and playing games?
I think so. The creative and imaginative potentials of gaming are well known, and I have have some history applying games to education’s future. I first sought to explore that connection way back in 2008, when I launched an online prediction market game under the auspices of the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education (NITLE) (here’s one article about it). I and other players enjoyed the game, and also appreciated the way it stretched our understanding of where ed tech, technology, and education could go next, along with the challenges of creating and managing the prediction market. (I wish the game site was still up. The Archive.org copies don’t really do it justice.)
Fast forward to 2016 and I, inspired by games like this, raised the idea of creating another one to help us grapple with the future of education. Professor Leah MacVie of Canisius College responded to the call by asking her EDU122 (Technology in Education) students to create such a game.
The Future of Education Card Game is, as you might guess from the title, a tabletop game based on cards. Each card represents a specific development in education’s next years, and are divided into six categories:
- Socio-Economic Status (“of the school or the students”)
- Student Abilities and Approaches (sample to left)
- Prizes/Extra Cards. These are random events, good and bad.
- Timing and Standardized Testing. This is actually testing in general.
- Subject Areas (Reading/Writing, Math, English, Geometry, etc.)
Players divide into groups, each representing a classroom. The first phase of play involves drawing a random card from each of the decks, then collaboratively designing a future class based on those event and trends. During the second phase all groups combine to build a future school from their imagined classes.
There is also a stack of cards called “Influences/Time” which either add a temporal frame to play (“It is 20 years in the future”), impose other challenges (“Class periods are becoming shorter. There is less time to teach the same content”), or offer discussion prompts (“Compare this scenario to the past. What were classrooms and teaching like 5 or 10 or 50 years ago?”).
TheEDU122 students built FECG from scratch, based on their studies, their individual experiences w/gaming, work with professor MacVie, a video conversation with me, and their own imagination.
They designed the cards collaboratively and in Photoshop, then had MOO.com print and ship them. They playtested together.
I played the game with the class once, via phone, and was impressed at the results. In order to build a future classroom students, professor MacVie, and I really had to stretch our minds around the random set of constraints. Discussion unfolded quickly, as participants drew on their personal experiences in schools, their reflections on college life, their aspirations, and their studies. Putting all the classes together into a future school was another level of imagination and challenge.
Let me thank professor MacVie for the opportunity to be involved with this project, and applaud the students for their work: