Mobile Learning In The Classroom – iCivics

Today, on Mobile Learning in the Classroom, we’re going to look at iCivics. So, I actually got this website from one of my students in the course I teach, and it was their Technology of the Week, they were interested in being a social studies teacher. So within this website, there are many, many, different things you can do. And one of the coolest parts is, it’s sort of a one stop shop for lesson plans, web quests, and different ideas to help teachers engage with their students, and learning more about how the political system works, about civics as a broader concept. And, one of my favorite parts, the game, and in this game, you become president.

iCivics Games 2

So, we’ll go ahead and take a look at that, after we look at the game, we will go back and look at a couple different lessons, that teachers can use. So, I don’t have an account with this, because I haven’t set one up yet, it does not link to Google right away, which, makes me sad a little bit, but, if you do register and save an account, then you can save your game progress, you can compete with your friends, so if you’re using this in the classroom, you could have students work in teams, and maybe have different political parties set up, and really have your students immerse themselves in a political experience, where they’re making the sorts of choices necessary, to be part of, sort of, civic life.

So for now, I’m going to say, No Thanks, I’m going to play in full screen, because, who doesn’t like a bigger screen? Alright, so this is, the object of this game is to become president. So this is where you’re learning all the steps necessary to become President of the United States. Let’s go ahead and say, New Game, and you will go through, and you’ll make a bunch of different choices. And here is my favorite feature, you can use this with multiple grades. I’m going to go ahead and check out the High School version. And again, little graphics, kind of, maybe a little cheesy on the graphics side, but engaging enough. So we’re going to set up our character, so this is an interesting opportunity for students, where you pick your character, and it’s randomized. But they can kind of random through, until they find one they want. Selecting a different presidential, sort of, avatar, and what that allows, and doesn’t allow. And again, based on the grade level that you’re teaching, these conversations can vary in how the topics are approached, the depth to which you go into certain details, but for now, we’re just going to pick random, I’m going to call him Joe.

Okay, so, once you’ve selected the name, and I’m just going to call him Joe Joe. Then you go ahead and select Continue, and now you get to choose a state. Now again, depending on the age level, you might want to engage your students in conversation, about if you’re coming from a certain part of the United States, what does that mean for your candidate, what does that mean for the base you’re building? Because again, the goal is to win the White House, so if you’re a candidate from Wyoming, that might mean something different, if you’re a candidate from say, New York. So, because I’m from Colorado, I’m going to pick Colorado, go ahead and say Continue, alright, so this is Joe Joe from Colorado.

iCivics Games

So now they get to choose a party, and again, this could be something where you assign, especially if you have different groups in the class working on it. So we’re going to go ahead, and we need Democrat this time around. And you can choose and preview the different issues. Go ahead and say Continue. Then we’re at the debate, so again, your students select an issue that they want to talk about. And again, depending on the age level you’re working with, depending on the students, you might, kind of pre-plan to tell them to address certain issues and leave other issues alone.

Let’s go ahead and choose Government Transparency, present issue, Okay, so it kind of leads you in a little bit, but then as the candidate, you have to make some choices. So, why you support government transparency, you would go through and answer, now again, we’re not going to go through the full game, but as you can see, it sets up different scenarios for your students to make an informed choice. So there are different ways you can do this, you can have students do this independently, and see who wins, you could have them do it in groups, where there sort of as a collective group of five, they all have to decide, and maybe have mini, little debates in the classroom, but it’s a really kind of fun way to get them some kind of first hand experience in backing up different thoughts, seeing what presidential candidates do, in order to sort of, become president.

So also under play, you can be the president for a day, so you can sort of do a day in the life, and see different functions within, once you’re already the president, what you do within executive command. And then, we’ll look at this one, which is slightly different than the other two, where you’re focused on being president. So in this one, they kind of learn about local government, so you’re a local government official. And this one, I think would, depending on the age, would maybe be one I would recommend doing first, because local government is usually what students are going to be more familiar with. And it might make them more aware of the choices and the decisions that go into things around them, like, where to their parks come from? For younger, elementary, middle school aged children, who probably really enjoy going to park after school, or on the weekends, well who pays for that? When their parents complain about road work, where do those decisions come from? Businesses coming into a city, so again, local government, and local things, and being a way to get them a little bit more engaged in their local community.

iCivics Games 3

Alright, so we’re going to see what the Fast is, just because it gave me an option. I’ll make a random name, so we’re in Rosebud County, and I’m just going to go with the default character. So you can choose a character title, so again, you can talk to your students about what a county is, what different county positions mean, we’re going to be the Commissioner. Ha, Parks and Rec, I used to work for Parks and Rec department, so we’re going to go there, just because I can.

Say Continue. Alright, the County Clerk, it’s going to tell me all about my new job. Alright, so what’s interesting here is, you can see it gives some options, so it shows you the population, talks about residential approval, and the funds. So residential approval is going to be a really strong influence on whether or not you’ll get reelected, and can kind of give your students an idea of, how their choices are impacting things around them. Okay, so we’re going to work on developing, and see what that does for my approval rating. I got more money, revenue is always good. It’s got all the different departments that you can visit. Okay, so we’re going to look at construction, so we could do a vegetable garden, a recycling center, a nursing home, transitional housing, or an elementary school.

But they all have a cost attached to them, and it looks like the only thing I can afford right now, is a vegetable garden. So I’ll go ahead and choose this project, so again, my approval rating went down. As did my funds. Oh, but now I have sales tax, but my resident approval went down. Okay, so again, they get to see the give and take of what happens when you make choices, because there’s this weird tension between people really like having parks, but they might not want to pay for them. Or they really like the idea of bringing in new revenue, but they don’t like when the city closes down roads for construction. So again, different things that they get to see, and it’s fun, because they get to see it live. Alright, so again, I encourage you to go and look at the games on your own, have your students look at them. But very briefly, we will look at a couple of the lesson plans, that sort tie together what they experience in the games, and maybe what you already have planned for civics.

iCivics Games 4

So it gives teacher’s guides, student readings, activities, it’ll give you full units, and you could also have something where students sort of, did a build your own adventure for civics, and show something that they were interested in. Since we were just looking at local government, let’s go look at local government, so it gives you an overview and some learning objectives. And you can search the state’s standards, so within this, you can tailor the lessons toward the standards for your state. So go ahead and look at Nebraska, and we’ll say, it’s 10th grade. So it tells you which standards their units align with. Which takes a lot of the guesswork out, maybe take some of the pressure off. I know I really like it, when I can do something maybe a little bit more fun and creative, and also point back to where it hits the standards, and it hits multiple standards, so everyone sort of wins in that scenario.

So we’ll go back and, so for this one, you do need to have an account, so again, go make your account, look at the lessons. But as we’ve seen, the games are engaging, and you can format how you use them in your classroom differently. You can set up different lesson plans, you can do web quests, and you can have your students learn more about different forms of civics. And I can tell, just by looking at some of this stuff, it looks way more interesting than how we were taught the Bill of Rights, and other forms, when it took civics in junior high.

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