The online educational video game site iCivics, created in 2009 by former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor that features civics curriculum, has partnered with EverFi, an ed-tech company focused on K-12 and higher ed. And through the partnership comes a new initiative Commons - Digital Town Square, offered free to all K-12 schools.
The focus of Commons - Digital Town Square is to provide schools with standards-based educational gaming, aligned to the Common Core, with social components. Students who play iCivics games will be able to move along at their own pace, according to Kara Hedges-Sasse, Executive Vice President of Product Development at EverFi. “We intend to utilize adaptive-pathing techniques as well as evidence-based practices to help guide each student differently as they learn and ultimately change behaviors,” she said.
So how is Commons - Digital Town Square different from iCivics? In addition to having the adaptive feature, it will have a variety of media including simulations and animations as well as pre- and post-assessments and behavioral surveys that “measure changes in students' attitudes and behaviors regarding a variety of civic matters.”
Of course, an implicit requirement of using this game is student access to computers. Students and teachers who have access to computers in school will be able to play the games, take assessments, and collaborate with other students virtually. Here's how it works.
Social Components. One of the most interesting features of Commons - Digital Town Square is its social features. Students will be able to interact not only with each in their virtual classroom, but also with other classrooms across the country. Students will be able to create social circles where students can cluster themselves in areas of engagement. Students might work together on projects on the local level or even at the national level.
Badges and Avatars. Public badges will be displayed along with each student's avatar. These badges will not only connect to achievements within the platform, such as passing an assessment, but will also be connected to “civic rewards and even mentorships from national and local civic heroes,” according to Hedges-Sasse. Here the social components try foster knowledge of civics, but more importantly civic engagement itself.
Emerging Standards. Commons - Digital Town Square will be leveraging many standards in its design of instruction and assessment, from existing state standards to Common Core. EverFi already maps their existing work to ELA Common Core standards and they plan to “proactively pursue meeting applicable English Language Arts standards.” In addition, many states are already requiring Civics education as part of the social studies curriculum, whether integrated in a general social studies course, or as a stand alone. Currently, 29 states require high school students to take a course in government or civics.