Cover image: Games and global learning

Games and global learning

Play is a powerful and engaging way to learn. As well as being enjoyable, it can help us to learn things about ourselves, other people and environments. In its deepest forms we can use play to imagine solutions, alternative futures and being in the shoes of other people. For this feature I have compiled four ways to make the global dimension more playfully engaging.

1. Social Games – Mission:Explore

Mission:ExploreMission:Explore is a website that turns learning activities into a game. Pupils are challenged to complete activities called missions that involve a wide range of different kinds of play. In return for doing the missions they can win points and rewards.
  • Some of the missions like Map stories and Tell an object’s story directly ask pupils to make global connections.
  • Other more local missions could be used in a school linking project by sharing and comparing your results, like this one to create a Welcome map of a their areas.
  • Lessons can also be drawn from this food challenge in which pupils can win £100 of funding to implement a solution to a food-related problem.

2. Board Games – Monopoly, Risk and War on Terror

Monopoly was actually first designed as a game to warn of the dangers in creating private land monopolies. I’m sure this lesson is lost on most people as they play their competitors into debt and win by being the only player left on the board. Of course, Monopoly is a classic game and lesson in inequality and why some people become richer than others. You can easily scale this up in the game of Risk. To win Risk players must conquer other territories by destroying armies. Occupying territories leads to earning even more armies and power. Colonialism is clearly reflected in this game, but it lacks many of the more complex political dimensions of the real world. This is where the fantastic War on Terror the board game comes into play. It is like Risk, but deeper and in many ways closer to reality. While Risk may be seen as a basic lesson in colonial empires, War on Terror is far more neo-colonial. This game is suitable for more able Key Stage 4 pupils, but is really best placed for Key Stage 5. In this game players are asked not only to conquer territories, but to control resources, avoid terrorists and take part in more complex negotiations. With all three of these games taking the time to pause, reflect and have a quality ‘debrief’ is essential.

Christian Aid - The Trading Game3. Simulation Games – The Trading Game

If you’ve not come across this before it’s well worth downloading if you work with children aged 13+. This game simulates how the manufacturing and trading of goods directly affects how wealthy a country is. The best learning comes as different country teams interact, make deals, create rules and expeience (in)justice. Developed by Christian Aid, it’s worth looking at their other simulation games too.

4. Planning Games – Stop Disasters Game

SimCity is a classic computer game that is all about effective town planning. It turns what could be a very dry subject into a captivating one as politics, hazards and other events unfold. Stop Disasters GameThe Stop Disasters Game is clearly based on the same idea as SimCity, but is simpler to play and based entirely on preparing for disasters. The aim of this game is to save lives by investing in Disaster Risk Reduction technologies and projects. Pupils are given a budget ahead of one of many different hazards striking and can use a map to decide where to build defences, educate locals and more. This game is a great demonstration of the fine line between ‘work’ and ‘gaming’. If this was a paper-based exercise it would not be nearly as captivating. The best learning will take place in the debrief after playing this game.

About the author

Daniel Raven-Ellison is a lead member at The Geography Collective and creative director of Mission:Explore. He was a geography teacher for nearly eight years before working at Action Aid and Relief International. @RavenEllison @MissionExplore @GeoCollective

More games

There are a range of resources listed here on the Global Dimension website that explore global issues through games. Take a look through the list: Games resources.     The photo at the top of the page is Monopoly by Mike Fleming on Flickr and used under a Creative Commons licence.