• New Struggles

    Posted by PAUL HNIZDIL on 1/16/2020

    New game, new issues, new decisions, new experiences.  The uniques of each game play continues to show.  


    When bringing the WPG to Mountain Brook Junior High, we knew we would have to adjust the minimium critieria.  John Hunter establishes  a minium of 15 hours of dedicated class time and 28-35 students.  The reality there is no way we could meet either of those standards.  I can't sacrifice that amount of class time and still meet the curricular obligations, and our classes aren't that big.  Therefore we start at  a disadvantage.




    Fortunately, the reduced time has not been detrimental or a hindrance to wining the game.  In fact 2 of 3 the games won with an entire school day remaining.  However, the reduced numbers is providing  some difficulities.  In our current game, our numbers do not allow for all the independent agencies to be fully manned.    We decided to have only one player as the  Arms Dealer and one to serve in the World Court.  Having only one in these agencies becomes a problem when that player is absent.  Arms Dealer being gone, not a big deal.  However, missing the World Court is a signficanat loss. Her signature is needed on all agreements as a legal counsel, and she serves as the world court to mediate and adjudicate as needed.  If she is absent, it could be a wrench in the spokes as it was during our very first game day.  One more unique situation.  The WG was sick with the flu on the days we introduced the Crisis Manual.  


    What did we do as facilitators?  We rolled with these punches and pressed on.  Did we make the right calls?  If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know there are no wrong calls.  The decisions we make as faciliators merely become part of the WPG journey.  

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  • Setting a New Culture

    Posted by PAUL HNIZDIL on 1/14/2020

    With the start of each school year, we look at our rosters.  As is often the case, we know very little about the students.  Nonetheless we look forward to bulding relationships. 


    As I learn more about them, I often wonder how each student will react to the multitude and varied things I will put them through.  "What will Sally do with her JOLLIES?"  I may look forward to Eddie's Ignite Presentation.  Or how will Julie respond to my grading system.   Additionally, I wonder and look forward to how each class as a whole reacts to the activities vis a vis their collective and  individual personalities.    Yes, I do compare the groups.  In what ways was 1st period different than 4th period.  Better or worse, and why.  I do this mostly informally throughout the year.  Often times, I use many of my conclusions from these individual and group assessments-reflections to inform changes and adjustments.  It affirms and challenges what I do.  


    Since incorporating the WPG, I've gone to a new level and in some ways a new purpose.  As I learn the students as indivduals and within the group dynamic and collective personality of the class period, I think about the WPG implications.  Who would be a good leader?  Who could play the role of saboteur?  What if a nation had this combination of players.  Will the group succeed?  Will they work togehter or will it be a disaster?  I can't say I am correct in my assumptions or predictions.  Nor can I say we chose the right leaders or bad hombres all the time.  We don't know what will happen until the WPG is played.  We are surprised often.  Such is the trap of the WPG.


    Surprisingly, I'm finding the WPG has a significance influence on the normal class activities.  I create new and even adjust old activities lessons based on the WPG experiences. I think, "Ooh, this class that has played the WPG should or will approach the activity this way".   "This class may struggle a bit more because they haven't played the WPG."   How I introduce activities.  What information I provide and what information I deny students is rooted in the WPG experience.    Moreover, my anwers to student questions often are more questions.  I see this particuarly when students are working on a activity and they are struggling with making a decision. In the past, I would answer.  Now I find myself asking more questions for the students to answer.  They "hate" this by the way.  But it's part of the WPG culture.


    The WPG is not an isolate activity.  I am finding that the WPG influences much if not all I do in the classroom.   It is setting a new tone and culture in my classroom.  The reach of the WPG is broad and deep.  Is this the true purpose of the WPG?  

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  • Kicked Out of the Library.

    Posted by PAUL HNIZDIL on 1/14/2020

    Well, not really kicked out of the library in the strict sense.  We knew the setting the WPG in the library was only temporary.  After November's game, it was time to move.  I packed up the 1500 pieces, dismantled the board and transfered it all to my classroom.  At first I was concerned about the space.  We don't know until we try.  My room is a bit more cramped but not so much to have a negative impact game play.  It works in my room. The WPG will no longer affect the normal operation of the library.  Of course, I will still have to learn to flip the room quickly as we did the library.  It's a minor inconvenience.  


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  • Taking the Next Step

    Posted by PAUL HNIZDIL on 1/10/2020

    With only 3 total games under our belt, we are ready to take the next step.  Expanision.  Well, getting ready for expansion.  Although we are still in the learning and experimenting phase, we want to ride the momentum and prepare for what we hope to be our next step, expanding the game beyond my Advanced World History classes.  Is this the right move to make with the WPG and still maintain its integrity and power as learning tool?  We think so.  However, there is still much we don't know.  We won't know for sure  until we try.  It is the classic dichotomy between theory-idea and practicallity. 


    The team went back to the Institute for Innovation and presented a proposal.  Our plan is to bring 9th grade teacher Matt Howard on board and get him trained as a WPG Facilitator.  Additionally, we asked to have another teacher outside the 9th grade history clan to be trained.   The idea for this teacher to determine ways in which WPG philosophy can be incorporated in her classroom.  Player to be Named Later (PNL)


    I am pleased to announce that the I/I graciously and generously funded this next move.  We will be returning to Miami in early March for more training.  Matt and PNL will get the full force of all the WPG training.  I'm going too; however, I now have a different lens to look through.  Last year, I was blown away.  My focuse was how will I do all this.  I was planning and logistics minded.  I didn't really get an appreciation for the game. I say I had a fixed  mindset.  Fixed in focus on how to do the game.  


    This year I will spend more time watching and learning more from John and how he facilitates the game.  By the time we go to Miami, I will have 5 games under my belt.  I'll be looking to fine tune my practice by watching Master John.  


    Thank you to the I/I for believing in our vision and trusting us to see it through, AGAIN!  

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  • Scalability

    Posted by PAUL HNIZDIL on 11/22/2019

    We completed our 2nd game of 5 in this round of testing the WPG.  


    I wish I had the time and space to share all the unique situations that popped up, all that the students are learning , and all that we are learning about our craft.  One of our teachers , who observed much of this last round was on the edge of her seat excited for what she was seeing.  In fact at the end of one day, she loudly extolled “I am so jealous!  I want this in my room!  How can I get this?!”


    As we continue to test WPG potential and limitations, we are encouraged by having a better handle on what the WPG can do, and just as importantly what it can’t be and what we don’t want it to be.  The question of greatest interest is scalability.  How can the WPG go beyond a few history classes?  How can the WPG influence more students?  Does scalabilty mean more games?  It’s not necessarily the game, but the lessons of the game that are scalable.  How can WPG help teachers take greater risks to create similar learning environments without playing the game itself?  Can crisis be created on smaller scale in other content classes? In what ways do students take the lessons to their next classes this year and the years to come.   In essence, do the lessons stick?  How can teachers build on these successes?  Again so many questions and possibilities.   


    Linked below you will find a video of three girls who played the game last month.  In it they shared how the WPG helped them take on and succeed in another project that followed the WPG.  


    Application of World Peace Game Lessons


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  • One Down...

    Posted by PAUL HNIZDIL on 10/28/2019

    We completed our first round of the WPG for this year.  As expected this round was a different experience from our first go at it.    Students played their roles differently.  They had siginficantly different solutions to the crises.  Some solutions made me go, "Hmmm?!"  I continuously had to remind myself that it's their game.  Let them play  it.  Let them solve it, let them fail and succeed.  Let them experience, reflect and learn.  It was tough watching.  


    I struggled with getting a read of the students during the WPG.  Maybe I’m too involved dancing and weaving among the dancers on the hardwood floor.  I don’t always make it to the balcony to watch the dancing.  During this round of the WPG, I had a tough time assessing the players’ experience.  Fortunately, Tami, Michelle and Holly had the good view from the balcony and shared their views.  


    This group also won the game.  In fact it won with plenty of time to spare.  We still had 2 more class days on the schedule, although they played into the 8th game day.  In comparison, our inaugural group won with only 10 minutes to spare.   Finishing the game with significant time to spare is neither bad nor good.  It just is  a fact of this particular game. 


    What did the students learn from the experience?  Let's hear from them.  Each color is a different student. 




    Well, I've known how to talk since I was two, but when I say talk, I mean really talk. The first day we started the game and we were picking teams, I was super anxious. I wanted a team with one of my friends so I would feel comfortable when discussing my opinion. When I was chosen to be Secretary of State of Solartopia, I was hesitant. Did I want to respectfully decline to be with my friends or should I accept the really cool position? I gave it a quick thought and decided to step out of my comfort zone and say yes. Little did I know that would probably be the best decision I've made in this class (so far)! 


    The World Peace Game is more than just three weeks of sitting in a room debating over ways to achieve world wide satisfaction. It is a true test, assessing your ability to withstand the pressure of everyday issues nations in the world face, and those that you may experience in you daily life.


    Can you handle the pressure? No matter what role you play in the simulation, you most definitely hold many responsibilities. Several different people rely on your ability to make good and considerate decisions. One wrong move, and you and your nation could enter a downward spiral. Sounds intense, right?


    This may seem odd, but the relationship between you and your teammates is a lot like and arranged marriage. You have all been brought together for some reason, and even if you do not like it, you are stuck with them. Everyday you must find a way to work out conflict, and work as a unified team in order to do so.


    How will you become a good leader. Something you have to figure out relatively quickly, is when do you make a decision for the greater good of others, or for yourself. In my eyes, if you put everyone before you and your people, you forget that you have needs of your own. So make your necessities a priority. On the other hand, you must keep others in mind. It is good to be respected by other leaders, so try not to come across as selfish. Also, you need to be respected by your council and people. As Machiavelli says, you should always be slightly feared. When people are slightly scared of you, they are sure to respect you.


    In conclusion, the World Peace Game is an exciting combination of decision making, negotiation, and problem solving. Not only does it teach you of the values of leadership and real world problems, but it also gives you the skills you need to handle everyday issues that you may have to face


    To win, we have to work together, and, to work together, we need to be able to look at the whole picture, a.k.a everyone's problems and opinions. We don't necessarily all have to agree with each other, just be able to tolerate each other, just like the real world. If we can't manage to tolerate other people's opinions and try to do everything ourselves, then we have no hope of winning. Some of the people in our class don't seem to understand that, though I suppose it's early enough to be understandable. The real world isn't black and white, and neither are the problems we have to face in the World Peace Game


    The World Peace game was almost like a reflection of our skills that we have of people. Some people showed qualities of teamwork and others showed that they work better on their own. The game showed that some people are natural leaders and others are natural followers. Some people immediately started talking to people to try and solve problems as soon as they could, and others waited for somebody to come to them. 


    I wouldn't say that the game is just to teach us teamwork, more so to teach us the importance of tolerance in teamwork, while also showing us how to think through real-world problems and function in a high-stress environment.  To win, we have to work together, and, to work together, we need to be able to look at the whole picture, a.k.a everyone's problems and opinions. We don't necessarily all have to agree with each other, just be able to tolerate each other, just like the real world. If we can't manage to tolerate other people's opinions and try to do everything ourselves, then we have no hope of winning…The real world isn't black and white, and neither are the problems we have to face in the World Peace Game, so working with only one viewpoint will only lead to failure…Being able to work under stressful conditions, with actual consequences to each and every action is crucial to our ability to live in the real world.


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  • Can We Do This Again & Again & Again...

    Posted by PAUL HNIZDIL on 10/14/2019

    With a successful beta test in May, we are ready to move to the  next phase.  The driving question at hand:  Can we do  the WPG again and again and again and again and again?  That is, can we feasibly conduct the WPG 5 times in a single academic year?  The finer questions are:   Can we afford it? Can we accept the consequences?  Does it make sense?  Incidentally, these are the same questions we ask players during the WPG.  


    WPG 7


    We started the year of WPG with my 7th period.  It's the last period of the day and seemed like a good place to start logistically.  This game is running October 1-October 22.  It will be some time before I can give a reflective assessment on this particular game play.  I know that I'm making many mistakes in facilitating the game.  I know I'm more prepared to run this game than in May.  However, I feel I'm less prepared than in May.  I can't explain it or describe why I have a sense of uneasiness.  It just is.  Fortunately, I have some great coaches by my side in Tami, Holly, and Michelle watching from the "balcony".  They  are quick with words of affirmation but more importantly they aren't shy about sharing areas where and when I could have done something better and more in the spirit of the WPG.  


    Our most pressing concern is management of the game space.  Like last year, we are using the library.  Currently, the library is the only reasonable space for the WPG.  Unlike last year, we can't keep the WPG set up.  The library is a favorite and vital space in our building loved by students and teachers.   Tami is a most gracious host always looking to accommodate all requests to use the space.  The library docket stays full most of the year.  We know and accept that it's not fair and unreasonable to keep the WPG set up for 3 weeks like we did in May.  Consequently, after each game session, Tami, Michelle Rose and I break down the set, store materials in the library workroom, slide the WPG board to a secluded corner of the library, and reset the library space for the next event. We  are getting quite efficient at the reset.  Frankly, it's easy now because the class is the last of the day and I'm coming off my planning period.  Will we be able to flip the room in 6 minutes when we play during the middle class periods?  Holly is taking bets.  


    How is the game impacting the regular classroom?  Right now very little negative effect.  Ask again when we start round three in January.  


    Next game sessions will be  Novemember, January, March and April.  


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  • What the WPG Meant to Me

    Posted by PAUL HNIZDIL on 5/28/2019

    What the World Peace Game meant to me. 


    Bringing the World Peace Game to the Mountain Brook Junior High was the most rewarding professional development experience in my 22 years in the classroom.  We learned early in the process that the WPG is a Trojan Horse for the students and the teachers.   The WPG is not  really about the game.  I made this point several times throughout the blog.  




    The game is a tool used to force students to dive deeper into critical thinking.   It's a Trojan Horse because the players are so immersed in playing and winning the game, they don’t initially realize that they are actually doing some intense deep and varied thinking.  They are using essential real world skills that are in high demand beyond the school walls such as cognitive flexibility, negotiation, emotional intelligence, people management, creativity, and complex problem solving to name a few. It's not until the end of the game that students come to this realization.  We saw them find meaning and authenticity in what they were doing.  By the last day, the WPG wasn't really a game, but an experience for navigating life and succeeding outside the protective walls of school.  Furthermore,  I saw what was possible when the teacher gets out of the way and lets the kids fail, be creative, and own their own lessons and solutions.  




    In the same sense, the WPG is a Trojan Horse for the teachers.  We aren't merely facilitating the game.  In reality, the game is a challenge and a process for teachers to become more authentic and profound pedagogical artists and craftsmen.  The WPG will expose the weaknesses in the facilitator's pedagogy.  This was the case for me for sure.   I learned lessons on how I can be more effective with my questioning, rapport development, formative assessments with immediate feedback, pacing and flow, reciprocal cooperation, allowing active learning, establishment and maintenance of high expectations, and identification and cultivation of student skills and talents.  




    I am anxiously waiting for the start of the next school year. With some excitement and equal amount of trepidation I am looking forward to the challenge of executing the WPG five times throughout the year.  I remember what John Hunter often told students in the midst of the WPG when they were in a pickle, "I don't know how you are going to do it.  It's gonna be tough.  I don't know how, but I think you can do it."  


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  • Successful Beta Test

    Posted by PAUL HNIZDIL on 5/22/2019

    What did we learn from the WPG beta test?  It may take a few posts to fully unpack it although I fret that it can't be fully unpacked.  We keep finding more and more lessons.  


    Back in February, I posted what the WPG would do:  


    The game itself is not the innovation.  The innovation is taking a risk and redesigning curriculum to include learning experiences that require students to USE their content knowledge to actualize new and creative solutions to complex problems in their current context.  


    The WPG provides authentic opportunities for students to engage in a complex decision making matrix called the OODA Loop. 


    Image result for ooda loop


    Ultimately, the WPG requires students to use these ten most desired skills according to the World Economic Forum:   

    • Cognitive Flexibility
    • Negotiation Skills
    • Service Oriented Mindset
    • Judgement and Decision-making
    • Emotional Intelligence
    • Coordinating with Others
    • People Management
    • Creativity
    • Critical-ThinkingComplex Problem-Solving


    This is exactly what the WPG did for our students who played in the beta test.  All grew through this experience by working through all the unknowns and problems.  We can't be any more pleased with this experience.


    We enjoyed the satisifation of success.  Now the work really begins.  How do we do this five times in a year?  

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  • World Peace: They Won!

    Posted by PAUL HNIZDIL on 5/20/2019

    With 10 minutes remaining, all nations and independent agencies solved all the crises and increased their budgets.  World Peace Games was Won!  

    Declaration of the Weather Goddess




    Now to the next phase: Reflect, Adjust, Plan.  


    More to come...

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