Is Board Game a Powerful Learning Tool for Subjects which Students are Not Interested In?
A topic that many young people in Singapore deem to be irrelevant, especially when the course is forced upon them by the authorities and it has absolutely no impact on their final grades to get a good diploma or degree.
In fact, at their age, I was probably more interested in workshops or talks that discuss boy-girl relationship or how to dress well and look cool in front of the opposite gender. Money is not an important issue to them as the allowance is given by parents and working life is 3-4 years away, which seems like an eternity at that stage of life.
Hence, when we were invited by a tertiary institution to conduct a financial literacy workshop, we were met with uninterested stares from the students. Some of them were slumped over the table, catching a quick nap right after taking their attendance, while others were engaged in an online multi-player game, with little interest in the topic at hand.
After a short introduction, I whipped out Wongamania: Banana Economy.
"Hey, we are going to play a board game to learn about money!"
A flicker of interest but still an air of nonchalance all around. The idea of playing an educational board game probably did not appeal to them.
"Let's do a warm-up round first! We will have a proper tournament after a short break and a quick debrief!"
After a quick introduction of the game rules, the students started to explore various mechanics of the game. Meanwhile, one of the students remained uninterested and continued her nap on the table.
Shortly after, we started to have shouts and curses as the students got into the groove of the game, nuking each other with accidents and orchestrating financial crisis to wipe out one another in the game. The napping student then peeked from under her hoodie, intrigued by the ruckus and the fun that her friends were having.
The short 30 minutes warm-up round had considerably raised the students' interest towards the topic and explaining basic concepts of budgeting, interest and debt went on a lot smoother thereafter. I have also shared more on some of the more powerful cards in the game, explaining how they can be used to get ahead in the game, and how those cards would function in reality.
The combination of game strategy and real world applications have definitely caught the students' attention as winning the game and getting the grand prize became the focus of the workshop.
As we kicked off on our actual competition, the napping girl woke up and started to participate in the competition. Needless to say, she did not manage to win anything but I am glad that she decided to participate.
45 minutes later, the tournament ended and the winners were crowned. An end game discussion and presentation of the learning points by the winners of each individual tables concluded the entire workshop and allowed us to assess if the learning objectives of this workshop had been met.
After the session, the feedback is encouraging: The students wanted a longer session and to explore more topics on finance... via the method of playing more board games if possible.
So, is Board game a powerful tool for getting students to learn about subjects they are uninterested in?
The answer is a resounding "YES".