Experimenting with School

We’re obsessed with learning at fanschool.org.

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The recent article-conversation “In Education, How Do We Create a Culture of Experimentation?” highlights how learning communities should function and thrive!

The development and growth of fanschool.org (which started as “fantasy geopolitics”) continues to rely on experimentation, especially as we’re built by teachers and students for teachers and students.

It’s designed to be empowering and flexible so teachers don’t have to download anything, can use it however they want, and incorporate any other learning content they want.

It turned our students into managers of their own learning and me into a fan of their self-direction and new knowledge in my classroom.

So, here are a few ideas for experimenting with FANschool from lots of us teachers!

Getting Started Ideas

What a draft looks like in my classroom — A single computer with internet access and a projector works best for a draft as students need to come up to the computer and click a country to draft it for their team. Our draft system “snakes” through the draft rounds so that the first pick in the first round has the last pick in the second round as each student (or team) drafts a different country.

Class Use Ideas (aka “League” Use Ideas)

Many teachers use it as the focus of an immersive class or unit on foreign or domestic policy, world geography, U.S. history, current events, or international government. Lots of teachers also utilize it as a support for engaging students in existing content in history, humanities, world literature, or literacy courses. Some foreign language teachers even use it to draft countries from their region-of-study and use news in different languages alongside it.

The game aspect can be used with any age group, even though the news “Mentions” and “Tone” scoring comes from sources like the New York Times and GDELT.

FANschool fits especially well with National Council for the Social Studies curriculum themes, as well as Common Core English Language Arts Reading: Informational Text and Literacy standards.

Plus, research supports this type of learning!

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Global Competence is a 21st Century imperative.

It’s most commonly used for Daily or Weekly Current Events updates and discussions or Daily Warm Ups or Cool Downs before or after diving into other course content.

  • I ran fantasy geopolitics (now FANgeopolitics) as a 5-month league in my 9th grade Civics and Government classes to help students become more aware of what was happening around the world before our unit on foreign policy. I even created a classroom system for student-teams in the bottom half of leagues to form alliances or showcase additional learning to increase their game points.
  • A World Geography teacher had students draft countries only from the continents they were studying each new unit every 2–3 weeks to become more familiar with current events and geopolitics in each one.
  • A middle school Humanities teacher used the game as a way to keep her students engaged in learning outside of her every-other-day class and utilized resources like Newsela to find leveled reading content for younger students.
  • A U.S. History teacher had students draft modern-day World War I and Cold War countries to examine the legacies of those conflicts while studying their history.
  • A World History teacher has students draft countries from each part of the world they’re studying and gears class activities around how history explains what’s happening in each country now and why.
  • A Sociology teacher uses it in her course to cover the contemporary world issues content standards.
  • A Media Studies and Journalism teacher uses it in her course to examine global news coverage, bias, and reasons why some countries are featured more than others in the news.
  • A Global Cultures teacher has students draft the lowest scoring countries to help make students aware of lesser-known regions of the world so they can study development and culture. Students that get the lowest scores win.
  • A AP Human Geography teacher uses it to engage her students in each of the course’s 5 themes (location, human/environment interaction, regions, place, movement) and has students find news articles related to each theme for their countries.
  • A World Religions teachers has his students draft countries from each part of the world where they’re studying religious trends and has students incorporate religion in news-article finds.

Creative Use Ideas (follow these users!)

Check out Mr. Huesken’s “How to Set Up Fantasy Geopolitics Playoffs”.

And, a few of our favorite tweets from students . . . you’ll notice a female trend here as girls often crush their more-outwardly-competitive male counterparts!

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Other Fun Classroom Activities:

Plan + analyze news scouting reports via video!

Get students creating memes to summarize + discuss news trends.

Have students design + create their own newspaper using real news summaries!

Quotes from Teacher Experiments

I loved using it in an after-school club. Students even came in before school and during lunch to check scores and I started a Pinterest board to have them share news articles for extra game points!

Using Fantasy Geopolitics as the focus of a seminar class I designed really helped students engage with global citizen standards. It was a much more efficient way to engage students and make them aware of what was happening in the world.

The map that shows the daily points for each country is an awesome discussion starter. Also, the draft was SO easy to use! It hooks the kids who are sometimes the least likely to want to be involved. Surprising what competition does :)

It provides a way to have students be involved in research of countries and when that country is brought up in class they have input because they seem to have ownership of knowledge no one else in the class has.

It gets students excited about what is going on in the world today and it allows to take ownership on what they want to learn more about.

I tried an assignment before fantasy geopolitics and the kids hated it. When I introduced this in game format they were so enthusiastic about it. I don’t think I have enough space to list everything. Kids are excited — gave me a great uniting theme for my geography class.

The girls (I’m at an all-girls school) are really into it. It has really elevated their interest in what is going on in the world. The platform is fun — the girls like looking at the map. They also love our add/drop days.

The students truly enjoyed the competitiveness as well as researching their countries using the CIA World Fact Book. I liked having to keep up with my countries and finding out what is going on around the world

Learning why things happen/are trending instead of just what happens. Students paid better attention to the news, looking for new countries to draft. It also generated really good discussions about WHY certain events weren’t being covered as much as others.

It is an easy way to incorporate technology and 21st century skills in the classroom. It is also student facilitated and encourages family participation at home.

It has sparked some great conversations in my class about world issues. It has also caused students to research and learn about countries that they did not know about previously.

I really liked how engaged it made my students in current events and things going on around the world. So many of them never watched the news or read news articles. Now their interest in it is through the roof. Even after our seminar is over, kids keep checking scores, articles, etc.!

My students actually know where countries are now. It was a fun, interactive activity. t’s starting to raise awareness of names of countries, and perks their interest in which countries are being mentioned in the media.

It engaged students who weren’t usually that engaged. I saw kids coming in before school and checking the scoring maps and really talking about what was happening and why countries were trending.

I like the visual representation of the scores and countries. It was a good way for my students to see the world as bigger then their own world.

Of course, we’ve had a few failed experiments along the way too . . .

And this is how we feel about them:

Remember, it all started here, as an experiment.

Let’s learn! And let’s play!

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Founded by teachers and technologists, we turn students into FANs of learning with fantasy sports-like games for school content + current events.

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