My students did not stumble blindly into the game. During the election season in October, the distinction between both major political parties was a primary topic. We had recently explored and discussed the 3 branches, and Congress's interaction with the executive branch in terms of veto overrides, impeachment, and 'advise-and-consent' powers. However, this was my first assignment related directly to the legislative branch. Instead of telling students about amendments to bills, majority vs 2/3 voting requirements, and inherently contradictory demands on legislators ... I allowed this game to do the teaching for me.
In my experience with this game, 15 minutes of game-playing is the right amount of time to require. (Of course, some students play much longer.) Depending on choices they made at the beginning, it could take just a few minutes to successfully pass a bill. That would lead students to believe that lawmaking is easy, but I want them to understand the opposite! Also, I don't want to penalize students who think carefully and work really hard, but within 30 minutes they still might not pass a bill into law. That would make them feel jaded and unfairly belligerent about legislation.
Here are two screenshots that show how I presented the task in my LMS:
By nudging my students to focus on "why is it difficult to pass a law?" right after playing Lawcraft, they switched into reflection mode on a targeted aspect of the game. Here are some very good responses:
- "It wasnt too difficult to pass the law i only had trouble 2 or 3 times i just did what the majority wanted" one girl wrote. She might have a bright future in politics with that attitude!
- "I didnt understand much. mostly pressed buttons to see how many people agree" -- Well, I appreciate the honesty! And I have a red flag that can initiate a brief conference to learn what went wrong. Did she even try to play for 15 minutes??
- "The only way to pass my bill (kids' rights!) was to include an amendment I disagreed with. Interesting that many amendments LOST as any votes as they gained." Yes, yes it is! Again, a 1:1 conference might lead to more insights because I know this student writes much less than he knows. At least we have a starting point, though.
Oh my god you read this whole thing? Wow.
If you drop me a note in the comments, I would sure appreciate it!