31 March 2013

Malaria: Using simulations to understand global politics #gbl

To what extent can we use simulations to enhance our understanding of the geopolitical challenge that is global public health?

Our second non Model UN simulation this year was an attempt to understand the dynamics of global public health through the lens of malaria. The Unit Plan I constructed isn't quite as organized as I would like-I wil revise for next year. However, I adopted the the same basic format for this as I did for our Nuclear Iran unit; inquiry-based acquisition of information, application and analysis of information in group presentations, synthesis and evaluation of information through the simulation, and then communication, reporting, and production of information via a report. This last bit was the student's first opportunity for the students to write an IB Internal Assessment. One of the most exciting portions of the unit came right from the outset. The idea of studying public health as a political challenge is something entirely new for the class. I've included screen captures of student responses to the Think-Puzzle-Explore Visible Thinking Routine that we began with below: 

The students' responses to these prompts (formative assessment) then guided the next step of the unit; 
the aggregation of different global actors who are involved in malaria. We created a shared Google Spreadsheet that allowed us to compile this list and facilitated discussions around many of the key concepts for the units. We then navigated both a webquest which helped the students frame and deepen their understanding of the desease itself. Working in groups, students produced a data collection report on Malaria that would then help them at the next stage of the process: the simulation

The simulation was developed by the Peace Corps and is a fairly complex one. Students act as Peace Corps workers in a fictional African village. Workers are tasked with interviewing locals about various concerns in the village. Some of these concerns relate specifically to malaria where others dealt more broadly with issues of clean water, education, and other facets of development. Students must distill which information is relevant to their task in the short run, while simultaneously considering medium- and longer-term solutions to local concerns. 

What ties all of this inquiry and gaming together of course is the analytical reporting that the students produce at the end of the process. This was our class' first attempt at writing a political engagement report; that is, the IB Internal Assessment for this course. Students made several attempts at this report and we relied on dialogue and feedback via Barnes' SE2R framework. You can read some of the students' work herehere, and here. Ultimately, I feel that this is a great way to introduce the geopolitical challenge of global public health with a topic (malaria) that generally receives less treatment than it deserves in world politics classes. 

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