Watch Next Generation Learning in Action

iCivics: Preparing young Americans for the 21st century

Editor’s Note: This video, produced by NGLC and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is the next in a series called “Profiles of Next Generation Learning.” Follow NGLC on Vimeo to stay up to date with new videos. 

In the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress for civics, less than one-third of eighth graders could name the purpose of the Declaration of Independence. Less than two-thirds tested as “proficient” on civics matters.  It’s been said that more students can name a judge on American Idol than the current U.S. Supreme Court.

In the words of Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, “The statistics are truly frightening.”

Those realities prompted O’Connor to launch iCivics, an organization dedicated to reversing American’s declining civic knowledge and participation by sharing lesson plans with teachers and engaging students in interactive games and simulations that help them understand governance and civic responsibility. Today, the virtual platform has 16 games and more than 70 lesson plans. In 2011, more than 1.7 million games were played on the iCivics website.

The key to their success has been engaging students in authentic learning experiences that help them understand the political process by becoming active participants in it. Students can manage their own presidential campaign, argue a case before the Supreme Court, or play the part of a legislator. As they earn points, they can donate them to real student-led projects. (Top vote-getting “Impact Projects” get real grants of $1,000 to fund their efforts.) The platform is designed to be interactive, engaging, and fun while reinforcing learning objectives.

The formula appears to be working. In a recent study conducted by Arizona State University, researchers found a 20 percent improvement in student test scores after using iCivics games and lesson plans in the classroom.

Want to learn more? Watch the next installment of our “Profiles of Next Generation Learning” video series to hear from O’Connor and others about the history, creation, and use of iCivics in today’s classrooms.

Last week, iCivics launched a new module funded by NGLC. Drafting Board is a free online tool that helps students meet Common Core Standards for English Language Arts in History and Social Studies by challenging them to craft a polished argumentative essay.

To learn more, visit their website at: http://icivics.org.

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