Band Aid Solutions

It is sad to read daily about incidents of bullying, or even worse, school violence in some parts of the world. Unfortunately, the response to these serious and complex problems is usually what I call “band-aid” solutions. These are temporary ways of dealing with the visible symptoms instead of diving deep into the real causes. Bullies get punished, schools install metal detectors and hire more security guards. This may give us the sense we’re trying to overcome the problems, but they miss the mark.

The Real Problems

Our overly competitive society which starts right from primary school has convinced many people, if not most, they can only win if others lose, but life is not a zero-sum game, and what we’ve missed is that most of what we do as adults is cooperative and collaborative. Even if you work for a company making products the vast majority of the work you do is with your team. Your product might go out into the world to compete, but whether you’re a designer, in marketing, management, etc. you will need to work together to succeed.

Bullies are Suffering

Though many people don’t want to believe it bullies are unhappy people and suffering in unseen ways. They’re often dealt with by being punished which seems to me counterproductive. The question really is how do you help them get out of the cycle of unhappiness and painful behavior. My solution has been creating games which are cooperative and collaborative. Games are powerful because they connect to our earliest experiences playing and have the ability to influence us in ways other things simply can’t. Besides that, I’m convinced our brains work differently while playing games.

Bonding Experiences

While first considering these issues I decided to make a printed card game because it would be easy to prototype and test. The initial idea was to create something which could be played in public where players would be interacting with strangers. The first version “Acting Kindly” is an amazing experience, but takes a lot of effort to setup and play. Later, to make it easier to play and to work directly with young people, we created “Acting Kindly @School.” The game is a totally cooperative experience where everyone is playing on one team and working together to cumulatively reach whatever score they set. Players pair up each with a deck of the game. The cards are in eight different categories: Kindness, Greet, Play, Quest, Create, Plan, Relax and Exercise. They draw cards, do the deed on the card and score a point for everyone. When they draw the Switch card they have to quickly change partners.

Everybody Wins

For the kids the game is pure fun, but while they are playing the feedback loop is simple: “I’m nice to people and people are nice to me.” At the same time the game guides the players through a wide variety of emotion experiences which are both entertaining and disarming allowing them to step out of their normal “roles” and connect with each other. Finally, at the end of the game Everyone Wins wrapping up a very special experience.

Real Impact

One game will not solve big problems by itself, but we believe this kind of game can be the starting point. Our hope is teachers will use the game to start discussing kindness and related subjects with students. Also, the game comes with a 60 page booklet with ideas about how each card might be played, things to learn and what can be done out in the community. By expanding the discussion and encouraging action beyond just playing the game there is a major opportunity to assist young people with there social and emotional growth. This is important for many reasons including helping kids to grow into happier and healthier individuals. For those focusing on school curriculum, grades and exam scores they can rest assured many studies have shown students who are given the chance to grow socially and emotionally do better in school and have higher exam scores.

Making Change Fun

I’m convinced making learning enjoyable and school fun can connect to what I believe is the most important thing for young people to learn: to love learning. We do not know what careers will be prevalent a decade from now. The best way to prepare the youth of today is to help them truly enjoy learning. Gamifying and using modern tools like video, animation, interaction and hand-on DIYs can be key to preparing them to be able to prepare themselves no matter what happens.


About our guest author-

Greg Acuna (CEO – Planet Earthlings)

Greg has diverse experience as an entrepreneur, project management consultant and media producer. He has successfully managed projects using innovation and highly creative thinking to solve complex business and technical issues.

In Creative Fields Greg has:

  • Produced and Directed a Feature Film
  • Produced and Directed an Animation/Live-Action TV Series Pilot
  • Written two Novels
  • Directed Theater, Music Videos and Shorts

In Technology Greg has:

  • Managed large teams for software development, Internet startups and several other verticals.
  • Reorganized over budget and behind schedule groups to put them back on track.
  • Advised companies on business strategy including early acceptance and use of the Internet for internal workflow efficiency, customer service and furthering sales opportunities.
  • Trained staff in both IT and business practices.
  • Oversaw and participated in creative work with new companies on product design, identity creation, economic modeling and marketing tactics.

Specialties: Consulting, outsourcing, business processes, startups, strategy planning, troubleshooting, overseeing creative and technical projects. India, US, Europe. Writing, producing and directing film, video, theater, animation.

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