Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Teaching Ethical Problem Solving To Kids

So ignoring the fact that this is an article about a game that is owned by the company that owns said paper (everything is so interconnected like a Disney brand it’s ridiculous), Quandary was named Game of the Year in the annual Games for Change Festival in New York.  Part of the Games for Change experience is about is helping create content for children for learning purposes. And Quandary stood out because it tackles an issue that is very rarely discussed in child development: the need to understand the perspective of others while making decisions.

What the article proposes is that games like Quandary used in conjunction with standard teaching exercises can help build a better child morally and ethically. Now I don’t mean morals and ethics based around a religion, but common sense. Like not judging a book by its cover, or assigning stereotypes to a certain race. These are sensitive topics to us as adults, and many of us may be unaware at how early kids learn and pick up habits; most doctors and mental health experts say around age 4 children become more attune to the differences of others, but it can start earlier than that. 

This is where a game like Quandary can really make an impact on a child’s development. The game is geared towards late elementary to middle school students (though starting earlier wouldn’t be a bad idea in my opinion). The game sets you as the captain of a space colony. Your task is to resolve problems by listening to all sides of an argument and learning to separate fact from fiction. You eventually take all of this information to a council on Earth, whom will make a final ruling on the conflict. However their response will weigh heavily on how you, the player, present the content. Unlike other games, Quandary doesn’t show the player what is the correct answer. You don’t get points for picking the “right” choice. Instead, points are built through how many interactions you go through (the full extent of points earned by listening to everyone when confronting a problem), and by being able to accurately predict what a character will say or do (this is achieved by spending time with the person and learning about them).

It’s a great way to open up dialogue on how children can learn from games not just the school basics, but on a real-world level where conflicts need to be resolved without passing judgment based on pre-conceived notions about that individuals race, religion, and nationality. I would love to see more games like this introduced into our culture. This is a great direction to take the “learning” environment. But what I really appreciate about these types of games is that they don't give you a direct response to if you are doing something correctly. You have to ask questions, participate with your classmates, and really interact with your peers to determine why something was right or wrong. These games aren't meant to be the main-stage of instruction, but effective supplements to the material. If more teachers utilized these types of games, just imagine the types of leaders we would build for tomorrow.

Okay I got a little gushy and sentimental there. But dangit, we need more games like this!

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