The Situation Room Experience (SRE) at the Reagan/Bush Presidential Libraries is a high-stakes, modern, fictional, foreign policy simulation that challenges participants to deal with an international crisis. Designed for high school and university students, the SRE places students in the role of a member of the White House Crisis Management Team or as a key member of the media, as the crisis unfolds in real time. Technology helps drive the experience in a one-of-a-kind educational gaming environment that takes place in the former Situation Room from the White House.
The SRE provides students with an electronic tablet that outlines their unique role, providing them with critical real-time information that drives their experience, so students can make individual and collective decisions that alter the narrative of the crisis in real time. Up to 100 participants in both presidential library locations can synchronously engage in a modern fictional scenario. There are up to 40 unique roles in this gaming experience. Running time for the simulation is 75 minutes.
While the White House participants work to manage the government, other students take on the roles of reporters scrambling to cover the crisis accurately as it unfolds before them. Their reporting, accurate or not, influences the outcome of the scenario. In addition to real-time updates on their tablets, participants receive information from four network feeds, featuring information from student-submitted stories. Twitter, instant messaging and good-old-fashioned face-to-face negotiation round out the tools at the students’ disposal to bring about a favorable outcome.
Mira Cohen, Director of Education at the Reagan Library, noted that a countdown clock display during the experience is consistent with the countdown clock that participants see on a tablet. “That synchronicity is multilayered,” she explained, “which is meant in a lot of ways to mirror the way in which members of government or the press receive information in the 21st century during a crisis situation.”
Furthermore, the system tracks player decisions to facilitate discussion and learning after the simulation is complete. This information is available to teachers so they can continue the conversation back in the classroom.