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Subject: Zendo as a tool for teaching the scientific method rss

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Nick Bentley
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This essay has moved.

Because the piece is one of the more important things I've written about games, for a long time I've also had a version at my blog, where I've periodically updated and refined it for years.

Over time, the version that appeared here on BGG had become so out of date (despite having edited more than 50 times), I decided to delete it and link to the up-to-date version.

Apologies for the inconvenience.
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John Lopez
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While I doubt I will convince people to switch from "has buddha nature" to "fits the experimental results" any time soon, the point is interesting in that the thought processes needed for Zendo *do* mirror those required for scientific inquiry.

If only the universe would hand out green stones.
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Denise Lavely
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Nick, THANK YOU!!!! As a homeschooling mom who already owns this game AND runs a game night for the kids once a month, I'm thrilled to be given this perspective and plan to introduce this game in this manner at our next game night now! Thanks!
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Nick Bentley
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Denise wrote:
Nick, THANK YOU!!!! As a homeschooling mom who already owns this game AND runs a game night for the kids once a month, I'm thrilled to be given this perspective and plan to introduce this game in this manner at our next game night now! Thanks!


Great! It makes me very happy to read this.

Now that I'm thinking about it, if the designer wanted to do some real good for the world, he could retheme the game, and sell it to schools as as a learning product (one that actually improves education!).
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Nick Bentley
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One note:
In order to make the game easy for kids to begin with, do the following:

1. have the universe choose the simplest rule he can think of.
2. at the beginning of the game, describe just a couple of possible rules to the scientists, tell them that the real rule will be one of them, and their job is to figure out which it is. This will give them a direction that they would otherwise have to grope around for.
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Rusty McFisticuffs
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Godeke wrote:
While I doubt I will convince people to switch from "has buddha nature" to "fits the experimental results" any time soon

I like milomilo122's theme a lot more than the one in the rules.
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Daniel Kearns
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I run a molecular genetics lab and I used Zendo to demonstrate the danger of positive results and the power of negative results.

You can create a model that conforms to all current observations and still be proven incorrect on future experimentation. The negative results are conclusively negative.

Ruling out possibilities: the way science should be done.

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Justin Borges
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Fantastic review!
As a game-playing student teacher I am in the process of collecting information about bringing games into the school, including into the curriculum. How awesome is it that a fun game like Zendo so nicely resembles an important aspect of the Science curriculum.
MANY thanks.
Now to add this to the list
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A.N. Onymous
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Great review! This one inspires me to play it with my friends. If only I could find a cheap source of Icehouse pieces. Oh well, maybe I'll stick to LEGO bricks, of which I have plenty.
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Derek H
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GuyHill wrote:
Great review! This one inspires me to play it with my friends. If only I could find a cheap source of Icehouse pieces...

Have you tried the cardboard Icehouse pieces (either DIY or buy)?
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Swood
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I was thinking about trying Zendo before, but now I must absolutely play this game.

Thanks!
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Chris Bailey
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Fantastic review! It compelled me to tip you some GG
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Carlos O.
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I first knew of this game some two or three years ago and it looked curious to me but then I wasn't prone to spend the money for it. With the present rate of exchange between euro and dollar and your explanation I feel it would be an investment beyond simple entertainment. Ach, molecular biologist professional deformation, I guess.
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origami freak
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kuhrusty wrote:
Godeke wrote:
While I doubt I will convince people to switch from "has buddha nature" to "fits the experimental results" any time soon

I like milomilo122's theme a lot more than the one in the rules.


Me too!

How would you formulate an appropriate expression for a set of beginner cards?

i.e. instead of saying "A koan has the Buddha nature if..." would you say "An experimental result will be white if..." ?
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Nick Bentley
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That's basically how I would say it.

I was thinking of getting several additional colors so that the law of nature could have several parts.

"the experimental outcome will be white if ... On the other hand, it will be red if ... On the third hand, the outcome will be white *and* red if ... etc.

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origami freak
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milomilo122 wrote:
I was thinking of getting several additional colors so that the law of nature could have several parts.

"the experimental outcome will be white if ... On the other hand, it will be red if ... On the third hand, the outcome will be white *and* red if ... etc.


Hehe. Now we're starting to get into classical genetics, and aspects of codominance and epistasis... ;-)

How about a quantitative genetics version? Polygenic traits? QTL mapping? Oh heck, might as well just go back into the lab and do it for real! :-)
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Kai Price
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I will soon be going to India for four weeks to help train people to troubleshoot a complex software product at a new support center there, and I was thinking about bringing Zendo as a teaching tool. Although these Indians are highly educated, in part because their culture values education more than we do in the U.S., their entire educational system is built around rote memorization. In general, Indians are very poor at asking questions and thinking outside the box--skills that are crucial for technical support.

But I do have some concerns about whether the mild Buddhist references in the game could offend either Buddhists or non-Buddhists in India.

Perhaps I should change the language of the game too. One player could be the customer with a problem. The problem is an unexplained result, represented a pattern of pyramids. The other players could be the technical support engineers. They could propose different ways to try to reproduce the problem, and the customer could indicate whether the proposed state reproduced the problem or not, with white or black stones. And they could also try to guess at the root cause....

Uh... Not quite right. Still needs work. Anyone want to try and help me out here?
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Nick Bentley
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subversive wrote:

Uh... Not quite right. Still needs work. Anyone want to try and help me out here?


Since the icehouse pieces are thematically neutral, you don't need to make any reference to Buddhism or whatever. You can just describe it as I have, as an exercise in the scientific method, or any other way that you want.

Also, you don't need icehouse pieces. The easiest thing to do is use use sentences on a whiteboard or a sheet of paper. I actually enjoy the game more this way. It's way less fiddly and there's much more room for different laws of nature. And who wants to lug icehouse pieces to India?
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Russ Williams
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BTW: I recently found another (rather different!) educational use for Zendo. I teach English as a foreign language, and I played Zendo with some students. Language teaching often doesn't focus on expressing very logically precise concepts like Zendo koan rules, so this was a fun game-playing way for the students to clearly express things very clearly, e.g. carefully saying something like "there is exactly 1 red piece and at least 2 blue pieces" instead of something easier but more ambiguous like "there's 1 red piece and 2 blue pieces".
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Justus
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Thanks! I am gonna get a copy of this game before I visit my parents and I think they would really dig the game except for the fact that they are very conservative christians who could be turned off by the buddhist theme. I'll phrase it in the "retheme" you have here!
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Scott
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subversive wrote:
I will soon be going to India for four weeks to help train people to troubleshoot a complex software product at a new support center there, and I was thinking about bringing Zendo as a teaching tool.


So, five years later, did you take the game and, if so, how did it go?
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Kai Price
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I did. It was mostly for fun on the afternoon of my last day. It went ok I think, although I wonder whether there is a social stigma there about gaming being non-productive time that we don't have so much in America.
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Ryan McGuire
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Again... five years late, but I have mentioned the software debugging re-theme before.
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