Description of PlayDecide
PlayDecide is a ‘discussion game’ specifically devised to encourage an exchange of opinions -in a simple but effective way- on controversial scientifical and technological topics which are also extremely relevant to the present time and close to people’s everyday life and background. The project was started more than ten years ago as part of the European project FUND, with the main purpose of spreading participative methodologies, encouraging the circulation of experiences and knowledge so as to eventually develop a broad scientifical culture at local level. But this is only part of its purpose. Play Decide, in fact, aims to come up with solutions to problems, define strategies and policies and, above all, to eventually convey the ideas and opinions developed in the game to the authorities concerned who have the decision-making power in that particular field.
The PlayDecide website features more than 30 free-of-charge downloadable kits by which discussion sessions can be held on various topics. In a fairly short time (usually around 90 minutes), the group of participants is confronted with stories, information and issues, which are supposed to spark up discussion. The purpose of the game is to make people take up a definite position regarding a particular matter by putting the issue through the vote, and possibly looking for a solution which could be agreed upon by the whole group. The outcome of the discussion is then uploaded on the PlayDecide website, where it can be compared with the other results so far obtained by discussion groups from other parts of the world. The kits, available in various languages, deal with diverse topics of discussion: GMO, stem cells, seismic risk, nanotechnology, neonatal screening and many others. You are also allowed to download the format of the game in order to create a brand new kit on a relevant topic which has not been dealt with yet.
PlayDecide is an excellent teaching method to be used in secondary schools, with players aged 15- 18, in so far as it helps adolescent students start learning how to share opinions and take active part in a discussion. In other words, it calls for but, at the same time, it helps to develop the capacity to form an opinion, to share and discuss it with other people. Even when students seem to know nothing of that topic, while playing the game, they can use Cards producing stories, information and issues which will help them to gradually become more knowledgeable about it, get information and many different points of view until they can grasp the sheer complexity of the matter. “The Cards” are said to “enable you to speak your opinion”, meaning with this that they give students the tools to build up their argumentations so as to enter the discussion not just with weak opinions, prejudice, preconceptions or just on the basis of hearsay.
PlayDecide “An Ark Towards 2050”
As part of Project SEEDS, a special PlayDecide Kit has been created, entitled “An Ark Towards 2050”, that deals with various themes which are related to sustainability and environmental ethics. In particular, the kit focuses on themes which are more closely related to the students’ everyday life, such as eating habits, water consumption, housing conditions, means of transport and leisure time, trying to highlight the direct relationship between their behaviour on one hand and environmentrelated problems on the other which, though so widely debated, end up by remaining kind of ‘abstract’ concepts for most of them. The PlayDecide Cards tackle with practical problems which have a great impact in the present day, by relating stories that are not confined to local interest but open up new orizons in order to underline how environmental problems are a phenomenon of worldwide dimension and also pointing out how the same problem may be dealt with in a different way in different areas of the world. The Cards deal with very diverse subjects in order to show the great complexity of environmental issues and the way they dramatically impact on economic, political, social, cultural and health-related policies. But why choose 2050, you may wonder? Well, according to an estimate carried out by the United Nations, by 2050 the Earth population will have increased by 2 billion inhabitants and it is imperative to ask oneself how we will manage to guarantee to everybody the essentials to live. 2050 may seem to be so far away from us now, but just doing a rough calculation, the very students now attending secondary school will be bridging their fifties right then: that will be the world where today’s adolescents will spend their adult lives. Therefore, the PlayDecide kit “An Ark Towards 2050” wants to urge the students to face the problems and take sides on what must be done now for the world they will be living in as adults and this should be a good enough reason for them to feel deeply concerned about the issue.
PlayDecide is a game of discussion that is to be played by small groups of 4 to 8 players each, seated around a table. All paper materials needed for the game are presently to be found in this Manual under the heading “Materials”, ready to be photocopied; but in the near future it will be possible to download them directly from the website www.playdecide.eu The teacher in charge acts as a facilitator. He/she has to divide the class into groups (4 to 8 people per group), illustrate the game, hand out all materials and then supervise its progress, intervening whenever he/she realizes that dialogue and discussion are going nowhere. Each group should appoint a leader whose chief responsibility will be to stimulate the discussion and check that the right timing and the guidelines are being respected.
The PlayDecide CARDS are as follows:
InfoCards: they report data officially acknowledged by the scientific community
WhiteCards: they introduce new data or the players’ personal experiences
It usually takes approximately 90 minutes to play a PlayDecide game:
10’ Getting started
30’ Phase 1. Information
30’ Phase 2. Discussion
20’ Phase 3. A Shared Group Response Before starting the game, the facilitator has to provide for all the materials to be ready for use.
PREPARATION OF MATERIALS
Photocopy all paper materials you will find in the Section “Materials” of the Manual and cut out the Cards, keeping in mind that for each group you will need:
• 1 placemat in A3 format per player
• 1 pack of StoryCards,
1 pack of InfoCards (if possible, on green paper),
1 pack of IssueCards (if possible, on blue paper),
YellowCards (if possible, on yellow paper),
WhiteCards (on white paper).
• 4 forms “Theme of Clusters of Cards”
• 1 Voting Form “Policy Regulations”
• 1 Voting Form “Alternative Policies” The facilitator must hold
. 1 pack of ChallengeCards (if possible, on orange paper).
GETTING STARTED The placemats are handed out, one to each player. The facilitator talks the players through the gist of the game, highlighting its aims and rules, and reading the instructions reported on the placemat.
The packs of Cards are then handed out to the various groups of players. The facilitator reminds the players the conversation guidelines (bottom left) and gives out the YellowCards. Anybody is entitled to raise a YellowCard to interrupt the discussion whenever they feel someone is not respecting the guidelines. On the top right side of the placemat there is a space where the players can either take notes or write down their thoughts or place a WhiteCard on which any member of the group can write a comment, relate a personal experience or any useful information they want to share with the rest of the group.
PHASE 1. INFORMATION This part of the game will take approximately 30 minutes. Each player reads some of the StoryCards, chooses the one he/she thinks to be the most relevant to the topic and puts it on the placemat. Then, each player reads some of the InfoCards and chooses the two most significant and, finally, reads and chooses two IssueCards, putting them all on the placemat. At this point, the players take turns to summarize their own StoryCards, InfoCards and IssueCards, sharing their contents with the others. WhiteCards can be used any time, they might want to add further information or new topics of discussion.
PHASE 2. DISCUSSION This part of the game will take approximately another 30 minutes. Since there are different ways to carry out a discussion, teachers must feel free to choose the one they deem is best suited for their class. Now discussion can flow free among the players, with no restrictions, provided everybody respects the guidelines (when this doesn’t happen, the YellowCards can be used). During this phase, the players resort to their Cards to support their argumentations, putting them on the table to back up their own contribution to the discussion and group them up in clusters, taking sides on those themes which reflect the group’s point of view on the issue. All different kinds of Cards can be used to back up the position adopted and to make a cluster. In fact, by the end of this phase at least one cluster should emerge. Now the form “Themes of Clusters of Cards” is to be filled in. As an alternative to free discussion, the discussion can be started by identifying the various themes dealt with in the group Cards and filling in the form “Themes of Clusters of Cards”. If discussion jams up or lags behind, ChallengeCards can do the trick and liven things up. The facilitator hands them out face down. Players read them and act upon them.
PHASE 3. A SHARED GROUP RESPONSE This last part of the PlayDecide game will take approximately 20 minutes. Each player reads the 4 Regulations printed on the placemat and on the “Regulations” Form. Basing their choices on the conclusions drawn from the clusters, each individual player takes turn in voting the 4 Policies. The purpose is to try and find some common ground: is there a strategy everybody finds satisfactory? If not, the group tries to develop its own strategy -which becomes the fifth one- and writes it down on the “Alternative Policies” Form.
UPLOADING RESULTS The facilitator may now upload the recorded results from the Voting Form directly on the website www.playdecide.eu . These results will be added to those of all the other PlayDecide game sessions which had been played throughout Europe. It would be interesting -time permitting- to have the results of the discussion shared among all the groups in the class. A representative of each group, in turn, will expound on the most relevant topic discussed, the opinions which have emerged on the matter and the final outcome of the discussion.