iCivics: The bacon of social studies
I like bacon.
Bacon cheeseburgers. Eggs and bacon. BLTs. Chocolate covered bacon. Maple and bacon doughnuts. Bacon and onion gravy. Bacon topped baked potatoes. Bacon wrapped Little Smokies. Bacon wrapped anything.
I’m probably not the only one. And I get it . . . some choose not to eat bacon for religious or health reasons. (And have much stronger will power than I do.)
My point? Pretty much everything is better with bacon.
So what’s the bacon of social studies? That one thing that goes better with everything and is so delicious that you really need to find a way to integrate it into your classroom? The answer is simple.
iCivics, of course.
In 2009, former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor founded iCivics to address her concern over our lack of civic engagement and knowledge. Since then, iCivics has created a slew of video games, simulations, and lesson plans. You also get tools such as opinion polls and WebQuests. All designed to help your students better understand civics and government and the role they play in everyday life.
I like that the lesson plans and teacher resources are searchable by both keyword and state standards.
But while the lessons and teaching tools are incredibly useful, the site’s appeal, at least for me, is really the games and sims. Kids can play Do I Have a Right, Argument Wars, Supreme Decision, Immigration Nation and 15 others designed to engage middle and high school students. The most popular also exist as mobile Android and iOS apps.
They’re mostly role-playing games, designed to give players a sense of realism and the chance to make educated choices. Kids will select issues, debate ideas, raise money, make decisions, and respond to in-game polling. iCivics suggests that their:
. . . games transform abstract concepts into real-life problems. Young people learn how government works by experiencing it. They step into the role of a judge, a member of Congress, a community activist, even the President of the United States – and do the job they do. Students gain civic knowledge and skills because the learning experience is fun and challenging. They learn without even realizing it.
A recent addition responds to the lack of civic online literacy in our students. A new game called NewsFeed Defenders asks students to simulate a social media editor who must decide whether news articles contain accurate or false information.
As a teacher, you and your students can use the site without creating a user account. But an account provides access to a powerful dashboard allowing you to create classes and assign games to your students.
When you create a new class, you’ll get a code to share with kids they’ll use to access your stuff. Each of your classes can have Assignment, Announcement, and Discussion areas. It’s simple to add content and print out reports of student progress on their assignments.
As we work to integrate civic engagement activities into our instruction and to increase the civic online literacy skills of our students, we can all use that extra slice of bacon.
So if you haven’t already spent time at iCivics, don’t you think that it’s about time you did?