NASJE Conference Keynote Address: iCivics

With the Honorable Sandra Day O’Connor in attendance, the Honorable Jean Hoefer Toal, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of South Carolina, delivered an inspiring and motivating keynote address to the combined NACM and NASJE participants at the 2011 Annual Conference. Chief Justice Toal spoke about iCivics, a web-based education project created to teach the important subject of civics to students, and inspire them to be active participants in our nation’s democracy. The iCivics project is the vision of Justice O’Conner and is designed to capture the imagination of students in a medium they will enjoy: computer games.

The project has online civics games in seven areas: Citizenship and Participation, the Constitution and Bill of Rights, Budgeting, Separation of Powers, Executive Branch, Legislative Branch, and Judicial Branch of government. There are currently 16 games, including:

Do I Have a Right?: Players run a constitutional law firm and explore the Bill of Rights to give legal advice to their clients. As they master new rights, players grow the firm and can take on more and more cases.

Executive Command: Players are tested by the daily challenges presidents face in running the U.S. government and keeping the country safe.

Immigration Nation: Students learn about the paths to American naturalization and citizenship by helping guide hopeful immigrants.

Where applicable, the games draw on landmark U.S. Supreme Court cases to teach the particular subject. Although the curriculum is designed to be presented in a classroom, anyone can go online to play (icivics.org). Players create an avatar; play the games; earn points for which they may be rewarded with badges for their success; compete with others across the country (there is a leader board); and most importantly, learn about and connect with real-world issues.

The project is supported by state supreme court justices, judges, and an impressive list of foundations from across the country.

Chief Justice Toal called on the NACM and NASJE members to become part of the movement to get state and/or local educators to increase civics education for our youth (and others!). At a time when the authority of our own democracy is being questioned, her message was that now, more than ever, we need a citizenry that knows and respects their role and that of the government.