Spotlight on iCivics: Meaningful Civic Learning

NAMLE had the opportunity to spotlight iCivics for our December Org Bulletin. iCivics offers a range of practical, dynamic, and standards-aligned resources tailored to the needs of classroom teachers. They have over 200 resources that are FREE and accessible to all. Please find their full interview below.

When did iCivics launch and why?

iCivics exits to engage students in meaningful civic learning. We provide teachers with effective, innovative, freely accessible resources that enhance their classroom practice and inspire their students. Our mission is to ensure every student receives a high-quality civic education and becomes engaged in — and beyond — the classroom

Justice Sandra Day O’Connor founded iCivics in 2009 to reimagine civic education. Her vision was clear and ambitious: To cultivate a new generation of students for thoughtful and active citizenship.

What does iCivics do? What are its main goals? Main projects?

iCivics offers a range of practical, dynamic, and standards-aligned resources tailored to the needs of classroom teachers. We have over 200 resources that are FREE and accessible to all.

iCivics is best known for its 19 online games, which form the centerpiece of our comprehensive platform. Our games transform abstract concepts into real-life problems. Young people learn how government works by experiencing it. They step into the role of a judge, a member of Congress, a community activist, even the President of the United States—and tackle their job. Students gain civic knowledge and skills because the learning experience is fun and challenging. They learn without even realizing it.

What makes iCivics stand out? What would you say is the most unique thing about iCivics?

iCivics stands out for being FREE, fun, and effective, not to mention innovative and impressively scaled. Nearly 200,000 teachers have registered on the platform, and iCivics now provides high-quality, non-partisan, and truly engaging civic education to more than 6 million students in all 50 states.

What are recent projects or new resources that iCivics would like to share with other NAMLE members?

iCivics has FREE lesson plans about media and influence, news literacy, and embedded media moments in a variety of our lesson plans. We have the best media literacy game for middle and high school audiences—NewsFeed Defenders—that every classroom should play!

NewsFeed Defenders: (Game) Join a fictional social media site focused on news and information, engage with the standards of journalism, and learn to spot methods of viral deception. (Middle and High School)

Mini Media Literacy Library: (Mini-Lesson Plans) We’ve collected our Media Moments from across our curriculum to help you combine civic content and news literacy skills in small bites. (Middle and High School)

News Literacy Unit:  (Lesson Plans) Teach students to recognize high-standards journalism, and provide practical skills to help them identify and deal with misinformation, bias, opinion, and more. (High School)

Media and Influence Unit: (Lesson Plans) Teach students about sources of influence on our society and our government. (Middle School)

Partner resource Checkology ® created by The News Literacy Project.

What are the connections between your work and media literacy?

Civics classrooms are the ideal place to teach media literacy! And media literacy classrooms are the ideal place to teach civics! The two topics are inextricably linked given the importance of news, current events, and democracy.  From our vantage point, news and current events — especially the skills to navigate them — are absolutely critical to citizens’ engagement in our democracy.

And this has always been the case. From pamphlets, newspapers, and men on horses (think Paul Revere) to radio and television and now to online and social media — the creation, dissemination, and consumption of news is how we ignite citizens to make a change and to participate fully in our democracy.

But the media landscape looks quite different today than it did in 1776 or even 1976. As such, civic educators must prioritize media literacy education so that young people can effectively navigate the news and the noise and ultimately engage in our democratic institutions and processes — perhaps even better than previous generations did at their age.

Why is media literacy important to you?

Media literacy is critical to our democracy. Simply put: the media is how we learn in this country—be it through text, books, news programs, the internet. Media literacy skills such as evaluating sources, corroborating evidence, [etc] are absolutely critical skills that every American needs—and they nearly all directly align with civics resources and civics skills standards.

Anything else you want our readers to know about iCivics, your mission, your staff?

Media literacy is a continued mission of our team, and we plan to have more free resources focused on media literacy in the coming years. With our small but mighty team of just 14 passionate folks, we aim to reach every middle and high school student in America—10 million students annually—by 2021. We hope to teach civics education and media literacy to everyone we reach!

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