The HipBone Games in Education


This was my first attempt to articulate the possible uses of the HipBone Games in education.

Please note that I am not a practicing teacher, and would welcome the opportunity to revise this document in ways which bring it closer to real life classroom experience.

For a sample game written collaboratively with a teacher friend, see Second Grade.

Charles Cameron


The Essence of the Game:

It is the child's ability to see the connections between the example the teacher uses, what the child already knows and what the teacher hopes he or she will understand that makes the example instrumental to new meaning. In short, understanding depends on the child's ability to think by analogy and to grasp, often through metaphor, what needs to be understood.

Elliot Eisner, Past President, American Educational Research Assn.


There's a moment in Hitchcock's classic film *The Paradine Case*, in which Charles Laughton says, somewhat offhandedly:

Surprising how closely the convolutions of a walnut resemble ah, those of a human brain.

Laughton's remark encapsulates the central concept of the Game that I have been developing. It has to do with the linking of "items" (thoughts of one sort or another) which may be chosen from widely disparate fields.

At its most basic level, where two items are linked by some form of association, the Board resembles a dumbbell -- the "DumbBell Board" -- in that it consists of two circles ("positions") joined by a line between them.

Laughton's remark would then be notated as a "link" between the two items "walnut" and "brain", one of which would be "placed" in each of the two "positions" -- and one might claim one link for the visual similarity of the two, and a second if one could also quote Laughton's remark about it.


The Games in the Classroom

More developed forms of the Game can be played on a variety of different boards -- but even at the "two-item" level described here, I believe the Game can have educational uses.

A teacher could put the "DumbBell Board" up on a blackboard and fill in two items that were relevant in a particular class, for instance, and invite students to suggest as many links as possible between them.

Macbeth

Suppose the class was studying Macbeth, for example. The two "items" might be "Macbeth" and "murder".

Students could then suggest the various people who are murdered in the play, and at a certain point the teacher might steer the discussion to how many of these people were murdered by Macbeth the person (ie taking the first "item" to refer to the person rather than the play tightens the Game).

Then someone might come up with the line "Macbeth does murder sleep", which should get extra points -- because it is a metaphorical murder, rather than just another dead body in a play littered with dead bodies.

Then perhaps the question arises whether Macbeth's own death can be considered a murder -- are all deaths in battle effectively murders "under color of authority"?

And finally, someone might extend the linkage outside the text of the play, claiming that the curse of the Scottish play extended in Roman Polanski's case to the murder of Sharon Tate by the Manson Family after he directed his film version of the play...

The making of links can well be done without a Board of any kind (in fact we do it all the time, and Laughton's remark is a perfect conversational example of this), or on a specific Game Board such as the "DecaLynx Board" or the "WaterBird Board" -- or on the 64 position, three-dimensional "BuckminsterFullerene Board" based on the molecular structure of a new form of carbon. But it can equally be played with an "open ended" Board that's actually added to during play, to fit the particular circumstances in which the Game is being played.

In a high school class, for example, the teacher might draw a hexagonal "HoneyComb" Board on the blackboard at the beginning of term, with circles at the apices of each hexagon for "items" to be placed in, and three-way links possible along the sides of the hexagons from any particular item to other "positions" on the Board. The Board itself would be "open ended" in the sense that additional hexagons could be added to extend the Board at any time.

The teacher might invite students to come up at any time during a class and mark "links" that they were able to make between the topic under discussion and what they were learning in other classes.

Reichstag Fire

In a class in Modern History, for example, the Reichstag Fire might be connected to the Great Fire of London, or to the burning of the Library at Alexandria (and thence to the burning of books during the Third Reich and the school library's display on book-censorship through the ages), or -- better -- to Guy Fawkes' plot to blow up the British Parliament... and we are still in the realm of History... or to the pattern bombing of Dresden, and thence to Kurt Vonnegut's *Slaughterhouse Five*... or to the chemistry of fire... with a side glance at Vonnegut's "Ice Nine" perhaps... or to the German democratic system as discussed in a political science class and the implications of the fact that Hitler was democratically elected...

As a technological aside... Elliot Eisner asks:

What might we learn about a school or a classroom, a teacher or a student, a form of teaching and a style of learning, through an integration of film, text, photo, and poem?

Notably, in classrooms where the World Wide Web is available, Games could be played on boards which contain hypertext links (a) to the moves themselves, in the form of snippets of text, cuts from an album, photos, film clips, and (b) to in depth resources for following up on items played with further research...


The Game in Graduate School:

Then there's the question of the Game in Grad School -- and here I might suggest playing the Game without a board, and with "real" physical items.

Mathematical facts worthy of being studied are those which, by their analogy with other facts, are capable of conducting us to the knowledge of a mathematical law, in the same way that experimental facts conduct us to the knowledge of a physical law. They are those which reveal unsuspected relations between other facts, long since known, but wrongly believed to be unrelated to each other.

Henri Poincare, "Mathematical Discovery", in *Science and Method*

Coleridge speaks, in *The Friend*, of what he calls 'the *hooks- and-eyes* of the memory.' And the enterprise now before us is to follow... a singular series of impressions, its members equipped with open and palpable hooks and eyes... they will lead us to the very alembic of the creative energy...

John Livingston Lowes, *The Road to Xanadu*, Chapter 3: "The Deep Well"

Then there's the question of the Game in Grad School -- and here I might suggest playing the Game without a board, and with "real" physical items.

To return to World War II...

Let us suppose that Professor K**g*n's graduate seminar in Military History will be dealing with World War II this semester. The seminar is held around a long table, and when the students arrive for their first meeting, Dr. K**g*n hands them copies of the usual enormous reading list, and announces that in addition to their individual papers and verbal contributions to group discussion, they will have an opportunity to score extra points in class by connecting any of a dozen or so items which he has scattered along the length of the table with aspects of the historical topic they will be covering.

Among the items on the table are a baseball mitt, a paperback espionage novel, a paperback version of the Prophecies of Nostradamus, and two equations scribbled on a piece of paper:

delta p delta q is greater than or equal to h over 2 pi

delta E delta t is greater than or equal to h over 2 pi

Dr. K**g*n explains that the idea is to encourage students to "think laterally" -- "What you see out of the corner of your eye can be as important in battle as what is right in front of you," he says, "and there's a direct parallel between this kind of peripheral awareness and the style of thinking that discovers parallels and makes connections between different facts and ideas."

There's no need for a Game board in this case, and the rules are extremely simple: connect any one or more of the items on the table to some aspect of the topic at hand, ie World War II.

Thus *any* example of WW II espionage can be connected with the spy novel. That's the kind of "easy" link that's liable to pop up in the first few minutes, and it doesn't merit a very high score.

Similarly, but perhaps a little more arcanely, one of the students may claim a link between Hitler and Nostradamus. Stewart Robb in his *Prophecies of World Events by Nostradamus*, for instance, points out that three of Nostradamus' quatrains (2: 24, 4: 68 and 5: 29) contain the word "Hister" -- which Robb admits is an old Roman name for the lower Danube, but which he also holds to be an "anagram" of Hitler. But this, again, is not a very compelling link, and Dr. K**g*n might well frown upon it.

The Game becomes more interesting if one of the students approaches a mathematician or physicist to find out what the two equations on the scrap of paper refer to, and finds out they are the limiting equations of Werner Heisenberg's celebrated Uncertainty Principle. Heisenberg was one of the founding fathers of quantum mechanics, and -- that's it, the one man in Hitler's Germany who would likely be able to develop an atom bomb.

There's a link there, to be sure -- but the student who goes on to read David Cassidy's biography of Heisenberg, or Thomas Powers' account of Heisenberg's war, will find there the story of baseball player Moe Berg, who played in the major leagues from 1923 through 1939, and was recruited into the OSS during World War II. Berg, whose own life has been brilliantly chronicled by Nicholas Dawidoff, was sent to Switzerland by the OSS to hear Heisenberg give a single lecture during the war, with instructions to figure out from the lecture whether Heisenberg was building the Nazis a bomb -- and to kill him then and there if he was.

The student who gets this far can claim three links to the Moe Berg / Heisenberg episode: with the espionage novel, the baseball mitt, and the Uncertainty relations.

And the Nostradamus paperback? There are some interesting links possible there too, unpromising as the topic may seem at first glance.

Both sides in the WW II apparently made use of the prophecies of Nostradamus in their respective propaganda machines.

So the student who connects Nostradamus with, say, the publication under Goebbels' supervision of some 80,000 German Nostradamus "brochures" in eight languages can score links between those brochures and both Nostradamus and the espionage novel.

And if s/he also knows about the British forgery, *Nostradamus prophezeit den Kriegsverlauf* ("Nostradamus Predicts the Course of the War"), a slim volume which claimed to be published by Regulus-Verlag but was in fact a work of British "black" propaganda, s/he can claim two more.

*

References:

Cassidy, David C *Uncertainty: the Life and Science of Werner Heisenberg* NY: WH Freeman, 1992.

Dawidoff, Nicholas *The Catcher was a Spy: the Mysterious Life of Moe Berg* NY: Pantheon, 1994.

Howe, Ellic *The Black Game: British Subversive Operations against the Germans during the Second World War* London: Michael Joseph, 1982.

Howe, Ellic *Urania's Children: the Strange World of the Astrologers* London: William Kimber, 1967.

Powers, Thomas *Heisenberg's War: the Secret History of the German Bomb* NY: Knopf, 1993.


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HipBone Games rules, boards, sample games and other materials are copyright (c) Charles Cameron 1995, 96. See Concerning Copyright for full copyright details.