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Pros: Students take an active role in their learning as they research, draft, and trade countries; easy and inexpensive tool to engage students.
Cons: Some kids might dislike the game's competitive focus; teachers need to make a clear connection between the points system and its real-world implications.
Bottom Line: This game could be the hook that gets students engaged with international news.
Teachers should introduce Fantasy Geopolitics to the whole class and have students complete an assignment that gets them started paying attention to the news. In advance of draft day, teachers will need to set up a league and determine a fair draft order. For draft day, teachers should use a single computer with a projection device. Once the draft is complete, students can monitor their points and teachers can assign relevant activities and assignments to supplement the regular curriculum. For example, students can create White House briefings, analyze headlines, and prepare for debates. As teachers become more comfortable with the game, they can adapt it to meet their learning objectives by assigning additional points or tailoring the game to a specific event such as a U.N. summit or the Olympic Games.
Editor's Note: Fantasy Geopolitics has been rebranded and re-designed as FANschool.
Fantasy Geopolitics is an online game created by a social studies teacher for learning about current events around the world. In fantasy sports like fantasy football or fantasy baseball, players create a league and each player in the league has the opportunity to "draft" real-world players of that sport onto their fantasy team. Every time one of those real-world players of that sport does something in a game (like score a point or tackle an opponent), the player in the fantasy league earns points. Fantasy Geopolitics works the same way, but with countries: Teachers upload student information, students draft countries to form their team, and their team scores points based on how many times each country is mentioned in the New York Times. Students can then make trades and draft unclaimed "free agent" countries as the game goes on, and they learn more about what's happening in the news.
Teachers register to create an account, and they can pay as they wish for a yearlong subscription. There are instructions and video guides for how to get started, and there are also support materials available including current events assignments, case studies, and maps.
Some teachers might be a little turned off by the game's simplicity: Kids earn points every time one of the countries on their "team" is mentioned in the New York Times. Talk to your students about how that system works and what it might imply about current events: Why are certain countries in the news more than others? Which countries might be strategically good to add to your team, and why? While this all might initially seem a little arbitrary, there's actually great potential for getting students to think about current events, geopolitics, and international relations with great interest and detail. It's strategically important for kids to seek out info about countries in crisis, in triumph, or otherwise in the news.
Reading to discover the next country that can earn them points might just transform the way your students engage with current events and international news. Kids can develop new ownership of their learning as they work to know as much as they can about the countries on their team, and the game can be a starting point for broader lessons on current issues, research, and media literacy. The overall effect should be a classroom full of students increasingly informed about international events and increasingly sophisticated in their information literacy skills.