Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

It's A Responsibility, It's An Honor

No man is an island are words found in an essay by John Donne (1572-1631).  They are also a phrase found in the lyrics of a folk song of the same name,

No man is an island,
No man stands alone,
Each man's joy is joy to me,
Each man's grief is my own.

These words kept roaming around in my mind as I was visiting this newest website. It is increasingly important for our students to be socially responsible citizens by being active participants within the freedoms provided by the government of the United States.  They need to realize they are part of a greater whole.  To that end the American Association of School Librarians decided to place iCivics on their 2013 Best Websites for Teaching & Learning.  It is included in the 21st-Century Learner Standards category Curriculum Collaboration, 1.3.4 Contribute to the exchange of ideas within a learning community, 3.1.2 Participate and collaborate as members of a social and intellectual network of learners, 3.1.4 Use technology and other information tools to organize and display knowledge and understanding in ways that others can view, use and assess and 4.3.1 Participate in the social exchange of ideas, both electronically and in person.

iCivics was started in 2009 by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor as a means to secure our democracy by making sure future generations understand and respect the government we have in place.  It is a site free to users.  I decided to divide the home page into sections for exploration.

Along the top of the home page on the right-hand side users can Join iCivics, Login or Donate.
When you select the Join tab a new screen appears.  You are assigned a public name (you can randomly get another if you so choose) and asked to enter in your real name, email address and a password.  On the right hand side you choose either a student, teacher or supporter account.  If you elect the teacher account, you are asked to list your state, school and zip code.  By joining you activate a point system; 500 points are assigned for signing up.

Moving left to right on the next bar, I clicked on News.  These entries on like posts on a blog, keeping you up-to-date on the latest developments at the site in chronological order.  You can elect to read all the news or by category, Civic Action, Civic Education, Events, Games or Justice O'Connor.  

The About section gives some background with respect to the creation of the website along with links to the annual reports.  There are twenty-one Games within that page arranged by groups, Citizenship and Participation, The Constitution and Bill of Rights, Budgeting, Separation of Powers, The Executive Branch, The Legislative Branch, and The Judicial Branch.  You can also find them listed together by the length of time needed to complete them.

By picking the Impact tab you are informed about the point system at iCivics.  As you accumulate points from your game playing they may be used to support a project.  Impact Projects are listed here.   Every three months the project with the most points receives a $1,000 donation from iCivics.  When points are given to a specific project, game players are asked to write why they gave their points to that project.  What an excellent idea!

Teachers, this way! offers many resources for educators.  At the top of the page is a search option for curriculum by state.  Below that are curriculum units which include numerous lesson plans, all completely described.  Another box explains further what this page offers including a video from Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.  A final box groups educator items by lessons, games and webquests.  The following images illustrate in short what is offered.

Below the site navigation tabs,  five of the games are featured for instant play.

Following this is the final box (except for employment opportunities) with quick access to the games by topic.

To complete my exploration of the site I played one of the shorter games, Immigration Nation.  Underneath each game is a short description.  On the right is a leader board showing the scores by week and month.  Related content (webquests), teacher tools (view state standards, a teacher's guide for the game and recommended sequence) and comments are also available.

After selecting new game a single sentence gives instructions.  Clicking on any portion of the screen begins play.  In this particular game the boats represent people wanting to enter the United States.  Each has a story to tell.  When you begin only certain ports are open.  As the game progresses more ports, options, are filled with color.  This series of images shows how a a couple of segments of the game works.  The final image, the Harbor Guide, provides information about the individual icons.  If the rest of the games are as good as this one, users are in for an enlightening, great time.

It's going to be hard to find a better website that informs, instructs and offers resources to educators with the same degree of quality as iCivics.  The developers have done an outstanding job.  I am thankful for its inclusion on the AASL list.  I give this website an A+ and the highest recommendation.

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