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Convene the Council

Foreign policy game teaches well but doesn't dazzle

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Expert evaluation by Common Sense

Grades

6–12

Subjects & Skills

Social Studies

Price: Free
Platforms: Web, iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, Android

Pros: Builds strong base of understanding. Meaningful examples and ample support materials.

Cons: Student can skip through, make quick decisions, and still succeed. Limited interactivity.

Bottom Line: A good if not impressive springboard for understanding a bit more about how foreign policy decisions are made.

How Can I Teach with This Tool?

iCivics created Convene the Council to help teachers show students how foreign policy decisions get made. You could simply have students play the eight levels of the game, or you could use the extensive materials that accompany the game to really explore the way governments and their foreign policies balance things like prosperity, security, values, and the overall state of the world. Playing on their own, students might pick up a few things about foreign policy decisions, specifically what motivates decisions, how decisions impact the United States and the world, and what agencies/departments are responsible for carrying out policies. However, students might also just quickly click through the text and select a decision without any consideration. The game makes this surprisingly easy, displaying how a decision will likely affect the priorities. It's also difficult to do really badly.

Because of this, a better way to teach the game would be to go slowly and lean into student debate and discussion. Consider modeling play for students before allowing them to dive in. Play a couple of rounds in front of the class so that you can demonstrate and discuss solutions, explore key terminology, and explain the conflicting needs/wants of government and the meaning of the game's "priorities." Afterward, you might divide students into groups (perhaps representing the different government priorities) and have these groups work through rounds together. As a group, students can explore the positions, debate and defend choices, and analyze the outcomes. If students get really into it, you might introduce a longer term project in which students research and defend modern-day foreign policy positions or hypotheticals, using the terminology and framework of the game.

Learning Rating

Overall Rating
Engagement

It's a good length and the issues are interesting. However, the activities amount to reading and clicking decisions.

Pedagogy

Poses realistic problems as well as a range of ways to solve them. Communicates core priorities of U.S. policy. But it lacks consequences and is a bit too easy.

Support

There are lots of materials to help teachers make the game more meaningful. It has good voice, text, and language support. Feedback after a decision could be more detailed.

Common Sense reviewer
James Denby
James Denby Educator/Curriculum Developer

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