High school students across the country are blasted every day with pop culture. Magazines in the check out aisle, TV, Facebook, Youtube and Twitter all let teenagers know which celebrity is celebrating a happy engagement or dreading a heated divorce. Unfortunately this is not the case for current political or economic news; too few kids can name the president of Palestine or list reasons for the Thai coup. One high school teacher – Eric Nelson – decided to attack this problem with a creative solution – Fantasy Geopolitics.
Q: How did you form the idea for Fantasy Geopolitics?
A: In my first years of teaching, I struggled to keep 9th grade students engaged in developing a global competence, a 21st century imperative. While there were many engaging resources available on the Internet, they were all short-term and fleeting. Although there were longer-term curriculum programs available, many were inefficient and expensive. Knowledge was becoming ubiquitous in my classroom thanks to increased access to technology like smart phones, but many of my students still couldn’t locate Iraq on a map. They all knew the latest news about the death of Michael Jackson, but many seemed to struggle with more relevant content related to countries like Afghanistan or the global economic crisis.
I was up late one night lesson-planning around these problems and decided to check my fantasy football team. An hour or so into researching, I realized I was learning. I wondered if I could recreate this experience (getting curious, becoming more aware and using that awareness to compete better in fantasy football) in learning about the world with students. Fantasy Geopolitics was born the next day.
Q: Turning learning into a fun competition, genius! How has it been going? Have your students become interested in Fantasy Geopolitics?
A: Absolutely! We’ve reached 10,000 student users just two months after launch.
Q: Wow, that’s FAST. So what are your goals for the next year?
A: At this point, our main focus is to reaching our “Stage 2 customer” – college Grand Strategy programs. We’d also like to see more people choosing Fantasy Geopolitics over Fantasy Football because they want to learn about the world in which we live.