Download our updated, upgraded PhoneCycle game now, for free!
How much does your smartphone really cost?
More people own a phone worldwide than have access to a toilet. (Of the world’s seven billion people, six billion have mobile phones, according to the UN).
We deliver educational workshops in schools and in the community based on a board game depicting the lifecycle of a smart phone. Focusing on phones is a tangible way to transform the dark, often abstract, world of extractivism into a relatable problem with potential solutions.
Made in 2017 by LMN education worker, Kerima Mohideen, the PhoneCycle game is not just a game but a collaborative learning workshop. The aim is to raise awareness of and stimulate conversation about the social and environmental impacts involved in producing, consuming and disposing of phones and to discuss what we can do about it.
What is it?
The Trivial Pursuit-style board game can be played by six to eight people. Teams of one or two are responsible for the four different parts of the lifecycle of a phone – extraction, production, consumption and disposal. The players use dice to move around the board, picking up cards along the way about the issues raised and reading them out to each other. The cards include case studies, such as women miners who are exposed to dust, or artisanal (sometimes called ‘illegal’) cobalt miners in the Democratic Republic of Congo who risk their lives due to a lack of safety measures, while in Malaysia, workers sleep eight to a room in a hostel at an electronics company.
Using a map in the middle of the board, players identify different parts of the world where the processes involved in making a phone take place.
The game is aimed at discussion rather than competition, but for the competitive types out there, those first around the board, or those with the most ‘green reward cards’, where players choose whether to make a more ‘ethical’ choice or not, can be the winners.
As the players move around the board and pick up cards they are encouraged to think about and discuss questions such as:
- What are the environmental and social injustices that relentless production causes?
- What ideas do people have for solving some of these problems?
- Who are the people involved in making our phones and where do they live?
- Does the lifecycle of a phone do more harm than good?
- Can we affect how much harm versus good a phone causes?
The game is designed for KS4 and KS5 students, but is equally suitable for university students, community groups and organisations. It involves quite complex case studies, and, while the issues can be simplified, it may not be suitable for children under the age of 9 unless they can play in mixed groups with adults or older children who can help with the discussion.
Where has the PhoneCycle workshop been so far?
Over the past four years, the PhoneCycle workshop has been to numerous schools, youth and community groups and other organisations including schools in Birmingham and London, Kingston, SOAS and Goldsmiths universities, the Woodcraft Folk summer camps. In 2018 it was showcased at the Lush Summit. We have also delivered the workshop at events in parks and at climate activist gatherings
Let us know if you would like us to run a workshop in your venue. We can bring five sets of the game and a facilitator or two to run the workshop for groups of up to 30. Workshops are free, although if your group is in a position to contribute to travel or other costs, this would be much appreciated, because we operate on a shoestring! For more information and to book, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
We have released a second edition of the PhoneCycle game. This is available for download and printing from our website so you can now also run workshops using the PhoneCycle game yourself. Let us know if you would like us to come and show you how.
Feedback from students in schools
“The board game was interesting as it was filled with facts.”
“I got to learn more new things about mobile phones and how they help and cause problems for people around the world.”
“[I liked] the board game and the debate about the phone lifecycle.”
“The board game was the best part because it was a fun way of learning.”
“[I liked] the discussion between the ‘goes’ in the game. It was fun and we found out about things we didn’t know.”