Diana Jones is a graduate student in Educational Technology at San Diego State University. She is a veterinarian and taught veterinary students at Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine.
Learners will have fun overcoming one of the big obstacles of their education. After playing HeadGames several times, the learners will be able to memorize some facts that are important in performing a neurological examination. The game reinforces the connection between the number of the nerve and its name, function, and location. Ultimately, information will be retained long enough to be used during a neurological exam later in the curriculum and after graduation. It is easy to remember the numbers but much more difficult to remember the facts associated with nerves 1 through 12.
The learners are first year veterinary students. Other veterinary students could use the card games to review prior to diagnosing clinical neurological cases. Veterinary students study the nervous system in detail in preparation for using the information to diagnose and manage neurologic disorders. They also learn numerous other medical and surgical facts, principles, and procedures important in clinical diagnostic problem-solving. These adult learners spend hours memorizing details.
A game is an appropriate format for this situation because it provides repetition of the associations between the related facts. A game is motivational and enhances the tedious process of memorization. Card games are portable, playable anywhere, and playable within short periods of time. These card games are no exception. The solitaire game could be played while students are on night shifts monitoring animals. The rules are familiar and facilitate first-time players.
Rules/Description of Playing
The 48 cards model a regular 52 card deck. There are 12 numerical values in each of 4 categories. The cards can be used to play solitaire or rummy. The first HeadGame is easier to play and modeled after Clock Solitaire. The second HeadGame, 500 Rum, is more difficult to play but still fun and educational.
HeadGame 1: Clock Solitaire
The game is played in the following manner:
HeadGame 2: 500 Rum
The game is played in the following manner:
TIPS for 500 Rum:
First time play: Play with cards face up on the table instead of in your hand.
Use reference sheets.
Second time play: Hold cards in hand. Use reference sheets only to verify opponent's melds.
The deck could be used to play various other simple games.
The cards are the same size as a regular deck and have a picture of the brainstem on the back. There are 4 categories of cards; name cards (red), number cards (red), picture cards (black), and function cards (black). The 12 picture cards show the brainstem origin and the site of insertion on the head. The 12 function cards state the main actions of the nerve.
The deck has 48 cards including four categories of 12 sequentially valued cards. The 1 to 12 cards in each category are equivalent to 2 through King in a regular deck.
Number Card Name Card
Picture Card Function Card
Back of card
I started by considering my audience and their needs. Veterinary students are repeatedly overwhelmed with facts to memorize. All students regardless of their career track must know the critical facts. Years later, students use their knowledge to solve diagnostic challenges. Students use rote memorization to "know it for the test" but their memory is fragmented when applying the knowledge to real-life situations. Some facts, such as the list of cranial nerves, are never retained in long-term memory.
Neurology is a difficult subject and requires the memorization of vocubulary and complex processes. Initially, I considered putting the cranial nerve number value on each card, but this would allow learners to play without learning the content.
I thought the game was too hard. I tested the prototype with a veterinary technician, Lynne. She said, "Beginners need a cheat sheet." I tested the prototype with a solitaire addict, Jimmie, who lacked medical knowledge. She said, "It would work fine as a solitaire game but would be hard as a rummy game." She thought it would be good, when you first start, to have someone around who knew the information. Another veterinary technician, Angie, said she had to review her Roman numerals to play. I tested the prototype with someone, Doug, who knew little about card games or medical terminology. He said, "The content is very difficult." He added, "Lay people could play this game if you let them read some information first." I observed that novice players preferred to create rummy melds using number cards because it was easier than using the other cards.
The beta testers helped with the card interface. Doug recommended using fewer words and keeping cards as simple as possible. The dysfunction cards were changed to function cards to keep concepts simple. Everyone recommended cheat sheets, one with functions and another with pictures, names, and numbers.
I also considered a solitaire game that taught the anatomy of the horse's lower leg. The categories would include nerves, tendons, bones/joints, and arteries/veins. The value would increase from distal to proximal such as Phalanx 1, 2, and 3, Sesamoid bones, Metacarpal 3, 4, and 5. The anatomy was too complex to fit clearly into an order based on sequential location. I considered using the neurologic pathways of the body but felt this game was unsuitable for similar reasons.
Ellington, H., Addinall, E., & Percival, F. (1982). A handbook of game design. (pp. 19-46) London: Kogan Page.
Oliver, J., and Lorenz, M. (1983). Handbook of veterinary neurologic diagnosis. (pp. 42-74) Philadelphia: W. B. Saunders.
Morehead, A. H., Frey, R. L., & Mott-Smith, G. (1991). The new complete Hoyle revised. pp. 42, 70-71) New York: Doubleday.
Last updated by Diana Jones on September 30, 1996.
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Educational Technology 670, Fall 1996.