Friday, August 2nd, 2013
The tools for improving civic education in the 21st century are constantly evolving. Holly Korbey, building off of Robert Pondiscio’s recent op-ed, suggests that innovative techniques may be needed to overhaul civic education.
Surveying the state of civic education resources, Korbey suggests that video games and social networking may play a crucial role in directing the field. Online civics activities like iCivics, founded by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, have shown great promise. Founded in 2009, iCivics strives to not only foster civic knowledge, but also encourage students to become involved in their communities. The site has produced 18 educational video games, all free of charge to teachers. O’Connor hopes iCivics will get students to “be involved in projects that get them to interact at some government level.”
Similarly, Tom Tresser, the founder of Chicago’s CivicLab, teaches a Civics 101 course designed to connect civic engagement to the promise of social networks: “I wanted to give them a grounding in community organizing, how to use technology to lead social change, and how to use tech for community improvements.”
If the purpose of civic education is to foster an active understanding and appreciation for our democracy, one small Boston school is meeting that goal. At Mission Hill K-8, the entire curriculum is organized around students’ democratic participation in the school day. A documentary, “A Year at Mission Hill,” chronicles the students’ transformation, and shows how nontraditional teaching methods can make each student feel involved in the task of learning. Mission Hill teacher James McGovern echoes the goals espoused by O’Connor and Tresser’s civics programs, saying, “It’s not just about the result. It’s about the process, showing respect for each other’s opinions, debating skillfully, trying to be persuasive, trying to listen to each other.”
For more examples of unique approaches to civic education, check out our report, “Making Americans: UNO Charter Schools and Civic Education.”