How many times have you taught a lesson or made a presentation and have seen your participants “continue the conversation” after you had completed the activity? It does happen I know. But how often have you observed that?
The fact that it likely is a rare “sighting” may be attributed to several root causes. One obvious one is that students, as they scoot off home, to lunch, to an activity or another class haven’t the time to ponder the wonder(s) of a class whose ending has been characterized by a piercing signal that the class is over and whose subliminal message is that they should shed their thoughts at the classroom door before they enter the hallway.
Another reason could also be that the lesson’s substance, energy, activity, simply wasn’t worth continuing any momentum. What is that Newton’s law? “A body at rest tends to stay at rest?”
I can think of a wonderful simulation, Dangerous Parallel, sadly no longer in print, where I was several times witness to that rare sighting, i.e. students continuing their thoughts and energies even though the class had finished for the day! It was truly gratifying to see the learning to spill over to the hallway in spite of bells and buzzers.
Dangerous Parallel is a simulation of the Korean War crisis in 1950. Students are divided into several countries that represent the major players in the actual event within a simplified model of that complex historical situation; the United States, the Soviet Union, Communist China, North Korea, South Korea, India, and the United Nations.
Playing various government roles within the descriptions, the student groups make a series of decisions. The sum of the each decision round is calculated so that the teacher-facilitator (called Control), can announce the consequences of the decision insofar as it affects the whole crisis, as it affects each coalition, and each country-participant.
The simulation continues in that fashion until the consequence calculator draws its activity to some sort of conclusion. The worst conclusion is all out nuclear war among all the participants. I wouldn’t say that there is a “best” conclusion as such in that the situation / model is so tangled, and the conflicting agendas of each country and coalition are so encrusted, that a “win-lose” inevitably leads to a resumption of hostilities. So a “win-win” no matter how that might grate on the hard liners in each group at least saves the world from its own vagaries and imperfections.
Typically when the simulation “ends”, either through global nuclear war, continuing localized war, or a faulty but perpetual truce, what is most gratifying is the students do not want the simulation to end! Instead, they want to go back to it until they get it “right”…..
So what comes next?
Well there is first of all the debriefing. As said many times, the teacher-facilitator is morally and instructionally obligated to squeeze every morsel of thinking that the students have amassed whilst immersed in the activity! Activities can range from an oral class analysis, a series of written assignments, to finding application of the simulation’s themes and principles to real – life historical similar situations. What is really fun albeit time costly, is to have the students design their own mini-simulations reflective of what they learned from that one they had just completed.
But beyond that, and beyond that…. what does come next?
How can you keep him down on the farm after they’ve seen Paree?