Learning Games

Last week I had the pleasure and privilege of playing a game with a group of students. They were 1st Year nursing students on a very remote health experience. My job was to entertain them one evening, and here’s how it went:

  1. We did a round of “why did you choose nursing?” Each participant shared what led them to studying for their nursing degree. The range was amazing, and for a really simple-sounding question, we learned a lot about each other. I took my turn, but that’s the subject for another post.
  2. We played a game called Social Determinants of Health in which each player takes a card with a profile on it. To avoid causing anyone distress by over-identifying with the profile, I asked the students to see the profile as that of a patient they were caring for. They rolled dice to move around a playing board. Some squares were for protective factors, such as a public library opening in the local area, while others were risk factors such as the local greengrocer going out of business. There were also clinic squares on which you could get stuck if you had a negative experience of health care. The profiles dictated how some risk factors played out, for example if you didn’t have dental health insurance, you suffered more from dental disease, or if you were gay, you fared poorly when the gay-friendly local health provider retired.

The SDOH game started a lot of discussion, and this was helped by each participant reading the explanatory notes on each protective factor or risk factor card as they were picked up. The aim of the game is to teach students that health is many-faceted, and often people with poor health have limited control over the risks.

I have become interested in the topic of gamification, and want to explore more opportunities to teach complex concepts using gaming. It’s not only children who enjoy a good session of play!

A disclaimer: I did not invent the SDOH game, I’m not that clever! I found it while looking for something else, and it immediately captured my attention. The original concept was devised in the USA for teaching about urban underprivileged people and was then adopted by several rural areas. I just took the concept and localised it to the Australian rural and remote context.

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