iCivics

Justice O’Connor uses video games to engage students in government

(KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)

Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who turned 86 on Saturday, is behind a recently released animated civics education game, called Win the White House, which has been played by more than 250,000 students just this month. In the game, students take on the role of imaginary presidential candidates who must learn to compete against opponents with divergent views on issues such as immigration and gun control. Justice O’Connor describes the game as inclusive and nonpartisan, providing neutral explanations of each stance candidates can choose to support.

Until a few years ago, Justice O’Connor, the first woman ever appointed to the Supreme Court, had never watched a video game, let alone played one. But after consulting with James Gee, professor of literacy studies at Arizona State University, she realized that the problem-solving nature of games could become a valuable teaching tool. O’Connor created iCivics, a nonprofit civic education group, in 2009, and they’ve since released 19 free online games, along with accompanying lesson plans, in order to help engage students as they learn about how different branches of government and the Constitution work. Asked about Justice O’Connor’s work in a phone interview on Friday, Justice Sonia Sotomayor hailed the idea as “brilliant.” Justice Sotomayor says she’s played the games herself, and incorporates them into her own frequent visits to schools.

Read the full story at The New York Times.

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