Monday, April 13, 2009

Learn Civics Through Online Gaming

Interesting that Sandra Day O'Connor would focus on educational gaming after retiring from the court. It's tough to make any conclusions about the games, since the video on the site is of poor quality. Would be interesting to see what actual middle school kids think of the games when they become available next school year. From the Our Courts site:
Ninety-seven percent of 12-17-year-olds play games using digital media, according to Pew Research. Our Courts believes that smart games have the capacity to reach kids in new ways.

Classroom games will target specific learning goals and outcomes matched to state standards. The games will be accompanied by guides for use, lesson plans, and offline classroom activities.

In the Our Courts virtual world, students will learn about the function of law in society, explore areas of law that interest them, and shape their virtual environment.

Our first two classroom games, Do I have a Right? and Supreme Decision will be available for the 2009-2010 school year.

Do I have a Right?
In this game, students will advise fictional kids about their rights under the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. As they advance, additional rights are unlocked and the scenarios get more complex. This short game will teach students that they have important rights grounded in the specific Amendments to the Constitution.

Supreme Decision: Freedom of Speech
In this game, students will work for a Justice of the Supreme Court. They will use the First Amendment of the Constitution to help their Justice decide whether a fellow student, Ben, can be suspended from school for wearing his favorite band t-shirt. If they demonstrate good reasoning, students earn the chance to write the majority opinion for the Supreme Court. This game will ask students to explore the parameters of the First Amendments free speech guarantee so that they can assist the Justices in performing their constitutional role.


O'Connor touts civics lessons via online games
Former Supreme Court justice didn't get a computer until she was in her 40s, and she doesn't have a Facebook or Twitter account. But using technology, she said on April 7, is the way to teach students about the Constitution and inspire a renewed commitment to civics education in U.S. schools.

Since retiring from the Supreme Court three years ago, the 79-year-old justice has helped develop free web-based games to teach civics. Yet she admits her grandchildren are much more tech-savvy than she is.

'I don't even do much text messaging,' O'Connor told the Associated Press in an interview.

O'Connor spoke to middle school students, civics teachers, and the Florida Legislature about the games she has helped develop.

She told lawmakers that more people can name an 'American Idol' judge than the three branches of government. And she said she hopes her games help students learn how to analyze problems and develop arguments.

'You're going to have greater success if you teach it in ways that [students] like to use,' O'Connor said. 'They spend 40 hours a week, on average, in front of some type of screen.'

Two of the games O'Connor was promoting--'Do I Have a Right' and 'Supreme Decision'--are designed for middle school students and are intended to be played in class. The games should be ready this summer, she said, and are part of a project called Our Courts. The project is being backed by Georgetown University and Arizona State University but is largely privately funded.

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