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Developed by Minnesota high school social studies teacher Eric Nelson, Fantasy Geopolitics is an easy, fun and social way to get learners thinking about our flattened world. Nelson began the game in 2009 as a strategy to engage his own students at North Lakes Charter School.
Leveraging the popularity and competition of fantasy sports, this gamification of current events, geography and civic engagement has students drafting (and later trading) nations for their news popularity/activity value.
It engagingly pushes students to read and follow breaking news using a comprehensive Resource Page that includes such news sites and portals as: The Economist, The World Food Programme’s Hunger Map, and the Council on Foreign Relations World Next Week podcast.
The game includes a drafting map interface and a scoring system. Lightweight and responsibly built, the platform is available for desktop, tablet and phone. Nelson used The New York Times’ Times Developer Network API, to create a system to track country news mentions. (Because of the frequency of their news presence, the US and China are not available as picks.)
The site’s homepage, describes the various elements of the game interface:
Every day we add points to every country based on data from the New York Times and the GDELT Project. Points are given for each article in the New York Times related to a country and based on the Goldstein Tone generated from the GDELT Project. [The GDELT Project is a realtime network diagram and database of global human society for open research.]Players can check their score and other players’ scores using our Rankings pages.Our dashboard provides quick access to the activity of other players, a message board for communication, a news feed of the latest articles, and the top ranking countries and players.Players can use our map interface to trade countries with other players.
Of course, playing a game that values mere mentions of a country or a world leader in the news may not encourage the depth of global understanding for which we strive.
I see Fantasy Geopolitics used as a productive warm-up activity; in a regional or event-focused approach; in combination with existing current events programs, like Newsela or News-O-Matic; as a media literacy strategy–examining bias or why certain stories receive more or less coverage.
Truly, it will be the conversations about why certain countries are in the news that really matter. And connecting learners with quality news sources, indices, and metrics relating to global issues and social justice may begin new habits of investigation and introduce new platforms for engagement.
Check here for reasonable pricing.
About Joyce Valenza
Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza
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