At around 3 AM, I awoke with this idea bubbling in my brain. After an hour of tossing and turning, mulling and musing, I decided to get up, don my monogrammed bathrobe and power up my computer to let it out of my weary noggin.
Turn the -opoly games that are so prevalent into a market segment analysis and study project for a high school economics class. Have students form small groups to research the last 10 years of a particular market segment of their choosing, e.g., wireless communication, housing & mortgage financing, home & business personal computing, musing & recording industries, etc. As students conduct their research, they should evaluate trends, market influences, market explosions and bubble bursts, both stabilizing and destabilizing factors, IPO's, private industries, corporate giants and influential but small-share players. Once students have established a body of research, they begin creating their games. Using soft drinks as a model, they might start off with recognized corporations like Coke & Pepsi then structure the board to include recent trends like energy drinks, health drinks, flavored & enhanced waters, bottled coffees & teas, retail outlets like Starbucks, partnerships with fastfood & restaurant corporations. The list in my head goes on and on. Other market factors that seem on the surface to be unrelated will have effects on consumer spending: war, recession, market drops, trade with China, consumer confidence ratings, Super Bowl commercials, unsuccessful product deliveries (New Coke, yikes!). I've had similar scenarios partially developed in my head for wireless communication: AT&T Wireless is spun off Cingular. BellSouth Mobility buys Cingular but keeps the Cingular name, AT&T buys BellSouth and thus reacquires Cingular and puts everything under the AT&T umbrella. Once you consider branding, FCC rules, bandwidth auctions, proprietary phones and networks, phone number portability, and more, the possibilities for Community Chest and Chance cards start to get a little crazy. That's one strand anyway of a vast web weaving in my little cobb-webby mind at now 4:50 AM. There's still computer & operating system wars: Windows, Mac and the -Nix niche, not to neglect PDA's and other mobile computing options as well as Web-based computing (Google, Yahoo!). Allowing students to dig into market history and to explore current trends along with upcoming market events (iPod vs. Zune, SP1 for Vista and Leopard for OS X) and third party heavy hitters like Logitech, Symantec, Adobe, Intel, AMD. Any one segment is like a great tree with thousands of miles of tendrils, roots, shoots and branches all interwoven to create quite a complex system. I think students would quickly begin to understand better the interdependence of free-market economy. Then as they condense what they learn to the confines of a Monopoly styled board game, they can start to see just how all these factors affect consumers through choice in the market place, the meaning of "multi-billion dollar industry" and the reality of the butterfly effect on global economics.
And now that the alarm clock is about to begin is matinal buzzing, I will dam this stream of consciousness and leave it for some one else to ponder. Maybe I can take a nap today during my planning period.