Game On: New Frontiers in Digital Learning

April 29, 2015

The Importance of Digital Games in the Edspace

Last week I attended the Education Writers Association Seminar in Chicago. The Education Writers Association meeting is the largest gathering of writers covering the

education space.  This year’s theme “Cost and Benefits: Covering the Economics of Education” focused on the financial struggles and issues surrounding the edspace.  I took this opportunity to present with Greg Toppo from USA Today, Nancy Nassr and Allen Turner from the Quest School in Chicago and Connie Yowell from the MacArthur Foundation.  The topic?  How educational games can get our kids learning and help shape the kind of citizens we need for our country. This topic coincided with the launch of Greg Toppo’s fascinating new book “The Game Believes in You” about how digital play can improve our kids’ education.


What is iCivics?

Our democracy is in crisis and our young people are turning off from government and civic participation.  As a nation, we rank 138th in the world in young voter participation.  iCivics was founded in 2009 by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor as a way to reinvigorate civic learning through role playing games that teach about our democracy, our founding documents and the rule of law.  With 21 digital online games accompanied by lesson plans, Drafting Board- argumentative writing tools and other digital learning tools like webquest and DB quests; iCivics is not a one-dimensional learning platform.  We provide

a full digital curriculum for classrooms. Our games provide students an opportunity to actively experience different civic roles through simulation games like ‘Win the White House’ and ‘Do I Have A Right?’.  We put kids in the action.  Filling out a worksheet about the legislative branch will become real if you have the experience of trying to get a bill through Congress as in “Executive Command”.  Experiential learning is a proven method of ensuring that concepts and learning objectives stick.


Why is it relevant?

iCivics is one of the most successful digital education sites in the country.  Why iCivics is incredibly easy for teachers to use?

Accessibility- iCivics digital games and curriculum easily fit into classrooms.  Games are versatile enough for 1:1 or 1:many situations and are supported heavily with teacher game guides and other resources to facilitate real and meaningful dialogue around a broad range civic topics.

Impact-iCivics is used in 50% of middle school classrooms across the country. Our scale and numbers have increased exponentially and we keep growing at over 2000 teachers a month.

Standards- The iCivics curriculum is aligned with state civics standards and Common Core standards.  Our Teach Hub provides a simple method of finding the games and lessons that match with standards in each state. 


A teacher can have students play games in their classroom and those students may not have retained any more than they would have if they’d filled in a worksheet. iCivics represents one form of games for impact.  We aim to engage the whole learner not just simply teach specific skills and methods. Kids learn but they also apply and extend that knowledge they acquired through iCivics games.  We aren’t merely a teaching tool or a digital game.  We are trying to engage students in how to think and how to relate in a world narrowly focused on academic skills.  Together we can spark interest in kids to get involved and become active in their communities and engaged citizens.

Follow along on Twitter #ewa15

Louise Dubé is executive director at iCivics. Louise has devoted her career to ensuring that all students are prepared for active and thoughtful citizenship and life.  Follow her on Twitter @Louise_Dube