Wednesday, September 26, 2018

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Sample "newspapers" created for the simulations Sample "newspapers" created for the simulations

Prime Minister for a Day

Through online simulations, students experience the gravity of political crises.
By Coleen L. Geraghty

Students who’ve never met became allies or foes early this month as participants in a virtual re-enactment of two political crises in the Middle East.

Chanan Naveh, the Lipinsky Leichtag Visiting Israeli Scholar for 2015-16, organized online simulations of the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the current Syrian conflict with students playing the roles of various national figures involved in these events.
Fifty San Diego State University students from Naveh’s classes participated, together with 69 students from two different political science classes at California State University, San Marcos.

Assuming the personas of government ministers, diplomats, rebels and opposition leaders, the students communicated strategic actions and policy decisions via Facebook posts. Each conflict played out during two fast-paced, 90-minute online sessions.

Imagining different outcomes

Naveh, a former journalist and faculty member at the Sapir College School of Communication in Israel, co-wrote a textbook guide to creating simulations through social networks. He has participated in web-based simulations with researchers from around the world, the first in 2010.

During the simulations, Naveh allows students to “change the course of history” by altering actual events.  He said this “encourages students to imagine other outcomes of a political crisis and understand the importance of each actor.”

For example, in the Afghanistan simulation, students representing the United States opted for military intervention in the form of Special Forces, while the Soviet “actors” agreed to a partial troop withdrawal. Neither of these events took place during the actual Soviet invasion in 1979.

The status of refugees was a prime topic of discussion in both simulations, Naveh said, indicating that students place a high priority on humanitarian issues associated with political crises.

Permanent collaborations

Scott Greenwood’s class at CSU San Marcos took part in the Syrian conflict simulation with Naveh’s history class, while Elizabeth Matthews’ class reenacted the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan with Naveh’s political science class.

Matthews said she hopes to create a permanent collaboration with Naveh “so that wherever he teaches, we can connect CSUSM students with his students.”

Greenwood’s ultimate goal is to work with faculty at universities across the Middle East to bring students together for web-based simulations on water scarcity, human trafficking, Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and other relevant issues.