Learning, Innovation & Tech

Bombs & Breakthroughs

Supreme Court Justice Touts Video Game Site To Teach Civics & Government

CJW, August 20, 2010 1:47 PM

stephanopoulos3.jpg


Sandra Day O'Connor Touts Video Games
As A New Way To Learn Civics, History & Government
 

Good Morning America Video Below

By C.J. Westerberg

An unlikely dynamic duo: retired Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and video game learning.   Yes, video games.  (I tried two and got hooked on the second one immediately - more on that later).

Because of O'Connor's sad observation of just how far schools had narrowed the curriculum as an "unintended consequence" of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law, which rewards schools and teachers to overly focus on Math and Reading to the detriment of other subjects like History and Civics, she wanted to do something about it.  Her vision became a site called iCivics where students can learn how government works through video games, and without the spectacularly boring, dull-as-dirt memorization of some factoids and far-removed charts from textbooks, soon forgotten after the test.  (In fact, Day O'Connor points out how many schools have gone so far not to even teach civics anymore, or at least in any meaningful way.)

Check out her three minute video below with Good Morning America's George Stephanopoulos.  A few of the "scary" take-aways:

  • Two-thirds of Americans can name the judges on American Idol but less than 1 in 10 Americans can name even ONE Supreme Court justice.

  • Only one-third of Americans can name our three branches of government.

When Stephanopoulos suggested she was "a natural teacher" after witnessing her presentation of  iCivics to students, Day O'Connor responded with a witty, what-did-you-expect remark:

"Well, most mothers are (natural teachers), don't you think?"

Stressing the importance of empowering young kids to be involved with their government and to understand "the system" to be better participants, Day O'Connor wants iCivics to become a part of the school curriculum across the country, (which may not sit well with certain constituencies in this country, nor will some of the content . . . I can only guess).

(Recent Update:  Parents wrote in and "Supreme Court Decision" and was a big hit with their teen/tweens -- also works really well for any kids involved with a debating team or debating club.  Link here.)

In another game called "Argument Wars", I clicked on "Brown Vs. The Board of Education" and had to select the best virtual card representing an argument to counter the opposing side.  Talk about learning "with context" . . . plus the music background creates a sense of drama.  Why not?   While some folks may have issues with the particular "cases" and arguments, this site offers plenty of solid content, opportunities for students and teachers to check out comprehension ability and 21s Century higher order thinking skills.  Most importantly, hopefully it will inspire and engage students to learn about our government and be more active citizens. 

Having developed an extensive prototype for a virtual world and casual games for youth, I think this is an impressive undertaking and achievement in its newly-introduced form.  One of my favorite aspects is that it's just so refreshing to see arguments presented without yelling and idiotic language - that in itself, is a great lesson for kids.

Tell us what you think -

Prev. Published by The Daily Riff 5/30/10




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