Tag Archives: world politics

Turn 1 Tips

The fun begins!  Statecraft Turn One began online on Saturday, and I told the students in my international relations class to read the news messages before Monday’s class but otherwise to do nothing else.  Then I reserved the entire class period yesterday (Monday) for the Statecraft Turn One session.  As with every simulation session, students were free to meet with members of their own  country and foreign countries in order to make trades, form alliances, and discuss plans for achieving country-level and global goals.  I reminded everyone that Turn One doesn’t actually end online until noon on Saturday, so students should feel free to keep meeting, emailing, texting, etc., outside of class until the turn ends and the decisions they have entered online become final.

Almost the entire class stayed late (they were still scurrying about and talking in alternatively animated and secretive tones when I left).  So we’re off to a great start.  Right now they shouldn’t be thinking of learning IR concepts–only how much fun Statecraft is.  Once they are “hooked” and thoroughly immersed in their world, the learning will happen in a series of waves (some initiated by me, some by them).

Based on yesterday’s session (and prior experience), here are some important tips for making Turn One run successfully:

1) Remind students that there are many points available for achieving key global and country-specific goals.  Encourage them to decide what goals their country will pursue and focus on moving toward these; this will help focus their attention during a Turn One that is often chaotic.

2) Tell students to sit with their country groups and remain there for the rest of the semester (even on non-simulation days).  This fosters in-group bonding.  If you ever see simulation-related activity going on during non-simulation sessions (i.e., while you are lecturing), threaten to hit the offending country with a natural disaster using God Controls.  Usually the threat alone is enough, although occasionally I will unleash an earthquake or asteroid strike (with resulting resource losses) just to show I mean business.  If you want to get really creative, reward countries that do particularly well on quizzes or other activities with “the discovery of a new vein of gold” (e.g., +100 gold, again using God Controls) and discourage slackers by hitting particularly low-scoring countries with any kind of negative event (costing resources) that you can imagine.

3) Mandate a UN meeting during the Turn One class session.  I announced a time (half an hour into the class session) for all UN reps to meet up front for this initial meeting.  I sat in on part of the meeeting and heard them discussing a nonaggression treaty and several other global issues.  I told them that it is up to them whether they want to hold UN meetings during future sim sessions, but I mentioned that worlds that keep the UN vibrant and active are usually more successful in maximizing everyone’s Statecraft scores.

4) Announce that presidents need to set their “decision keys.”  The decision key is a code that presidents (or other officials they trust enough to give the code to) use to make decisions such as purchases, trades, and movement of troops.  Presidents should go to the “President” tab and click “set decision key,” then enter a code of their choice.  I realized yesterday that the decision key is not discussed in the manual so we are revising the manual accordingly; this should reduce confusion in the future.

5) Walk around and listen in on groups’ discussions.  It is important to make clear that anything you hear will remain confidential, so groups will speak freely.  As usual, I heard some very interesting things from a number of countries.

6) Remember that students will have questions on Turn One and refer them to Joe Jaeger (joe.jaeger@gmail.com) if you don’t have the answer.  The more familiar you are with the simulation manual the easier it will be to answer these questions, but there’s a learning curve for professors as well, so if this is your first time using Statecraft don’t feel at all hesitant to send students to Joe or contact him yourself with questions.  By the second or third time you use Statecraft you will be able to answer students’ basic questions and even give some strategy tips (I do this whenever students ask).  You will also find yourself with a growing repertoire of Statecraft stories to illustrate key concepts to future classes as the drama of your unique world unfolds.

I also had the opportunity to introduce the concept of comparative advantage to a country that was trying to decide whether to build farms (their country produces little food) or oil drilling sites (they are rich in oil).  These resource-enhancement structures cost all countries the same but provide percentage bonuses, so a country that produces 1,000 food per turn will gain much more from one farm than a country that produces only 200 food per turn.  I will discuss links between IPE and Statecraft later in the semester in lecture and discussion, but it is always useful to “plant the seed” of a concept with individual country groups when the opportunity arises naturally within the simulation (as it very frequently does).

Turn Zero Lessons

Last week was Turn Zero of Statecraft in my class, and I learned a few things. (Yes, I’ve been using Statecraft for 11 years, but this is only my second time using the fully automated online version–which continues to be updated with new features–and I’m still learning how best to make use of this powerful new version).

Keep in mind that Turn Zero is the setup turn in Statecraft–students can’t start interacting with other countries yet but they meet their fellow country members and they must set up their countries (choosing country names, government types, attributes, and positions for each student). Last Wednesday I gave students the full class period for Statecraft orientation. They took their simulation manual quiz (a necessary incentive for students to read the manual!) and then got in their country groups to set up their countries. Here’s what I learned from Turn Zero:

1) Reassigning students to countries is very easy once they have taken the foreign policy attitudes survey.  If you select “attitude survey” as the grouping method when creating your Statecraft world, students will be given a short survey and automatically assigned to countries based on their scores (this will normally create several hardline countries, several pacifist ones, and a few more moderate countries).   But the instructor can see students’ scores and, if they don’t like the automatic groupings, can move students from one country to another at will.  I wanted more extreme countries, with students scoring “off the charts” on military assertiveness grouped into two countries, and those scoring extremely high on cooperativeness/pacifism grouped together, with a range of “leaning hardline,” “moderate,” and “leaning pacifist” countries in between.  So I copied and pasted students’ names and scores from the Statecraft table into a spreadsheet and sorted from highest (most militarily assertive) to lowest (most accommodative).  I then took the top ten highest scorers and made two five-student countries (“seeding” each country with one of the top two highest scorers).  I did the same with the lowest scoring students, then created a range of moderate countries, most of which “leaned” hardline or accommodative.  It’s always interesting at the end of the semester to see how closely students’ simulation behavior approximated their initial foreign policy attitudes, in areas like international cooperation and conflict, military spending, and quality of life spending.  NOTE: I reassigned students before last Wednesday’s class session when they met their fellow country members, so they never knew they were moved around.

2) Students need to be reminded to enter their choices (country names, government types, etc.) online once they have made these decisions on Turn Zero.  During last Wednesday’s orientation session, I made each country fill out a page that included country name, city names, government type, attributes, and positions for each student.  They had to turn in that sheet before class ended.  However, when I checked Statecraft online two days later, five (out of 12) countries had not entered this information online.  All of this info must be entered before Turn Zero ends, or countries will be assigned a default government type and attributes which they may not want.  I sent a reminder email and everyone entered their information before Turn Zero ended, but it would be best if students were told to enter all of their info online immediately after making their choices (ideally on their laptops during the setup session).  Bottom line: (1) make sure to schedule your setup session long enough before Turn Zero ends that all students have time to enter their country information, and (2) remind them to do so as soon as they have made their choices.

The orientation/setup session is a great opportunity to get students excited about the simulation and remind them that there is actual class credit at stake in Statecraft.  I noticed quite a bit of in-group bonding as country members met, discussed their countries’ goals, and began to strategize.

Welcome to the Statecraft Blog

This blog is designed for instructors who are currently using, or considering adopting, the Statecraft simulation for their courses. I’ve been running Statecraft in my classes each year since I created the simulation 11 years ago, so I believe I’ve learned–through trial and error–how to maximize its power as a teaching tool, and I wanted to share that experience with you.

With the help of Digital World Construction, Statecraft has been transformed from a “paper and pencil” simulation that required an enormous time investment by instructors to a fully automated online program that is extremely user friendly. While the technology has changed, the core of Statecraft has not–I find that students are as captivated as ever by this virtual world that allows them to experience the responsibilities of power as they pursue an array of enticing but elusive goals.

I plan to make brief posts once or twice a week this semester describing how I’m using Statecraft that week to engage students’ interest and illuminate class material. I will also report on any problems I run into and the solutions I implement.

I look forward to a fun and productive semester using Statecraft and I hope you’ll come along for the ride!

Jonathan Keller

James Madison University