If the zombie apocalypse came tomorrow, students in a Norwegian high school’s ethics class would be ready.
That is, they would be ready to make appropriate and ethical decisions. Tobias Staaby, a teacher at Nordahl Grieg High School, has developed a curriculum around Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead. According to an English translation of quotes from Staaby, he wants “a good catalyst for discussions about ethical theories or ethical dilemmas.” It seems like he picked great material for the job; The Walking Dead (based on the AMC television show of the same name) intense narrative, heavily influenced by the player’s choices, helped it to win over 90 game of the year awards in 2012.
Norwegian news outlet NRK.no was the first to report on Staaby’s unusual curriculum in a video segment which was uploaded to YouTube. The class plays through the game as one, pausing every time the students must make a choice to proceed. Then, each pupil votes anonymously for how he thinks the situation should be navigated. Once the results of the vote are in, the class discusses the dilemma and the various ethical approaches that could be taken. Finally, they advance the game according to the solution with the most votes.
Staaby thinks that the game has been an effective teaching tool. “The students are very motivated and they are committed,” he said, “and when one is engaged in the subject at hand, one will learn better.” The students agree. According to Lea Alsos, “It’s not normal that I remember everything after a lesson … but now I feel that I know the subject very well.”
Staaby hopes that five years from now, his approach to teaching ethics will be more commonly used.