Welcome to Rolling Earth

This website offers tools for education for democratic self-organization and reflections on their use. I hope it will provide a space for discussion and exploration of the use of "popular education" in movement building -- guided by a commitment to equality and democracy. See the website guidelines for more about the mechanics of the site. - Matt Noyes

Fortunately, Unfortunately

I learned this game from a fellow teacher in the Intensive English Learning Program at LaGuardia Community College, CUNY, who played it as a child.

It's a pairs game (or chain game), where each player picks up from the previous player's contribution.

The joker starts the game, usually with the standard opening, "Unfortunately, I fell out of an airplane."
The next player continues the story, but switches the direction, "Fortunately, I had a parachute."
The joker (or a third player, if it is a chain), continues, "Unfortunately, the parachute had a hole in it."

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Simon Proposes

I thought up this idea for a game to introduce OWS-type consensus decision-making signals, to practice their use, and to spark discussion about the basics of consensus and some difficulties in consensus decision-making.

Circle game, whole group.

Joker first reminds people of the game Simon Says, leading a quick refresher round of the game. In this game, though, Simon doesn't get to give commands, s/he can only make proposals.

So, for example, the joker says, "Simon proposes we touch our noses."

Then, all the players "twinkle":
a) up to show their support

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Um, what is that? (aka alien communication)

(I learned this at Kani Club, the great "Yes, and..." improv group in Tokyo.)

This game, done in pairs, challenges the listener and the speaker alike to clarify the meaning of words and phrases used. Like all games it is, as Huizinga says, "pointless but significant." The fun is in the pointless interruption and unnecessary explanation. The significance is in the verification of mutual understanding of even the simplest terms.

The flow:

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This is not what democracy looks like...

In an English for Activists class on Occupy, Aki Owada had an idea for how to discuss the question: "What is democracy?" Instead of asking people to talk about what democracy is, she asked everyone to give examples of experiences they have had that were not democratic. (This is the same basic idea as the nightmare scenario, using the opposite as an entry way into a discussion.)

Here's what we came up with:

  • Police telling me I can't cross the street at a demonstration. The young activists said, "be patient Grandmother!" But I don't want to be patient!

Horizontal Pedagogy

What is the problem tree for?

Had an interesting conversation about the problem tree activity with some people who are using it in the context of a migrant worker organizing project. As part of a series of monthly worker assemblies, they are facilitating a three part problem tree activity -- one session for generating the leaves, another for the branches/trunk, a third for the roots. Where to go after that is not settled, it seems, but they seem to be thinking of some kind of discussion of solutions.

The People's Microphone

It's an obvious idea, but seeing video of people using the People's Microphone, I decided to teach the technique in my English for Activists course and use it for language practice.

The Flow

  • Introduce this as a technique used at Occupy Wall Street as a solution to a very simple problem: no sound permit. (Could lead to an interesting discussion about laws regarding speech and assembly in different countries.)
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Liar, Liar

This is a fun way to get people talking with each other and to help them loosen up. Good for a group where people already know each other and may find it hard to strike up a conversation that isn't stale. Going deeper: this activity frees us from the usual sense of obligation/desire to tell the truth, which may conflict with our feelings of shame or just a sense of privacy. Taking the liberty to lie, to betray our principles, to espouse reprehensible beliefs, may free us from inhibition and help us find new truths.

The Flow:

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Technique and Content

It is often said that popular education is not about the participatory techniques that we use (or not just about the techniques), it is about the content. One argument is that techniques are just tools that can be used for good or bad purposes, to liberate or to enslave. I remember Neville Alexander making this point in Education and the Struggle for National Liberation in Southern Africa. He writes that after Freire was exiled from Brazil the military junta used some of his techniques to conduct pro-government literacy education.

Regarding games

Reading Ranciere on Jacotot (Ignorant Schoolmaster) I have been thinking about the idea of constraint, of force, or the subordination of one will to another without sacrificing the equality of intelligences. ("Entre l'eleve et le maitre s'etait etabli un pur rapport de volonte a volunte..."p25) The student's will is subjected to that of the teacher, but the intelligences of the teacher and student are separate and equal.


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