In this week’s episode of Board Gaming with Education, Dustin is joined by co-host Rich Hill and guest Shaun McMillan to talk about integrating low-prep game-based learning solutions for your classroom. Join Dustin, Shaun, and Rich on this discussion of board games for learning.
- Episode Topics
- Board Gaming with Education Introduction: Board Gaming with Education Newsletter – 00:00
- Welcome Rich Back to the Show – 2:34
- Who is Shaun McMillan? – 2:37
- What is a Mega-Game? – 3:28
- Defining “Game-Based Learning” and Giving “Low-Prep” Examples – 4:54
- Shaun’s Design Process for Game-Based Learning – 14:07
- Low-Prep Solutions – 17:56
- Rich Rejoins the Conversation – 40:32
- Dustin, Rich, and Shaun play Wavelength – 45:12
Thank you to Purple Planet Music for the wonderful contribution of their songs “Soul Train” and “Retro Gamer” for our Sponsorship and Interview Segments. These songs can be found in full on this music archive. Also, thank you to Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) for his creative commons 4.0 contribution of “Getting it Done” for our Game Segment.
Our Facebook Group for Educators: Games-based Learning, Gamification, and Games in Education
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Board Gaming with Education Introduction: Board Gaming with Education Newsletter – 00:00
Welcome Rich Back to the Show – 1:34
Dustin welcomes Rich back to the show to discuss today’s topic: “Low-Prep Game-Based Learning Solutions.” Join Dustin and Rich after the conversation with Shaun to discuss this topic further.
Who is Shaun McMillan? – 2:37
Shaun D. McMillan has worked as a professional Animator, Graphic Designer, and Game Artist for various studios. He also taught game design and is the designer of the Bible Study adventure card game Great Boy the Game, and he also designed ALLIANCE, the Ultimate World Leader Political Science Megagame, in which 72 participants are given 4 hours to solve a simulation of all the world’s geopolitical problems. You can find more of his educational games and his podcast, Best Class Ever, at www.BestClassEver.org
What is a Mega-Game? – 3:28
Dustin and Shaun talk about mega-games. What is a mega-game? A mega-game is massive real-world game played in a usually fictional context that takes tabletop game mechanics and applies them to a much larger group of people.
Defining “Game-Based Learning” and Giving “Low-Prep” Examples – 4:54
Shaun defines both “game-based learning” and “low-prep” to frame the context of the discussion.
…game-based learning is really where you do play games. And then through the game, you learn the technique or the skill that you’re trying to, or the learning objective, you convey it through the mechanics of the game…
Shaun gives some examples of how he has arrived to low-prep learning solutions, like narrative-based choices in games and stories, looking at war games, and also using some techniques from tabletop roleplaying games.
Shaun’s Design Process for Game-Based Learning – 14:07
Shaun shares some insights into his process for coming up with engaging game-based learning solutions.
Low-Prep Solutions – 17:56
Shaun shares several low-prep solutions for integration game-based solutions. He talks about using a multiple-choice roleplaying game for exploring the plot in a story, using different tabletop game design pieces like dice and cards, and using some war-based and tabletop roleplaying mechanics all as examples of low-prep solutions. Listen in for a detailed explanation!
Rich Rejoins the Conversation – 40:32
Rich rejoins the conversation with Dustin and they chat about some of the insights that Shaun had to share.
Dustin, Rich, and Shaun play Wavelength – 45:12
Dustin, Dave, and Shaun play Wavelength.
Low-Prep Game-Based Solutions for Your Classroom feat. Shaun McMillan – 130
Transcript automated and provided by otter.ai. [Using this link helps us continue to use this transcription service for future episodes.] Disclaimer: This is an automated transcript and may have errors in grammar, wording, and/or word choice.
Dustin Staats 0:00
On today’s episode of Board Gaming with Education, we look at low prep game based learning solutions. There’s a lot of valuable content in this episode, a lot of great resources that Shawn shares and some great insights we kind of dive into. To help you come up with ideas for using game based learning solutions. With his little PrEP is possible, so be sure to tune in and listen in. If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, you can always reach out to us at podcast at Board Gaming with Education Comm. And check out our website Board Gaming with education.com. Sign up for our newsletter, because in that newsletter, I always send out new podcast episodes, as well as other great content or resources that I found useful across the internet or any other things that we’re working on at Board Gaming with Education. So you don’t want to miss what’s happening in our email newsletter in with our email community. Again, Board Gaming with education.com, you’ll find that newsletter, one of the first things on the homepage, you can need to scroll down just a little bit. And you’ll sign up there and enter your name and email. So without further ado, that’s a reference to what we talked about in the episode. Let’s get into our chat.
Board Gaming with Education 1:17
Board Gaming with Education, a podcast for anyone curious about how games and education mix. We explore various topics like game based learning, gamification, and board games and the impacts they have on learning. here’s your host, Dustin Staats.
Dustin Staats 1:34
All right, I’m back here with another episode with rich co host.
Rich Hill 1:40
How’s it going?
Dustin Staats 1:41
Glad to have you back. And we were just chatting I guess. I guess I recorded this episode in December with Sean so it’s March now. But rich had a chance to kind of listen to the conversation and we’re gonna chat about what Shawn had to say. So let’s listen to that conversation. Then we’ll be back in just a moment.
Alright, welcome to another topical base discussion. Like I mentioned chatting with rich this conversation is about low prep game based learning solutions. So I’m joined by Sean McMillan, who is an educational game designer. And he has some history designing some games. I just blanked on the name of the game. I think I want to say Alliance game. Is that right? Yeah. Okay, cool. I got it. Right. So he’s designed some guess that’s like a massive classroom based simulation that you designed that watch the video is pretty cool. So Sean, would you mind introducing a little bit about yourself?
Shaun McMillan 2:37
Yeah, so I was a professional graphic designer that I became a teacher, a high school teacher for several years. And during while I was teaching, I realized, oh, man, I got teaching and simulations are the best way to let these kids you know, learn on their own. And so I we together with my students, we created Alliance, the world leader, political science mega game, so you can have up to 72 participants, they all wrote they all roleplay as world leaders of these various different nations, and they divide up into teams. And yeah, they basically have four hours to solve all the world’s problems. We also created, or I’ve created some educational card games and board games. And I’m currently working on podcast and blog, best class ever.org. And before I publish a lot of my ideas and lessons and stuff,
Dustin Staats 3:28
that’s awesome. And that’s that’s the term I was looking for mega game. I’ve never played a major game, but I really, really, really want to and I don’t think I mean, we’re recording this December. So pandemic is happening. And it’s really, I mean, anywhere in the US, you pretty much cannot go see other people. But I hope I can play one sometime soon. Can you share? What is the mega game really quick?
Shaun McMillan 3:53
Yeah, maybe game is we use board game mechanics and we use a gigantic War Room map was basically a gigantic board like a board game. But it’s big enough that you know, 12 people around a large table can gather around. And basically it’s Wargaming. But for a large group of people, and typically it can be a slightly fictional context are mine My mega games tend to be much more realistic because I’m I want students to feel like world leaders with real world real world problems. But other mega games deal with sci fi scenarios, and all kinds of stuff. Right? There’s
Dustin Staats 4:25
a really cool podcast called shut up and sit down that does a lot of board game content. And they they love mega games. So I would suggest searching YouTube, if anyone’s curious for mega game shut up and sit down, you’ll probably be able to find one that they played. It was really cool to watch. But mega game is like probably the most prep that you can do for a game based learning solution. Right? Yeah, so a lot of preparation. So we want to look at maybe that’s something we can talk about in a future episode. But right now we want to look at low prep solution. So first, can you define game based learning for us, we We’ve talked about that a lot on this podcast, but it’s always nice to hear about, um, perspectives. Like I mentioned, it’s nice to see what types of things guests prefer to highlight or touch on for game based learning.
Shaun McMillan 5:11
Yeah, game based learning. So I think it’s a little different than gamification, because in gamification, you’re just adding game mechanics to the, the already previously established pedagogies that we’re all familiar with. But game based learning is really where you do play games. And then through the game, you learn the technique or the skill that you’re trying to, or the learning objective, you convey it through the mechanics of the game, which is very difficult to it works really well when it works, but it usually works for very specific learning objectives. And so the reason why I’m exploring this kind of low prep, you know, like game based learning is awesome, because it’s, you’re, you’re preparing this really dynamic system where the, the students are in the driver’s seat. But it takes a lot of more preparation than anything, any other form of lesson because you literally have to design in to fully develop and test the game before you’re ready to launch. Right. And
Dustin Staats 6:06
I mean, you mentioned you’re working on some board and card games. So there’s, there are some games out there that are already designed to be educational, game based learning solutions, I guess. But a lot of times, we might be looking at Hobby board games, or a mishmash of game mechanics we come across to us in our classrooms, if we’ve looked at game based learning. So you are talking about or we’re gonna talk about some low prep solution. So what, how much PrEP is low prep? What would you define low prep?
Shaun McMillan 6:39
Well, in the recent past, I was looking at low prep wargames. Because there’s some wargames, actually, you’re very open system that can be applied to a lot of different scenarios. And they don’t require a lot of components. And they don’t even require because, you know, I think a lot of us are familiar with tabletop RPG, or Dungeons and Dragons, which is a very in depth, very rule based, and it’s complicated, right. But you know, there are other tabletop RPGs that are super easy that require very little dice. My, the best example I can think of is one called a honey heist, if you know honey heist is like at one time, sit down the very simple rules, you’ll use one six sided dice. And, but that’s not like an educational game. But I was looking at some board games that they actually use in the military, and are very simple, very easy and very low prep. But even more recently, I found a technique that’s even more low prep than that. And so the lowest prep game that I’ve found is really just having one really awesome multiple choice question that’s based on like, say, friends, if you take a history lesson, or if you take anything that’s based on a piece of literature, like a sea shake, the one that example that I used recently was a Shakespeare play, every Shakespeare play comes down to some critical decision that the main character has to make at the the midpoint crisis, like the third act, right? If it’s a five, act play, and so you can just take that scenario, and then think, Okay, this guy’s gonna have maybe three major critical alternatives, he has to choose between, right, go to war, retreat, or maybe some creative third option. And if you can really design that multiple choice question, well, you can put, you can stop at that point in the story, or the context that you’ve explained. And then let the kids you know, or let the audience choose in a live poll, or like just looking at a whiteboard with a question written on it. And I’ll let them all vote on like what they would do in that scenario. And they don’t if they don’t know the outcome, if they don’t, if it’s not a well known story, then, you know, they really don’t know, they really, it becomes just as dynamic as a real game. And it’s engaging.
Dustin Staats 8:44
Yeah, that’s awesome. And it reminds me of some things I’ve seen with content creators in board games or other games, they call on the audience to decide the movies that the player makes within the games load, like, open up the vote system, and whatever move gets the most votes still make that move in the game. And what’s really interesting is this is narrative based choices within a game. And how it’s a I guess the book is choose your own adventure that I think that’s trademarked I hear from earlier. So it’s similar to that style book. What so I guess what is a game because that’s something that I think is pretty contentious, as far as looking at what is a game when you ask game is, and some are pretty gung ho about what their definition is a game and it must meet these requirements. But what would you say is a game for the context of a game based learning solutions?
Shaun McMillan 9:41
What is the game? Well, all the definitions of games usually have some involved, they usually involve play to some degree, right? And that’s the only reason why we don’t consider typical school or most students don’t consider a typical school again, because technically speaking, right, you do. The school is like a game. It’s a well structured system. It has leaderboard, right? Because we kind of the students kind of know, at least in high school, they know where they stand in the class range. You have, you’re being scored all the time, right? You even have like endgame bosses in the form of tests and exams and quizzes. But it’s just not fun. It’s somehow we managed to bureaucratize and make its manufacturers like such a large structure and force all the students through it that it just really takes the fun out of learning. So for me, my like, whole philosophy of teaching and developing games is like, hey, learning was meant to be fun. I got to understand how we managed to take the fun out of this, but let’s bring it back in.
Dustin Staats 10:38
You said something really cool. That made me think that oh, well, maybe learning is kind of fun. Because you called quizzes and test as endgame bosses, which makes me think and realize that’s definitely a game based learning solution is kind of labor rising tests and worksheets and creating a structure of, I guess, enemies, maybe some worksheets are different enemy types, and you acquire these points for defeating a worksheet and then the end game boss, maybe you have a more points for beating that boss. I mean, you want to look at that a little bit more dramatically and in depth than just assigning points. But I think it holds true that these are some things we can look at as far as creating lower prep solutions.
Shaun McMillan 11:29
Yeah, for me, I A lot of times when I try to understand these things, so I really like to analyze and really go to the deepest level of analysis, I’m like, I try to reduce things down to like, three, five, I always find like, if I can just reduce it down to like, three abstract ideas. So for instance, when you look at Aristotle and how he understood, like, drama, I think he wrote, he wrote a book about, like, plays, and what makes a great play. And you know, a lot of times it comes down to like three really amazing Greek words, right? And so, for me, I look at my games, I’m like, What are the critical elements of a good game in you know, a game typically, you can be reduced down to some kind of the, the context and the structure, the context is very important, or the in drama, we would call it the exposition, right? So you have like, the story or the historical time period, or the, the the setup, right? So who are these characters? And what what do they want? If it’s a story, but in a game, you know, like chess, that it’s like royalty, right? or some kind of, even if it’s a very thin layer, that at least there’s some theme. And then, you know, so like, there should be three. And typically, most games have some type of shuffling, or RNG, or some kind of dice, right? So some kind of random unexpected twists or surprises. And so for me, that creates mystery, there needs to be some mystery, some some unknown element, or sometimes we have asymmetric information, like I know, some aspect of the bigger story, you know, some aspect, but I don’t know what you know, don’t know. And you don’t know which parts I know and don’t know. So there’s some hidden aspect to it. And then, of course, you need to have a very structured set of rules or expectations or, like an obstacle that needs to be overcome or some difficult choice. So for me, in games, it looks like they come down to some form of these three things. And it’s when you have those three dynamic things going on simultaneously, that’s when you have an overwhelmingly powerful, dynamic experience. If it was only two things, then it just becomes like a puzzle, you need to solve like a simple math problem. But as soon as you have three things that are impacting your brain, and pushing you in three different directions at any given time, that’s when you feel like totally immersed, and just slightly out of your element like slightly beyond your, your cognitive ability.
Dustin Staats 13:49
So I’m wondering, do you have an example I’m trying to think through my process of things in games I’ve looked at designing, give an example of a time where maybe you’ve had two of those three things and then you realize all this is the third thing I need to create this game like experience for my learner’s,
Shaun McMillan 14:07
oh, especially when I design games, like a card, a simple card game, because it usually the easiest way to design a card game is you just start with a simple mechanic. But when you only have one mechanic in the game or one mechanism, it just doesn’t feel dynamic enough, because everyone’s just focuses on how to solve that one problem. But when you’re trying to solve that one problem, and then you get hit sideways with something else, for instance, maybe someone is lying to you, right? Well, now you’ve got to like try to understand who is like who’s given me reliable information. And then I have limited options within the card from my hands, I need to choose about which card to play based on who I think I trust. And then on top of that, if you have some third element, like for instance, maybe we’re all gonna lose if we don’t manage the if we don’t manage to do this before the clock runs out before the deck runs out. Now you’ve got enough going on that like you’re you really are immersed in trying to solve this puzzle. This like dynamic puzzle. Anytime you saw one mechanic, it just feels like an incomplete game like this is just not there’s just not enough going on here.
Dustin Staats 15:07
Yeah, yeah, that’s awesome. I’m thinking back to a game that I had designed for English language learning. And I’ve talked about this on the show before it’s a, it’s a business English Business English course that I taught at a university in Taiwan. And we were looking at negotiation and looking at grammar structures within that unit. And I created a game with secret agendas for each group. Each group represented a different company, and they had these resources that they had to trade with other companies to fulfill their secret agenda, their secret agenda, ordered them points and then the resources they had at the end of the game awarded them points. But throughout the negotiation process, I would give them some time to go talk to different companies. And then they would have to come up to the start to the front of the classroom and announce what their offer is to another company, the other company had a chance to come up and agree and accept that offer or give a counter offer.
Unknown Speaker 16:05
So really a lot going on.
Dustin Staats 16:07
Right, right. So I’m thinking through what where, where did that start? And that was kind of the the idea of the learning outcome. I wanted them to use a negotiation. So maybe, how can I make that more simple without having to think through the resources they need? The Secret agenda? I don’t know. I don’t know if you have any suggestions.
Shaun McMillan 16:34
Or because I was designing mega games and mega games there. At least for me, there was always a temptation to throw in more like, let’s throw in, you know, the, you know, that concept. They say like the kitchen, everything in the kitchen sink. So we ended up with a game that we ended because the game has evolved a lot over the years. And I have a second version of it that I bring to board game conventions and stuff. But I ended up with just too many asymmetric thing going on too many mechanics, too many different rules for too many different roles. And we’d like to overwhelming the players. But at once at some point we realized, Oh, you know, actually, this game, we now we’re looking at the game and we’re thinking, Okay, this actually will be better if we can take it back down to the parts that really do work. And then just take out the parts that are just too much because you don’t end up just explaining rules all day long. Or, or? Yeah, it just becomes because it’s a bit if it’s a really as a dynamic system, then every change or thing that you add should be affecting everything else. So these days, I think much more return in terms of reducing down to the the parts that really work, especially since with the with the COVID-19 thing going on right now. And then people trying to switch over to virtual and online. It’s really making me think more critically about Okay, I definitely want less component games, like games that do not rely heavily on components, but rely more on the conversational aspect of the social dynamic of the game.
Dustin Staats 17:56
Right. And that’s, that’s something we’ve started playing a game at the end of these podcast episodes. And that’s something I’ve been racking my brain on what are some conversational only games that require no components in play through conversation? And it’s tough, it’s tough. I’m trying to like think of different board games and how those can be modified for conversation based play. And it’s hard. So I’m wondering if you have any advice for a teacher? And again, we’re recording this in December. So maybe by the time this comes out, when we’re listening to this, maybe maybe, maybe it’s not looking like it, but maybe some schools are back in session, or we’re remote? Do you have any suggestions for either type of learning environment, whether it’s all online or in person, for teacher that one want to jump into a low prep game based learning solution?
Shaun McMillan 18:48
Well, the thing that I worked on most recently, that comes to mind is like I said, this, what I did is I took King Henry, the fourth and King Henry, the fifth, that’s what these are two play are three plays by Shakespeare. And I was trying to take that whole is also a film if you’ve seen this film called The King on Netflix. So I highly recommend this film is one of my favorite movies recently. And, you know, this young King Henry, Hurricane Hal, he gets into this really amazing predicament. And so I made this multiple choice question based on the midpoint prices, he can decide whether or not he wants to go to he’s already at war with France, but then he has to decide, he gets out number five to one by surprise by the dolphin, the son of the heir to the French throne. And so he’s got to decide do I go to war or do I not do I take this use this risky strategy or do I retreat and Anyways, this so I have the four multiple choice alternative I have three, maybe one, maybe an additional creative one, so maybe three or maybe four options for the audience to vote on which one they want to choose. But then also it’s kind of like I created a flowchart so I made it to where okay if they choose to, for example, Do a challenge that challenge the dolphin to a one on one sword battle. So like they can do a duel and then decide the fate of the battle based on the door. Right? Which he does actually in the movie. Well, the prince just laughs at him. He’s like the sound of the prince of the dolphin, the French, right? In general, he laughs And he’s like, oh, what are you scared? No, let’s go to war. You brought your little army? Yeah, you can find my big army. Right? So the students don’t know that that’s, you know, he got humiliated like that, but they can choose that option. And that as a flowchart, okay, if they choose that alternative, then we can explore that, and then we can show the result and then bring them back to the question now without that, that element in there. So it becomes more dynamic. But it’s not obviously that if it’s, it’s very simple to the to the audience, but you know, as a teacher, you have a little bit more prep behind that, you know, that like, Okay, if they choose this option, this is what the results are going to be. And then for one of the options, if they choose In this scenario, if they take the really, really risky strategy, which is suggested by Serge on Falstaff, his right hand advisor, well, then you have to you can decide what the odds are for that, and then roll dice or, you know, use RNG over Google, you can google search RNG, and they’ll give you a random number generator. And you can, you know, say, Well, okay, there’s like, so many odds that they needed to rain in order for this to work surge on Falstaff is Nia swollen, so he thinks it’s gonna rain tonight, and if it rains, then they can use light armor, to attack a heavy infantry and be more mobile. But this only works if like it rains, right. So you have to roll for that. And then of course, with war, there’s always the random randomness of like whether or not your troops fight better, or their truth fight better. So you can just determine odds for that. And if you have a really smart class, really astute class, you can even talk about what the odds should be and negotiate over the odds. And even have, like philosophical or, you know, debate about help are pre determined are things or not, you know, I think even Shakespeare himself was exploring the idea of like, do great men make history? Or does history make great men? And, you know, you can get as deeper not deep as you want. And you can lead into another question, or you can just focus on one key question. But yeah, I think low prep, it doesn’t take much actually, you know, a slideshow is, is really all you need. You can even make a slideshow dynamic, right? If you if you go, if you you can go like you can skip ahead to certain slides, if you decide make a certain decision.
Dustin Staats 22:23
Right, you can create different hyperlinks within the Google slide or PowerPoint. Yeah, my, my brain is on fire with ideas now, because I’m thinking, you could even you could start as a springboard for your class, you have that? I guess that huge question or decision that a character has to make within a story. And you give them those options. But then I wonder if you could put the rest of the decisions on your students? I’d see them maybe this is kind of just thinking out loud, like they form groups, and they create their own flowcharts for what would happen, and then give it to a different group. And then each group goes through those flow charts, and then they can kind of discuss about that too, because then, then there’s less, there’s less prep for you as a teacher as well. I don’t know, I guess you’d have to try it out. I’m not sure. I imagine it would work pretty well, though.
Shaun McMillan 23:19
Yeah, is anyone who’s really taught, you know, like, anyone knows the reality of teaching in a classroom with you know, 18 plus students, you know, that, you know, coming up with games and all this kind of extra on top of the already crazy workload that you have, and all the administrative duties and grading that you need to do. And so a lot of times, we don’t get it, even though we could make these really great dynamic lessons, we just don’t get around to it, because it’s fun to make lessons. But it’s kind of endless, how much you’re going to perfect your lessons. And you kind of got to just cut it off and get to all your other responsibilities. But I like this, because it’s something that can be done on the fly. And especially the idea that you just mentioned, anytime you can push on responsibilities, like classroom management, onto the students where they’re managing each other, or they’re dividing up into groups, and then they have like, each has a role. And so they’re, they take on all the active roles and are managing things and you can literally just be hands off and walk around and watch your students learn and then step into certain groups. And, you know, when you when you set it up and prepare it well, and you structure it, well, you become this, that the active participants in the classroom are the students, and you’re actually just passively walking around watching them learn. That’s always to me the ideal classroom.
Dustin Staats 24:31
Right, right. That’s the I think the more the learning model model that more and more teachers and schools are leaning towards. I mean, it’s, I guess, you and I, we you’ve mentioned you’ve taught in Korea, and I’ve taught in Asia, different parts. And it’s really interesting because that model where a student centered approach is very foreign. That’s not that’s not a very comfortable model. For students in Asia. Yeah. So
Unknown Speaker 24:58
Dustin Staats 24:59
Yeah, right. So I think I think in the US, it’s it’s a lot more comfortable. And it has been for a while. That’s, that’s the approach that we’re used to.
Shaun McMillan 25:09
As teacher, thinking back is like I love when I can, like, for instance, what teachers will have me come in and run a mega game for them. And they’re so shocked, because three quarters of the way through the game, I’ll be sitting there on the sidelines watching like spectators, and I’ll walk over there and watch with them. And they’re like, Shinji be running the game. Like, you would think that I would be running the game. But actually, the students are all running the game. And I even have a what we call a white cell or a referee team of students that are refereeing the game. And the kids are so overwhelmed and busy in the mega game. And I’m just sitting back and laughing and watching because, you know, they’re all learning like crazy, but it’s not because I’m teaching it’s because the system is so dynamic, that it’s it’s generating random lessons on its own. And the students themselves get up and after the game is over, stand up and, and give these really profound realizations that are unique to each of them. And they share with the rest of the room. It’s like they become the teachers, they become the world leaders, they become the profound thinkers. And we’re all just listening and
Dustin Staats 26:04
taking notes. That’s awesome. And I guess maybe one other question is, we were talking about the realities of teaching, and I loved my teaching schedule in Taiwan, and summers off are awesome. And the long winter break in Asia is very long, we have two months off in the winter. So I have opportunity to kind of prep these lessons and go over things that I had made in the past and refine them. But I wonder what would you say is a good balance between investing time into these kind of lessons and kind of just going with what you have?
Shaun McMillan 26:40
Yeah, you know, preparing lessons and stuff, especially in the summertime, I always found myself in the summertime like working really long and hard on some gamification system for my new class. And then just abandoning at the last second, because I realized, like, this is just not worked out perfectly. And I just can’t, I’m already overwhelmed with just trying to teach my lessons and but you know, if you don’t, I feel like I always told myself, when I was teaching, like, if I wasn’t doing at least one project that didn’t just terrify me and like, scare the crap out of me that I wasn’t really pushing myself as to be a great teacher. But at least every year, I was back home, I had one new project I was working on that really was scary to kind of bring to launch and, but I felt like that it made it fresh, and it made it dynamic. So I think it’s good to challenge yourself and to have at least one major project that you’re kind of experiment experimenting with. But you know, we’re always kind of relying on a lot of old curriculum as well. But it’s important as a teacher not to just always rely rely too heavily on the old materials, because I heard a teacher put it this way, one time, he says you can, you can be a teacher for 10 years, or you can teach the same year for 10 years. You don’t want to do that you want to use this material. Because it becomes if it’s not, if it’s not like cutting edge interesting to you, it’s not going to feel that exciting to the students. But if you’re like the lead learner, like if you’re excited, cuz you just you just learned this. And it’s like the most profound thing in the world to you now, right, this moment in time, they feel that energy, even if the lesson is not as well developed, right, I
Dustin Staats 28:13
think that’s key is kind of your students are going to know, you’re investing time into them and your lessons. And that’s important. I know, for me, the thing you had mentioned and kind of is similar for my experiences those projects, like want to say two summers ago, now, maybe three, I’d worked on the gamification gamifying my entire course for my university level students. And those projects for me fuel my teaching fire, it kind of helps me look forward to trying these things out and bringing them to the classroom, it kind of re energizes me in a way. But again, not all of us are lucky enough where I have I had some time off in the summer, and I was able to just devote time to that. And I think at the time, the podcast. So yeah, I mean, I think it’s, it’s like you mentioned, it’s important to the teacher, always to reinvent and look at what you’re doing and what you need to change.
Shaun McMillan 29:14
Yeah, and one of the reasons why I’m looking at very light rule wargames systems and tabletop RPGs that are rules like this, because I really like the idea of having just as open these open rules, game systems that you can apply to almost any lesson. And so that way, it just becomes another tool in your toolkit because as a teacher, you have all these tools in your toolkit that you need to reach and find and pull out at any given time like Kahoot, right? Oh, I could do a quiz game with Kahoot. And then I can do an inquiry lead question based, inquiry based project or project based learning, or we can all explore this one idea or question, and then we can do that for a week and then I can have this worksheet and just like your own You know, you can try to gamify the classroom a little bit like you just started giving out tokens or stickers, you know, as a as an interest, extrinsic reward, you know, and that works for about a week and then the kids get burned out on that, or this is no longer interesting to them, you kind of just need to keep reaching in for an another toolkit, another board game another, something else just to bring a little bit of novelty and to get everyone excited again. Because in just managing a classroom as you’re managing, just like managing any group of people, to me is the constant fight against entropy. Right? You gather everyone, okay? Like, okay, for instance, like the noise level in the classroom is always slowly getting higher and higher and higher, until finally, you’re like, you can’t even hear the student who’s trying to ask you a question to your face. Right? So you’re like, then you just want to shout at the whole classroom. And then so you get everyone all together, like, relax, get back on board, let’s all get back on point, right, you know what you’re supposed to be doing right now. And then it just starts all over again, it’s a constant fight against entropy. And so you just need these tools that will help you to, you know, reach in and grab at any given time. So I’m looking at games, and open games and ways to gamify. And make just just make everything really engaging in that. The other thing I learned too, is that, like, classroom management really has more to do with preparation. Because if you if you don’t give the students problems, they will give you problems. So you always need problems on hand to give them you always need puzzles and games to solve. Right, right.
Dustin Staats 31:23
And you had mentioned some more games that you’re looking at, maybe before we move into the game, if you have anything last words to share, or anything else we want to talk about. But one thing I want to hear maybe you can give some examples of some more games that you’ve been looking at for inspiration.
Shaun McMillan 31:41
Yeah, well, before I do that, let me just I mean, I’m sure anyone here who’s designed games probably knows this. But just in case you don’t, the materials and this again, I forgive me, this is a little bit thinking more that you have students in your physical classroom. But you know, the basic toolkit for any game designer, can be used by any teacher that’s never designed a game before, it’s so simple, you really just need these like core ingredients, which are, you know, dice you just always have dice on you, right? Always have a poker deck on you. Because a poker deck is, can be used so many different ways, right? Like, you can literally divide up the classroom into groups based on just passing out cards. And like everyone who gets the suit, they’re in a group together, or reds versus blacks, right. Or if you need to have like any kind of you want to just like gamify your lesson a little bit, you can make it to where you pass out the cards, and then you have royalty cards. And then you have the regular cards right? So you can divide the class up into some you have some kind of privileged students so they anyone who gets a royalty card, they’re like the privilege they can roleplay as a patrician as opposed to a plebeian. If you’re talking about ancient Rome. You can pass out tokens, you can literally just ask questions, ask students to raise their hand and anyone who did who happens to answer a question correctly gets an extra chip like a poker chip. So having poker chips or counting cubes on you, and then index cards, because index cards you can always write down. For instance, if I want to simulate five to one odds, I can just write victory on four cards, or on five cards, and then you know, fail on one card or fail on five cards and victory on one card. And then you just shuffle them, and then you let someone draw one of those cards. But then you can also write on there like you can write any kind of mechanic you want on there, or any kind of surprise on there, or any kind of contextual detail or a surprise event deck, right? You have to draw like a crazy weather card or some third element comes in or some external war party or some general decides to abandon ship and, you know, some random event happens, because that’s just always in reality, like, we never know what’s going to happen. You can simulate all of these things was such simple materials.
Dustin Staats 33:48
Yeah, I think the index card examples really good. That’s, I know class craft kind of employ something similar where it’s an event at the beginning of class and you just, you know, you draw a random card, or I guess in the the digital system, you click a button, and a random event pops up. And you have to do that before class. So that’s, that’s really cool.
Shaun McMillan 34:10
And tabletop RPG dice, which is basically a 20 sided dice, 10 sided dice, maybe a pyramid shaped dice. That’s really useful like that. And a brick of colored dice only cost like eight bucks on Amazon. So just always have a brick of six sided dice.
Dustin Staats 34:26
Awesome. So any thing else before we head into the game?
Shaun McMillan 34:32
Oh, you asked me about some war games, I think are about games that I operate based on.
Dustin Staats 34:37
Yeah, some examples of games you’ve been looking at?
Shaun McMillan 34:40
Yeah, so more recently, I’ve been looking at tabletop RPG light rule games. So some examples are Icarus, different kind of use of six sided dice. And then you can kind of build a genre, you choose a genre and you build a world based on that or a city based on that. And then it’s a tragic world. And so you stack the dice as you use them and then eventually the dice falls and once the dice fall, so there’s there’s more to it. But it’s a very simple rule light system. I’ve been looking at some games by Ben Robbins, he makes a game called Kingdom in which three, three or more players can basically develop a king fictional Kingdom together and then each of them place controls a different aspect of the kingdom together and so they adjudicate each other as opposed to there being a dungeon master. They all kind of Dungeon Master each other. And then honey heist in suddenly is one off that tabletop RPGs. I’m also looking at in terms of Wargaming. The I’m finding that the Did you don’t know if you listened to the radio lab, but radio lab recently did a whole episode where they wargames an election scenario just to try to predict what is the worst ways that this election this most recent American election could go?
Dustin Staats 35:53
Yeah, the I didn’t realize maybe is it based on a research that another group did? I’ve read? I’ve read a paper on that a group did a simulation based on election. Yeah, I didn’t know radiolab talked about it. That’s awesome.
Shaun McMillan 36:07
Yeah, they ran four different wargames, simulations. So we say war game, there was no war involved, but basically easily simple war game rules to simulate anything and everything that we need to see how things could could play out. So you have role playing, you have different experts role playing and certain things and then they make choices. And then there’s an outcome and as referees that choose these things, but I look at I’ve been looking at matrix games and in SDM has an even simpler system in SDM is the national security decision making game. And in a national security decision making game, you literally just give out roles. And then you tell them, You tell them what they’re like, for instance, someone can represent the Iraqi police and other represents the American military’s interests there. And then another person can represent the actual Iraqi citizens. And then they each have their own wants and desires, right? their own incentives. Once you’ve got that explained to them, then they literally just write down on a sheet of paper, what they want to do, and then any other player that it involves has to sign off on it. And they kind of just adjudicate each other. So it’s like really simple, really light. But it leads to really dynamic discussions, and it tends to get much more in depth analysis and engagement from the participants.
Dustin Staats 37:26
That’s awesome. Those are some, I think, really good resources for anyone listening to check out. That’s awesome. Yeah, and I also really liked the fate accelerated tabletop RPG because you could use it, you can use it to fit any basically any kind of fiction, any kind of genre, I’ve heard good things about fate, the system, I’ve never really looked into it. I’m very new to tabletop RPGs. I’m actually going to GM, my first RPG started tomorrow actually, as this recording, we’re gonna create characters and maybe started tomorrow. But I’m doing that because I think it’s like you’ve just mentioned there’s a lot of mechanics and resources and ideas that come from tabletop RPGs that you can employ in your classroom.
Shaun McMillan 38:10
Yeah, I’m trying to make a really light version of Alliance right now. So that one that just two or three students can just sit down together and a teacher can sit down together and play. And yeah, basically, kind of like fate accelerated fate accelerated if you’ve ever seen plus or minus dice like dice, six sided dice that have pluses minuses and blinks on them. We use a similar system, but we just use a set of like a very short deck of cards. And these cards have like, you know, success and failure and somewhere in between and then like success, but with a twist or failure, but with that can be turned into a success if you make a large sacrifice. And so we have this kind of deck of cards so that to keep the game fun and interesting and not fall into the traps of some poorly designed games.
Dustin Staats 40:32
Alright, john, stick around. I’m going to chat a little bit with rich about what we just talked about, and then we’re gonna play our game.
Alright, and we are back. So rich, what are some things that stood out to you based on the conversation Shawn and I had
Rich Hill 40:52
one December seems so long ago doesn’t.
Unknown Speaker 40:58
Yeah, also, I
Rich Hill 40:59
don’t know, I thought was really interesting. Um, it seems that he’s really good at making that like students center class, especially with all his games that he creates. And that’s something I think all teachers should definitely strive to do. They definitely seems to do it in a pretty interesting way. And the other thing that I really like, I don’t remember exactly what he said was like, you can teach for 10 years or be a teacher for 10 years, meaning like, you can teach the same subject over and over again, or you can kind of change things up. And I completely agree with that. Like, I get bored sometimes, like I taught in class last year, and I’m like, Alright, I want to change it up. I want to take some risks and stuff. And I think doing like board games in the classroom is definitely a way to do that.
Dustin Staats 41:47
Right? Yeah, I think I think about my teaching career. And I mean, I’ve taught kind of all over the place and different age groups, mainly University, but for the first time ever, I was teaching the same content, two semesters in a row. Usually it was different from semester to semester, but for the first time ever, a couple years ago, and I was excited, because I didn’t have to reinvent the wheel that time around. But I did have other I had a new course to teach. So it wasn’t all like the same stuff. But yeah, I totally agree that I like to kind of iterate on past courses and past semesters.
Rich Hill 42:24
Yeah, I mean, of course, like you want to build on what you did last year. But it’s also nice to I think a board game is a perfect like curveball in a way, right? Like, because you can make it more fun. It doesn’t take too much time up. It could be like one or two days. Right?
Dustin Staats 42:39
Right. So I’m also curious, because I have never played a mega game. And I really, really want to play in a game. I’ve seen some videos online, and it looks super fun. I’m that kind of gamer that really likes to dive into something and get really immersed in the world. So I’m curious what your take on either make games just as a thing to do for fun are for classroom learning.
Rich Hill 43:02
For I think for classroom learning, I think it’s great. I mean, that’s kind of, I believe what a lot of like the Model UN is kind of modeled off of, and even he’s talking about, like different war games and stuff. That’s great means of learning and teaching. So I think it’s great for students. For my own enjoyment. Yeah, of course, right. Like,
Dustin Staats 43:27
it kind of be, it would be tough to do it right now, I think. I mean, obviously, but hopefully, hopefully soon, hopefully soon. So anything else to add to what we talked about, before we head into our game?
Rich Hill 43:41
Again, I really liked this interview. Speaking about like, you have an interesting perspective to look at it that like a school is one way or another like a board game, right? or some sort of built up game, you have like to build up your character and kind of learn and then these mini bosses or the quizzes, or these mega buses, or like college applications or those kind of fun way to look at it. Let’s see if I could sell that to my students though and see what they think.
Dustin Staats 44:13
Yeah, just throw the flavoring on top. I think it works to an extent. I mean, definitely you can use a lot of game mechanics to create school as a game. There are schools that do that. But yeah, I think also there’s an app or I guess, like a diary, a journal that you use to gamify your life and you go through different levels in your life and you like choose things that you want to improve whether it’s health or I don’t know mental health and you kind of create a gamified experience. I’ll have to leave it in the show notes maybe if I can find it, but let’s jump into our game.
You’ve played this before and I will explain it Here to everyone listening. So we’re playing wavelength, explore how you one last time, I think you’re one for one and two, you have one wind and two losses.
Unknown Speaker 45:10
I don’t want pizza.
Dustin Staats 45:12
So let’s see, I’ll see if you take home the windlass this week. So it’s wavelength, I’ll give you two things that are on a scale of zero to 100. In the game, there’s an actual dial that you use, but we use numbers to quantify it for the podcast. So it might be something from cold zero, hot to 100. So our scale for this game or This round is historically important is 100. I want you to guess a number based on my clue Big Bang.
Rich Hill 45:44
Historically speaking, zero is it’s not impact at all is not historically 100 being very impactful. And your hint is Big Bang. So I’m, this is tough, because one end of it, I would think, like the Big Bang, totally 100. Right. But the other hand of me thinks he wouldn’t do that. I’m thinking like the big bang theory, like the TV show. And that, that it’ll be that that historically accurate. So which one would you pick? Big Bang is the head.
Dustin Staats 46:22
Yes, Big Bang?
Rich Hill 46:24
No, no humming or anything before rafter.
Dustin Staats 46:27
Now this big bang is the clue. And historically irrelevant, zero to historically relevant 100.
Rich Hill 46:37
Okay, I would say it’s like the Big Bang. So I would go 100. Sure.
Dustin Staats 46:43
Let’s listen to Shawn’s musing on guessing as well, historically important is 100. I want you to guess a number based on my clue big thing
Shaun McMillan 46:57
is obviously like super important and relevant in terms of science. But it all depends on how you define story or history, because we have like pre history, which is basically like before writing right before the records that we have, or the stories that we remember people telling if it’s before that, and we only discovered it through science as a kind of a theory. It’s like, does that qualify as history or not?
Dustin Staats 47:24
So that’s his his kind of working through the the answer. So let’s listen to his answer.
Shaun McMillan 47:30
All right, well, I’ll just go for 100 I guess, you are.
Dustin Staats 47:38
So technically, in the game and wavelength, it’s a cooperative game. So you guys would be working on a team to try to guess my clue. So I guess you both win. And I lose, maybe? I don’t know. Alright, rich. Thank you again, for coming on the show. And I hope you can join us when we do do our video cast episode so everyone can see your lovely face.
Rich Hill 48:02
Yeah, thank you for having me. And I’ll be sure to be stopping by sometime soon.
Dustin Staats 48:07
Alright, Sean, thank you so much for coming on the show. If anyone wanted to reach out to you, if you’re working on anything I know, you mentioned the lions game, you’re looking at a simplified version. But if you’re working on anything else that you want to share with our listeners, where might they find that?
Shaun McMillan 48:22
Yeah, actually, I’m looking for volunteers. If anyone wants to play over the internet, I’m basically I’ve gotten I’m working on a card game called Alliance trade wars. And this is dealing with sustaining the problem of sustainability. And so yeah, if anyone wants to, and then I also do a podcast these days, kind of a personal journal, and some lessons that I think are useful and critical for people to know. So this is best class ever.org if you go there, I have a newsletter newsletter so people can find out about anytime I launch a game or anytime I if you want to once a join a game test, or just wants to play some educational games. Or if you want to find out about the next mega game, which is probably gonna be some time off into the future. And since events, event games are not really popular right now. But yeah, you can always find me at best class ever.org. Awesome. And we’ll be sure to add that to the show notes to Yes. Oh, and I will also be sharing very soon I will be sharing or I’ll have an article about my King Henry. lesson that I kind of turned into a game.
Dustin Staats 49:22
Oh, perfect. Yeah, that’s awesome. So again, that’s best class ever.org. Awesome. So thank you so much for coming on the show and hopefully we’ll chat again soon. Great.
Board Gaming with Education 49:35
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