Monday, June 9, 2008

The Honorable Sandra Day O'Connor's...Video Game?

More and more, educators and game designers are seeing the benefits of using the games middle schoolers love as teaching tools. Students have fun and can mix different skills and subjects in a way that feels more true to life and sometimes masks the immense amount of learning and work going on. Claudia Parsons reports for Reuters at on the involvement of former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor with a project that will soon release free online games for middle schoolers.

Surprised? Probably as surprised as O'Connor to find herself addressing a digital gaming conference, Games For Change. But her involvement in the Our Courts project stemmed from her concern over public views of and growing hostility toward the judiciary system. From "vitriolic attacks by some members of Congress, some members of state legislatures and various private interest groups," to Senators vetting Supreme Court nominees on their possible decisions in court cases, to special interest involvement in state judicial elections, O'Connor has seen a deteriorating atmosphere for "fair and impartial judgments from the judges who are serving." The only way to preserve an independent judiciary and blunt the growing hostility is to better educate the public about all three branches of government, their roles and relationships to each other.

The first part of the Our Courts project will be an interactive online civics program for grades 7-9. It's meant to stand alone or be part of a curriculum or unit of study. The game will feature scenarios that reflect real-life legal issues and encourage students to debate and come to a decision on matters like First Amendment rights or freedom of the press. Some initial materials will be available in September at The second part of the project will be a game that engages students in their spare time and aims to "get them thinking about government and civic engagement rather than playing shoot-'em-up video games." Both components should be fully operational by September 2009. And free.

O'Connor saw the educational potential of technology while watching her grandchildren engage with it. But, she said, "I don't play videogames. Sorry."

SOURCE: "Retired justice O'Connor unveils video game" 06/04/08
photo courtesy of dipfan, used under this Creative Commons license

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