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The Impact of iCivics on Students’ Core Civic Knowledge


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iCivics, a free online, civics education program created by Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, is aligned to state and national standards to teach core civics content. The research question for this study is: Does spending at least 30 minutes on the iCivics interactive web site 2 times per week improve student scores on a civics test? A pretest and posttest was given to 253 students in Grades 4, 5, 6, 8, and 12 after spending at least 30 minutes per week for 6 weeks on the iCivics interactive web site. Questions are aligned with the U.S. citizenship test (U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Office of Citizenship, 2011) and Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (Texas Education Agency, 2011b, 2011c). Fourth-grade students showed statistically significantly higher gains than did all other grades, indicating an interaction between mean test scores and grade level. Test scores for the sample as a whole statistically significantly improved from pretest to posttest. focused on improving content-specific science instruction for students in the elementary classroom.
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Copyright 2011 by the RESEARCH IN THE SCHOOLS
Mid-South Educational Research Association 2011, Vol. 18, No. 2, 57-73
The Impact of iCivics on Students’ Core Civic Knowledge
Karon LeCompte, Brandon Moore, and Brooke Blevins
Baylor University
Today’s youth are more technologically savvy
than are any previous generation (Jenkins,
Purushotma, Weigel, Clinton, & Robison, 2009).
They have grown up with computers, Internet access,
and virtually unlimited retrieval of information, both
personal and public. They are an on-line gaming
generation (Gee, 2007; Levine & Gershenfeld, 2011;
Lewis, 2011). As this trend continues, it makes sense
that teaching and learning will become
technologically based and housed in a new on-line
format. To appreciate the positive effects of video
games, educators need to recognize the tremendous
impact that gaming has on today’s youth (Prensky,
2006; Squire, 2011). Certainly, video games are used
in all kinds of learning and research from military
training to environmental problem solving. The
conundrum is that in schools we are testing reading
and mathematics and thus have a decreased emphasis
on social studies education. Asserted in a recent
National Assessment of Educational Progress report
entitled, A Nation’s Report Card: Civics 2010
(National Center for Education Statistics, 2011),
fourth-grade students demonstrated only a marginal
increase in basic understanding of civics.
Unfortunately, no increase occurred among eighth-
grade or 12th-grade students since the previous 1998
United States youth are good at video games, but
they know little about how the U.S. government
works or what it means to be a contributing
knowledgeable citizen. With an increased need for
emphasis on citizenship education, an on-line gaming
format seems to be an ideal answer. The question
remains: are students able to learn content effectively
through on-line gaming experiences as well as they
might through traditional teaching methods? And
how do we know? This study represents one attempt
to investigate the impact of on-line gaming on
student learning, particularly on students’ civic
content knowledge. Utilizing a quantitative pre- and
post-test design, the researchers sought to determine
whether students’ civic content knowledge increased
as a result of playing a particular online civics
education game during a 6-week period of time. We
begin with an exploration of literature surrounding
iCivics, a free online, civics education program created by Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, is
aligned to state and national standards to teach core civics content. The research question for this study is:
Does spending at least 30 minutes on the iCivics interactive web site 2 times per week improve student scores on
a civics test? A pretest and posttest was given to 253 students in Grades 4, 5, 6, 8, and 12 after spending at least
30 minutes per week for 6 weeks on the iCivics interactive web site. Questions are aligned with the U.S.
citizenship test (U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Office of
Citizenship, 2011) and Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (Texas Education Agency, 2011b, 2011c). Fourth-
grade students showed statistically significantly higher gains than did all other grades, indicating an interaction
between mean test scores and grade level. Test scores for the sample as a whole statistically significantly
improved from pretest to posttest. focused on improving content-specific science instruction for students in the
elementary classroom.
Correspondence should be addressed to Karon
LeCompte, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Baylor
University, Department of Curriculum and
Instruction, One Bear Place #97314, Waco, TX
civic education and online gaming, describe the on-
line gaming program utilized, articulate the research
methodology used, highlight the results and findings
of this research, and conclude by investigating the
implications of this work and opportunities for
further research.
Youth Engagement and Civics Education
Civics education is an important and essential
part of public education in the United States. Justice
Sandra Day O’Connor (2011) noted that youth
engagement in community, voting rates, and interest
in discussing political issues have declined in the
United States over the past few decades. One
possible explanation for this low level of engagement
is that students have a difficult time imagining
themselves as future citizens because most activities
and simulations in the classroom are textbook based
and meaningless to their lives (Alazzi, 2009; Chiodo
& Martin, 2005). In a representative democracy that
relies on participation of voters to ensure the
government runs effectively, this lack of interest and
apathy demands attention. One of the best places to
introduce young people to civic and political
knowledge and participation is during their schooling
years. Schools present a unique space to help
students understand the complex nature of citizenship
and develop knowledge of the political process
(Alazzi, 2009; Chiodo & Martin, 2005). Civic
learning opportunities are important in schools,
especially at the high school level, which represents
the last place where young people have free access to
education and, in particular, formal civic education
(Kahne, Chi, & Middaugh, 2006; Langton &
Jennings, 1968).
Public schools have the ability to influence
greatly civic participation, political efficacy, and
knowledge of civic and political processes by
explicitly teaching about civics in the classroom
(Feldman, Pasek, Romer, & Jamieson, 2007; Hess &
Gatti, 2010; Kahne & Sporte, 2008; Langton &
Jennings, 1968; Mellor, 2008). Classroom practices
in which civic and political participation are
explicitly addressed greatly influence the political
socialization of students (Feldman et al., 2007; Kahne
& Sporte, 2008). Mellor (2008) noted that civics
knowledge and citizenship participation is a viable,
teachable subject and the most effective way to enact
quality civics education is to teach civic and political
knowledge at the same time as students engage in
citizenship activities. Thus, effective civics
education involves both formal and participatory
learning opportunities.
Hess and Gatti (2010) asserted that students have
a wide variety of perspectives, experiences, and
ideologies, which make the classroom a ripe site for
the discussion of politics. Of course the classroom is
experienced differently by each student; so a variety
of activities regarding the teaching of politics is
optimal (Hess & Gatti, 2010). Researchers have
demonstrated that providing experiences which focus
on civic and political issues is an effective way to
foster civic participation (Kahne & Sporte, 2008).
Additionally, classroom activities that help teach
civics include discussion-based teaching, completing
a class project on a campaign, using the Internet to
explore issues and learn about candidates, role
playing, and simulations (Feldman et al., 2007; Hess
& Gatti, 2010; Kahne et al., 2006; Kahne, Middaugh,
& Evans, 2008; Oulton, Day, Dillon, & Grace, 2004).
Interestingly, however, Leahey (2011) posited that
the quantity of civic education is not related to
students’ civic and political activity; rather, students’
civic participation is associated with the quality of
civics education they receive. As such, he noted that
a relationship exists between student participation in
simulations related to civic processes and
participation and their subsequent civic commitment
and political knowledge. Directly targeting civic
education in classrooms is, therefore, essential if
schools are to have an impact on students’ civic
participation. Classroom teachers interested in
cultivating civic understanding with their students
need ideas and concepts with which to examine
notions of civic life. Students must engage in critical
civic inquiry as a prerequisite step for civic
engagement as adults.
Research on civics education also highlights the
benefits of classroom civic learning opportunities for
low-income students and students of color, groups
that historically experience less political voice than
do other groups (Kahne & Sporte, 2008). With the
increasing diversity of the nation and, subsequently,
classrooms, educators need to provide civic learning
opportunities that attend to the diverse experiences
and backgrounds of our students. As such, a civics
curriculum that is personally relevant to students is
consistent with desirable learning outcomes,
including increased civic knowledge and
participation (Evans, 2008; Kahne et al., 2006).
Civics Education and Online Gaming
Despite researchers’ findings that suggest
experience-based civics curricula foster social trust
and make civics learning more relevant to students
(Kahne et al., 2006), these types of curricula are not
commonly used in today’s classrooms. The absence
of experience-based civics curricula might result
because teachers lack the time and necessary
resources to deal with controversial issues that ensue
as a result of such activities (Oulton et al., 2004).
The question then becomes; what can teachers use to
provide high-quality civics curricula that
appropriately engage their students in relevant ways?
Interestingly, recent findings from a Pew Internet
Research Report (Kahne et al., 2008) provide
possibilities for attending to this question. The
findings from this study led the researchers to suggest
that video games might be a viable option of
extending citizenship education because they parallel
the kinds of civic learning opportunities found to
promote civic engagement in other settings.
With increased access to learning technologies in
the classroom, researchers suggest that teachers
might actually be able to engage students in more
powerful and authentic learning opportunities.
Cooper, Carroll, Liu, Franklin, and Chelberg (2009)
demonstrated that “educational video games are an
effective medium for teaching in modern middle
school classrooms” (p. 2124). Students can
experience things in computer games and simulations
that are not feasible for them to experience in real
life, enabling them to learn concepts that are difficult
to teach (Cooper et al., 2009), including notions of
citizenship. Both real and simulated experiences
similar to those experiences present in video games
help students envision themselves being involved as
civic and political actors (Kahne et al., 2006). Thus,
technology such as the Internet, online games, and
simulations might provide an important vehicle
through which students might develop greater
understanding of citizenship and their roles as civic
Although Vanfossen (2006) reported that the
majority of empirical research suggests that civic
engagement in the United States has not significantly
improved in either quality or quantity with the use of
the Internet, others contend that using the Internet to
explore specific issues and to learn about candidates
helps to socialize young people politically (Feldman
et al., 2007; Oulton et al., 2004). According to
Kahne et al. (2008), adolescents who play video
games experience gaming situations that are similar
to civic life. These civic gaming experiences, they
suggested, range from helping others while gaming,
playing games where they learn about a societal
problem, to exposure to civic gaming experiences
irrespective of income level, race, and age.
Because the current generation of students has
grown up in an era replete with technology, these
students are often comfortable with technological
tools and games. Lindberg and Sahlin (2011) pointed
to the fact that students have few problems when
using computer technology for classroom learning
and they can often help each other as a reason to
include this technology in teaching. Additionally,
Erixon (2010) contended that electronic media allows
students to bypass gatekeepers to access information,
which adds value to educational experiences. Thus,
students quickly learn how to navigate virtual games
and are readily able to transition their experiences
from the virtual to the real world seamlessly (Cooper
et al., 2009). Therefore, the challenge for teachers,
and less so for students, is to learn civics education in
a new venuethrough video games. It is for this
particular reason that the iCivics program was
developedto help students learn civics through a
technologically engaging and informative website
that allows users to manipulate and to navigate their
own learning experiences.
An Overview of iCivics
iCivics is a “web-based education project
designed to teach students civics and inspire them to
be active participants in our democracy” (Curley,
2010, para. 7). A free program founded by Supreme
Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, iCivics is
aligned to state and national standards to teach core
civics content. The site has free lesson plans for
teachers and online games and interactive modules
for students. In iCivics games, which take 15 to 45
minutes each to complete, students simulate being
civic leaders and are able to work on issues that they
find important.
Game modules offer variety by topic as well as
by game time to allow students and teachers to
choose games that fit their schedules and foci.
Modules include Citizenship and Participation, The
Constitution and Bill of Rights, Budgeting,
Separation of Powers, The Executive Branch, The
Legislative Branch, and The Judicial Branch. Each
module contains up to five different games offering
multiple viewpoints and/or issues to be resolved. In
each game, participants are asked to take on a
particular position or role. The games then open with
a short video or background information to help the
user navigate the game. Following the presentation
of background information, participants then must
interact and make decisions to progress through the
Executive Command is an excellent example of
an iCivics game. In this game, participants assume
the role of the President and are challenged to carry
out the role of executive commander of the United
States. After being inaugurated as President, players
are given a chief of staff to keep them informed about
pressing issues and responsibilities. Throughout the
game, players must keep up with a variety of
presidential duties including signing or vetoing bills,
speaking to Congress, engaging in foreign
diplomacy, and waging war. During game play,
players earn points for making effective decisions as
the President. These points then determine if a player
is reelected at the end of a 4-year term. Students
typically find that being President is a busy job that
requires extensive knowledge of the roles and
responsibilities of various governmental agencies and
iCivics is interactive in that participants can
make avatars and receive points for the games they
play. Players can earn achievement badges, get their
names on national leader boards, and connect with
real-world civic projects that are important to them.
Additionally, players can spend their points on their
favorite Impact Project, selected from a list on the
iCivics website, and every 3 months, the project with
the most points will receive $1000 from iCivics.
According to iCivics, the program allows students to
tackle real-life problems, find answers for
themselves, and challenge them in material that is
As part of the online experience, teachers can set
up a class account to track student progress and to
assign content, find lesson plans to coincide with
games, as well as search content by state standards,
subject areas, or grade levels. The iCivics website
also includes curriculum units focused on foreign
affairs and national defense, state and local
government, politics and public policy, citizenship
and participation, and persuasive writing. Teachers
also have the ability to assign students Web Quests,
in which students watch a video or read an article and
answer questions. The resources provided on the
iCivics website help teachers provide a base of
knowledge for their students.
To date, little research exists on the iCivics
curriculum and its effects on student learning of
civics concepts. Because technology is developed
continually and plays an ever-increasing role in
young people’s lives, finding a way to use technology
to meet students’ interests and engage them in
meaningful learning opportunities is vitally
important. As such, the researchers conducted this
study to explore the impact playing iCivics has on
students’ civic knowledge. The primary research
question for this study was: To what degree does
spending at least 30 minutes on the iCivics
interactive web site two times per week improve
student performance on a test of civic knowledge?
Using a one-group pretest-posttest research design in
a school district in Central Texas we sought answers
to this question. Students in participating classrooms
and schools were given a pretest before being
introduced to the iCivics curriculum; then, they
participated in a 6-week period of playing iCivics
twice a week for a minimum of 30 minutes for a total
of 6 weeks. At the conclusion of the 6 weeks,
students then were given a posttest to measure the
improvement in their civic knowledge.
Participants and Setting
To analyze the effectiveness of the iCivics
program for teaching civics concepts, the researchers
conducted a cross-sectional one-group pretest-
posttest study of students in Grades 4, 5, 6, 8, and 12
from several school sites in two medium-sized public
school districts in Central Texas. Although the
iCivics curriculum is designed for students in the
sixth to eighth grades, the researchers decided to
broaden their study to include upper elementary and
high school students. Due to variations in ages, as
well as personal and academic experiences, students
in single grade levels might have vastly different
academic abilities and interests. Thus, the
researchers were interested in investigating iCivics
influence on student engagement and knowledge
growth for middle school students as well as students
on either side of these targeted grades.
After initial contact with school district
administrators and curriculum specialists, social
studies teachers in the grades listed above were asked
to participate in this study. Participating school
principals and teachers from the two school districts
attended a 6-hour professional development
workshop on the iCivics curriculum, learning what
the site offered and how to navigate it so they could
teach their students. District supervisors and
university faculty facilitated this professional
Student demographic data for each student were
provided by each school district. Demographic data
for each student included grade level, gender,
ethnicity, socio-economic status, special education,
and Limited English Proficiency (LEP). After
collection of the posttests from each school and
classroom, both the pretest and posttest scores were
entered into the SPSS® statistical software. Variables
were created from the demographic information
listed above, missing tests, and missing consent
forms, and descriptive statistics were calculated to
ascertain the characteristics of the sample. The final
sample consisted of 256 students from the two school
districts (Rencher ISD and Hirsch ISD
pseudonyms) in Grades 4, 5, 6, 8, and 12. Table 1
shows descriptive statistics for the students who
participated in the iCivics study.
The sample of students for the study was
representative of the population of Rencher ISD
(Texas Education Agency, 2011a). The sample for
Hirsch ISD, however, was not completely
representative of the population, with a smaller
percentage of African American and Hispanic
students and a higher percentage of White, Asian,
and Native American students (Texas Education
Agency, 2011a), as shown in Table 2.
The pre- and posttest contained 30 multiple-
choice items derived from the United States
Citizenship Test and the Texas Essential Knowledge
and Skills (TEKS) Civics content (see Appendix for
test questions). Researchers in this study focused on
equalizing the questions with respect to difficulty.
Administrators in social studies content areas
reviewed the test and gave their approval. Time for
completion of test was approximately 30 minutes.
Both the pretest and posttest contained the same
items, and tests were coded anonymously and
collected by a third party who was not associated
with the study.
The pretest was given, utilizing Scantron forms,
before introducing students to the iCivics program.
Students then had two 30-minute sessions per week
to play iCivics during class for a period of 6 weeks.
After 6 weeks utilizing the iCivics program, the
posttest was given to the students using a Scantron
Pretest and posttest descriptive statistics were
obtained, showing an overall pretest M score of 13.98
with a SD of 4.8, and a posttest M score of 16.69 with
a SD of 5 for the total sample. These data were
normally distributed and the test scores were
measured at an interval level, providing a rationale
for using a paired samples t test to determine whether
a difference was present between the pretest and
posttest mean scores. Bar graphs showing 95%
confidence intervals for mean score by grade level
were obtained for both pretest and posttest to
determine whether differences were present in test
scores by grade level. Figure 1 shows the 95%
confidence intervals for pretest scores and Figure 2
shows the 95% confidence for posttest scores.
Table 1
Descriptive Statistics of Sample
Grade 4
Grade 5
Grade 6
Grade 8
Grade 12
African American
Asian American
Native American
Multiple Ethnicities
Economically Disadvantaged
Special Education
Limited English Proficiency
Table 2
Demographic Comparison Between iCivics Sample and District Populations (Percentage of group)
Rencher ISD
Hirsch Sample
Hirsch ISD
African American
5,165 (33.9)
3 (2.6)
804 (11.7)
8,155 (53.5)
6 (5)
1,144 (16.6)
1,857 (12.2)
90 (77)
4,566 (66.5)
61 (0.4)
9 (7.7)
320 (4.7)
16 (0.1)
2 (1.7)
37 (0.5)
13,442 (88)
11 (9.4)
1,844 (27.4)
2,440 (16)
No data
172 (2.5)
Native American
▫Economically Disadvantaged
▪Limited English Proficiency
Source: Texas Education Agency, 2011a
Figure 1. Pretest scores with 95% confidence interval bars.
Figure 2. Posttest scores with 95% confidence interval bars.
The bar graphs indicated a difference in number
correct by grade level, the data were normally
distributed, the data were at interval level, and
sample sizes were equal; therefore, an analysis of
variance (ANOVA) was deemed to be an appropriate
statistical test. Specifically, a mixed design repeated
measures analysis of variance, with a Bonferroni
post-hoc test on grade level (to maintain an overall
Type I error rate at .05 across all comparisons) was
used to determine whether an interaction existed
between pretest and posttest scores by grade level.
Change scores then were calculated by subtracting
the pretest scores from the posttest scores by grade,
and a one-way ANOVA with a Scheffé post-hoc test
was used to determine whether any statistically
significant differences were present in change scores
by grade level. Finally, a mixed design repeated
measures ANOVA was utilized to determine whether
an interaction existed between pretest and posttest
scores by gender.
The statistical analysis allowed the researchers to
ascertain the impact of the iCivics curriculum on
student learning of civics content. The results from
the paired samples t test, t(197) = 9.33, p < .001, d =
0.63, indicated a statistically significant gain in mean
test score from pretest to posttest for the sample as a
whole. Further, Cohen’s effect size value (d = 0.63)
suggested a moderate practical significance. The M
pretest score was 13.98 and the M posttest score was
16.69, indicating a mean difference of 3.1 points.
The test scores by grade level mixed design
repeated measures ANOVA results showed that a
statistically significant interaction was present
between pretest and posttest scores with grade level,
F(4,193) = 17.239, p < .001. Levene’s Test of
equality of variances was not statistically significant,
which indicates that variances were homogeneous for
all levels of the test score variable. The between-
subjects effects showed a statistically significant
main effect of grade level on test scores, F(4,193) =
20.04, p < .001. Insert effect size here.
Figure 3 shows the interaction between test scores
based on grade level.
The Bonferroni post-hoc test showed a
statistically significant difference in pretest and
posttest scores between Grades 4 and 6 (p = .02),
Grades 4 and 8 (p < .001), Grades 5 and 6 (p < .001),
Grades 5 and 8 (p < .001), Grades 6 and 8 (p < .001),
6 and 12 (p < .001), and Grades 8 and 12 (p = .05).
Insert effect size here. Students in Grades 5 and 8
showed improvement in test scores from pretest to
posttest, with eighth-grade students scoring nearly
five points higher on both. Students in Grade 12
showed a slight decrease from pretest to posttest,
whereas fifth-grade students slightly improved.
Students in Grade 4, however, showed a marked
improvement of nearly 10 points, as indicated in
Table 3.
Change scores, calculated by subtracting the
pretest score from the posttest score, indicated
dramatic differences between pretest and posttest
scores depending on grade level. The one-way
ANOVA indicated a statistically significant
difference in change scores by grade level, F(1, 4) =
17.239, p < .001,
2=.87, η2 = 0.26, d = 1.19.
Cohen’s effect size value (d = 1.19) suggested high
practical significance. The Games-Howell post-hoc
test revealed a statistically significant difference
between all the following grade levels by change
score: Grades 4 and 5 (p = .003), Grades 4 and 6 (p <
.001), Grades 4 and 8 (p < .001), Grades 4 and 12 (p
< .001), and Grades 5 and 12 (p < .001). These
differences in change scores are shown in Figure 4.
Figure 3. Interaction between grade level and pretest and posttest scores.
Table 3
Pre-Posttest Scores and Mean Change by Grade
Pretest M (SD)
Posttest M (SD)
Change Score (SD)
9.9 (3.9)
19.4 (4.9)
+9.53 (5.4)
13.8 (4.1)
17.2 (4.5)
+3.54 (4.1)
10.3 (3.9)
11.9 (3.6)
+1.5 (3.9)
19.5 (3.6)
22.8 (3.8)
+2.33 (2.7)
17.6 (4.7)
16.3 (5.0)
-0.36 (3.2)
Figure 4. Change score by grade level (posttest score minus pretest score).
In this study, the researchers were interested in
exploring the relationship between online gaming and
the development of students’ civic understanding.
Specifically, this study sought to investigate the
impact of one online gaming resource,, on
students’ core civic knowledge. The results were that
students’ scores on a test of civic knowledge did
significantly improve after playing iCivics games for
a 6-week period of time. The overall student mean
test scores increased from pretest to posttest
following the 6 weeks of utilizing iCivics two times
per week for at least 30 minutes. As such, the test
scores were significantly higher on the posttest than
on the pretest for the sample as a whole. Statistically
significant differences were not present in test scores
from pretest to posttest in regard to gender or
ethnicity; however, statistically significant
differences were present with regard to grade level.
Whether or not this increase in scores was due to the
iCivics curriculum alone is unknown.
Stark differences did exist in pretest and posttest
scores by grade levels: both fifth- and sixth-grade
students improved slightly; eighth-grade students had
higher pretest scores than did all other grade levels
and improved slightly; and fourth-grade students
improved far more dramatically than did any other
grade level. The difference in change scores between
fourth grade and every other grade was statistically
significant. Fourth grade scores changed by +9.53,
fifth grade by +3.54, sixth grade by +1.5, eighth
grade by +2.33, and 12th grade by -.36 points from
pretest to posttest. Every grade except Grade 12
showed improvement from pretest to posttest, and the
12th-grade students remained approximately static in
their scores. As such, these results have several
important implications.
The results of this study support recent research
that has highlighted the positive connection between
online gaming and civic education (Kahne et al,
2008). Data analysis reveals that the iCivics online
civics education program might be an effective
means by which to help increase students’ civic
knowledge. Ultimately, because iCivics was the only
formal civics curriculum that the students in each
grade level received during this time period, it is
plausible that iCivics is an effective mode of delivery
for civics content, engaging students in a subject that
is often thought of as mundane and not applicable to
Although statistically significant gains in mean
test score from pretest to posttest were present for the
sample as a whole, it is also clear that students in
specific grade levels experienced greater gains. Thus,
student grade level is an extremely important factor
to consider with the use of the iCivics curriculum.
As the results highlight, younger students made
greater gains than did older students. This result
might be attributed to the fact that younger students
responded better to the interactive web site that
iCivics provides, including watching videos, creating
avatars, playing games, as well as the ability to earn
and use impact points. It must be noted that iCivics
is designed specifically for students in Grades 6 to 8.
Given that children learn different ways and in a
variety of contexts, the researchers expanded the
scope of grade levels for this study (Bransford,
Brown, & Cocking, 2000). Therefore, older students
might find iCivics to be too low level and childish
and might not find the games as meaningful and,
subsequently, engaging for their age group,
suggesting an optimal age range at which to
introduce iCivics and the civics concepts it
highlights. However, the results from this study
require a closer examination among 12th-grade
The 12th-grade students in this study showed
essentially no change in their content knowledge as a
result of playing iCivics. These static scores might
be attributed to the fact that 12th graders had more
experience with civic content knowledge and
undoubtedly more experience in gaming (Gee &
Hayes, 2011). For the most part, fourth- and fifth-
grade students had no civic knowledge coming into
the study; thus, 12th graders were unlikely to see the
same kind of drastic gains seen in fourth grade.
Additionally, students in lower grades might have
taken the pre- and posttests more seriously, whereas
older studentsincluding those students in the 12th
gradealready might recognize the inconsequential
nature of such tests and not exert the same amount of
effort. For students in the 12th grade, testing has
become synonymous with schooling. These students
have grown up in a world of schooling dominated by
high-stakes testing (Cuban, 2001). Such students
know when a test counts and when it does not; they
have “test literacy.” Thus, by the 12th grade,
students know that most tests define what they should
know and be able to do, especially in school settings
(Gee & Hayes, 2011). Therefore, it is plausible that
the 12th-grade students involved in this study simply
did not give much credence to pre- and posttests
regarding their civic knowledge. Nonetheless, the
researchers contend that educational environments
for all students be infused with chances for authentic
learning opportunities for civic engagement
(Teitelbaum, 2011).
Certainly, as with all studies, limitations to this
study do exist. The first limitation is the inability to
sample randomly; the researchers were forced to take
intact classrooms for this analysis. Another
limitation is the lack of a control group; limiting the
researchers from assigning causation for the
increased test scores to the use of the iCivics
program. However, because iCivics was the only
social studies or civics curriculum these students
received during this time period, it is plausible that
the iCivics was at least partially responsible for the
increase in test scores, and it should add to the
internal validity of the findings. The lack of a wide
array of student grade levels also might present
another limitation. The inclusion of students as
young as third grade up to 12th grade is pertinent in
understanding whether this program works better for
one grade level or another. Finally, sample sizes for
each grade level are a concern, as they were as low as
13 students per grade level. Despite these
limitations, this study does provide some valuable
insight into the impact of iCivics on students’ civic
Among educators concerned with civics
education, some consensus exists about key elements
important for effective citizenship education
programs. These elements include the promotion of
civic values and dispositions, skills and
competencies, and knowledge and understanding
(Kahne & Middaugh, 2008; Ross, 2008). In
exploring the impact of iCivics on students’ civic
knowledge, arguably many of these elements are
present in the iCivics curriculum and might help
contribute to the increases in students’ civic
knowledge seen in this study. The first element, civic
values and dispositions, encompasses the idea of
social responsibility and obligation towards others.
Civic education programs that develop the second
element, civics skills and competencies, focus on
developing students’ abilities of communication,
persuasion, participation, and collaboration necessary
for active citizenship. Finally, the third element, the
development of knowledge and understanding,
involves knowing the underlying principles of the
role of law, the characteristics of democracy, and
awareness of the role of society for an educated
citizen. Although the iCivics program provides
possibilities to engage students in all three of the
elements fundamental to effective citizenship
education, the findings from this article highlight the
important role iCivics can play in increasing
students’ civic knowledge and understanding. As the
results of this study indicate, the iCivics curriculum
likely has a positive effect on student learning of core
civics knowledge and understandings.
Future studies will be necessary to determine the
impact iCivics has not only on students’ civics
knowledge but also on their skills and competencies
and values and dispositions. Certainly, the
researchers recognize that civic knowledge does not
automatically equate with increased positive civic
dispositions or activities. Thus, researchers also need
to attend to changes in students’ civic attitudes and
dispositions, including the sense that they have the
capacity to be effective civic actors, as a result of
engaging in iCivics.
To enhance this research, a focus on the
inclusion of more grade levels between 6th and 12th
grade as well as the addition of a posttest control
group would allow researchers to determine if the
iCivics curriculum is really the cause of increases in
test scores. Although the random assignment of
individuals to groups will not be possible with
classrooms, finding a control group that never utilizes
iCivics to take the posttest as a comparison group
might be possible.
Additionally, consideration of students’ interest
in online gaming, particularly iCivics, in relation to
increases in students civic knowledge and
dispositions will enhance the research findings
presented in this article. Researchers suggest that
student interest and engagement play a particularly
important role in the development civic knowledge
and participation (Kahne & Middaugh, 2008).
Essentially, the greater interest and personal
connection a student has in a civic-related activity,
the greater impact that activity has on their civic
knowledge and dispositions. Thus, it will be
essential to understand the degree to which students
find iCivics an interesting and engaging tool for
Finally, the researchers’ findings from this study
also raise fundamental questions about the role of
teachers in the implementation of iCivics. Might a
teacher’s enthusiasm for and ability to implement
iCivics effectively into her/his curriculum impact
students’ civic learning? Certainly, as Ross (2008)
highlighted, school administrators that want to
engage in effective civics education will need to
encourage “teachers to model how to question, listen
and respond in way that are very different from
traditional didactic models of teaching” (p. 496).
Thus, additional studies are needed to allow
researchers to investigate how and why teachers
utilize iCivics in their classrooms.
Although the claims made in this study need
further verification and additional research, the
results are consistent and even extend much of the
research about online gaming and civics education
(Cooper et al., 2009; Kahne et al., 2008; Lenhart et
al., 2008). Based on the present findings, it appears
that online gaming opportunities, specifically those
that are geared towards civic content, do provide
positive benefits for students’ civic knowledge. As
such, video games, like iCivics, provide hopeful
possibilities for responding to the declining state of
civic knowledge and activism amongst our nations
youth. Additionally, in an era where the amount of
time devoted to civics education in schools is
decreasing (Jennings & Rentner, 2006), games like
iCivics that students can play outside of school also
might provide a unique way to introduce students to
notions of citizenship and civics.
The lead editors for this article were John R. Slate
and Anthony J. Onwuegbuzie.
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Pre/Posttest Questions- iCivics
1. What is your first responsibility as a citizen?
A. Serve on a jury
B. Pay Taxes
C. Respect Others
D. Speak your mind
2. What is the purpose of jury duty?
A. Required jury duty allows citizens to act as lawyers.
B. Required jury duty allows citizens the opportunity to have an excused absence from work.
C. Required jury duty helps to create new laws.
D. Required jury duty helps guarantee a pool of jurors so that people get a fair trial.
3. The government asks its citizens to contribute money (taxes) to keep it running.
Taxes provide for:
A. Highways, Cars & Taxis
B. Firefighters, Police Officers & Education
C. Grocery Stores, Parks & Libraries
D. None of the Above
4. What activities can you do at the local level to support a cause?
A. Fundraisers
B. Poster Campaign
C. Town Hall Meetings
D. All of the above
5. Which is the best way to raise awareness in your school about an issue?
A. Create posters about the issue
B. Turn in homework
C. Write in your journal
D. Pass notes in class about the issue
6. What right does the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution provide?
A. Freedom of religion
B. The right to a speedy trial
C. No unreasonable searches
D. The right to keep and bear ordinary weapons
7. Which freedom in the U.S. Constitution provides the right to communicate and express ideas
and opinions to the government, in the press, and in public even when your thoughts are
controversial or unpopular?
A. Freedom of Liberty
B. Freedom of Controversy
C. Freedom of Expression
D. Freedom of Opinion
8. When voting for the candidate during an election, it is:
A. Important to vote for the person who promises the most
B. Important to vote for the candidate with the best hair
C. Important to be informed
D. Important to encourage your friends to vote the same as you
9. What is the State of the Union Address?
A. A report given by the President to Congress about the condition of our
nation and also sets the legislative agenda
B. A report given by the President when leaving office
C. A report given by the Congress when introducing the newly elected President
D. A report given by the Vice President when the President is kicked out of Office
10. Who is responsible for assisting the President of the United States with his daily activities?
A. Vice President
B. Chief of Staff
C. Secretary of State
D. Commander in Chief
11. What is the name of the President’s plane?
A. Airplane One
B. Airstrike One
C. Airflight One
D. Airforce One
12. What does NATO stand for?
A. North Atlantic Treaty Organization
B. North Atlantic Treaty Origination
C. North Association for Treaty Organization
D. North Atlantic Truce Organization
13. What is not an example of Presidential Diplomacy?
A. Flying to another country when signing a Peace Treaty
B. Offering support or aid to a country after a natural disaster
C. Attending an important event or meeting with other world leaders
D. Vacationing in another country
14. During a trial, what is the purpose of the opening argument?
A. Explains the plaintiff’s view of the case only
B. Explains each side’s view of the case
C. Explains the defendant’s view of the case only
D. Explains the judge’s view of the case
15. Which part of the Constitution requires search warrants?
A. First Amendment: Freedom of Speech
B. Article 2 of the Constitution: the Executive Branch
C. Fourth Amendment: No Unreasonable Searches
D. Fifth Amendment: Keep Private Property
16. According to New Jersey versus T.L.O.:
A. Students have some privacy in schools
B. School Officials need to be able to keep order
C. School officials need “reasonable suspicion” to search a student
D. All of the Above
17. What Amendment was utilized to support Brown in Brown versus the Board of Education?
A. First Amendment: Freedom of Speech
B. Fourth Amendment: No Unreasonable Searches
C. Sixth Amendment: Speedy Trial; Right to Fair and Impartial Jury
D. Fourteenth Amendment: Equality Under Law
18. Which Supreme Court case desegregated schools in the United States?
A. Tinker versus Des Moines School District
B. Texas versus Johnson
C. Brown versus the Board of Education
D. Miranda versus Arizona
19. Which is not one of the 3 Branches of Government?
A. Legislative
B. Presidential
C. Judicial
D. Executive
20. How many houses of Congress are there?
A. Two
B. Three
C. Four
D. Five
21. If a child was born in another country during vacation and his/her parents are American
Citizens who
live in America, that makes the child:
A. A citizen of the country the child was born in
B. A citizen of the U.S.
C. A citizen of neither country
D. All of the above
22. Which is not a way in which a person may be eligible to become a U.S. Citizen after
spending some
time in the United States?
A. When a person has been granted permission to work
B. When a person is married to an American Citizen
C. When a person’s cousin is an American Citizen
D. When a person is seeking Refuge from their country
23. In order to move a bill from the Senate to the House, what percentage of vote is needed?
A. Minority
B. Majority
C. 2/3rds
D. 100%
24. Which branch of government has the responsibility of making laws:
A. Legislative
B. Judicial
C. Executive
D. None of the Above
25. What role does the President play after Congress passes a bill?
A. Signs a bill
B. Vetoes a bill
C. Both A & B
D. None of the above
26. What should citizens take into consideration when voting for a person to represent them in
the legislature?
A. The type of legislation the person supports
B. How the person dresses
C. How the person looks
D. The person’s favorite sports team
27. Which one of the cases below could only belong in a State Court?
A. A case about federal law
B. A case about the U.S. Constitution
C. A case about a disagreement between citizens of different states
D. A case about a family issue such as divorce
28. Which one of the cases below could only belong in the Federal Court?
A. A case about a state law
B. A case about the U.S. Constitution
C. A case about a state constitution
D. A case about a disagreement between citizens of the state
29. How many Supreme Court Justices are there?
A. 5
B. 7
C. 9
D. 11
30. Why were students suspended from school in the Tinker Case in 1965?
A. Putting up posters on their school campus to protest the Vietnam War
B. Wearing black armbands to school to protest the Vietnam War
C. Burning an American flag on school campus to protest the Vietnam War
D. Ditching school to protest the Vietnam War
... As a free online program, iCivics was established to align with state and national standards to instruct students with essential civics content (LeCompte, Moore, & Belvins, 2011). The iCivics web site provided teachers and students with resources, such as free lesson plans, online games, and learning modules. ...
... When students used tablets, they were actively participating in a learning experience (Healy et al, 2014). Increases in the use of learning technologies throughout classrooms provided opportunities for students to participate in a more realistic and familiar learning environment ( LeCompte et al., 2011 Kim, Blair, and Lim (2014) found the use of tablets for instruction minimized behavior issues and promoted student participation in academic activities. Additionally, Pryor and Bauer (2008) confirmed using technology in the classroom provided an opportunity to "enhance the learning environment and encourage interactivity" (p. ...
... Florida standards that are taught throughout the school year utilizing district pacing guides and the iCivic curriculum ( Belvins et al., 2014;LeCompte et al., 2011). ...
The purpose of this dissertation was to investigate which instructional method provided students with more knowledge and skills in civics to score proficiently on the end-of-course (EOC) exam. This quantitative study was descriptive and comparative and was structured by two research questions: First, Is there a difference in the number of cases that scored above or below proficiency based on the type of instructional strategy used, between the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 school years? Second, Is there a difference in perceptions of teachers based on how they used teacher-centered and tablet-based instruction in 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 school years, on student motivation? Historical student civics EOC scores were collected from a south Florida School district from two different academic years, where instructional strategies were changed and were analyzed using a chi-square test of independence. Additionally, civics teachers in the same district were surveyed on their perception of student motivation to learn and acquire knowledge using the different instructional strategies, which was analyzed using descriptive statistics and a paired samples t-test. The findings from the research indicate tablet-based instruction had higher cases of students scoring proficiently on the EOC exam. Furthermore, teacher’s perceptions of student motivation to learn, identify teacher-centered instruction as the preferred method to instruct civics. The results were discussed and implications and recommendations for future practice were presented
In this chapter we discuss the measurement and impact of educational media and technology in supporting the development of children and adolescents. We first describe the theoretical frameworks and methods used to assess the effectiveness of educational content. We then describe the positive effects that have been documented from viewing, playing, or experiencing content that has been designed to teach (i.e. academic, social-emotional, physical). Empirical studies indicate numerous effects on a range of topics such as increased vocabulary knowledge, STEM skills, civics, and social-emotional skills. All of the review is supported by research findings described in English and while most studies come from the United States, research from other countries is described throughout. We describe how individual and contextual differences might moderate the effects of educational media and technology on youth. Implications for practitioners and creators of media and technology for young people are discussed.
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Gameful approaches to learning have gradually been established as the go-to rhetoric when attempting to increase engagement with learning. This has especially been the case in educational activities that have long-term missions or teach abstract concepts, such as life skills, communal tolerance, or civic education at large, where there exist several pedagogical challenges in making the context meaningful to the youth. However, currently there is no clear overall view on what kind of gameful affordances are utilized in teaching these subjects and what are their reported impacts. To investigate the state-of-the-art of this corpus, 36 empirical papers were identified and systematically reviewed. The current literature, overall, draws quite an optimistic image of the benefits of game-based approaches in civic education. Most of the reported gamification designs included characters and roleplay, social aspects such as coop and chat functions, as well as 3D worlds and game maps for students to navigate in. Furthermore, the corpus reported positive impact of gamification on learning in the context of civic education as well as positive impact on cognitive, emotional, motivational and social experiences and motivation. However, the lack of detailed descriptions of the exact attributes that facilitated these favorable shifts indicates a need for more systematic research to identify the long-term and transferable influence game-based approaches have on formal civic education and students' civic skills.
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Proponemos pensar a los videojuegos como escenarios donde se producen aprendizajes socio-políticos, esto es, como ámbitos de socialización política. Considerando esto, el trabajo indagó el potencial político de videojuegos explorando los aprendizajes socio-políticos identificados por sus usuarios/as, y precisando su vinculación con hábitos, experiencias y actitudes hacia los videojuegos y con variables psicopolíticas (eficacia política interna, participación política individual y colectiva). Se realizó un estudio empírico cuantitativo con 750 estudiantes y docentes universitarios/as de Argentina, seleccionados/ as mediante muestreo no probabilístico accidental.
We explored the impact of participating in a Virtual Internship (VI) computer-supported collaborative learning simulation, on high school students’ (n = 43) development of knowledge and skills for critiquing the political media with which they engage. Second, we evaluated the effect of this intervention on students’ self-efficacy for using specific media strategies to take political action. Finally, we explored the epistemic (knowledge-seeking) and non-epistemic aims that students set for themselves while participating within our VI, which was designed specifically to address students’ epistemic cognition. Analyses of both the quantitative and qualitative data revealed that students: (1) evinced gains in knowledge about what “fracking” is and also knowledge about why it is a controversial topic; (2) evinced gains in self-efficacy for civic engagement—a key indicator to students’ likelihood for acting; and (3) were able to understand the politicized nature of a social media post, and therefore reported wanting to pursue knowledge-seeking goals to understand both sides of the argument and the trustworthiness of the information sources. We discuss these results vis-à-vis the literature on epistemic games, which can help students develop the knowledge, skills, identity, and values of a profession.
It is imperative that schools and communities give students opportunities to participate in active citizenship and prepare them with the important skills and dispositions needed to become informed citizens. Action civics is a promising practice that puts students at the heart of civics learning by providing them with the opportunity to learn about civic and political action by engaging in a cycle of research, action, and reflection about problems they care about. As a response to move civics education toward a more action-oriented approach, the researchers planned and hosted two iterations of a summer civics institute for students entering 5th–9th grades. Using Jessica Gingold’s (2013) framework for action civics evaluation, this mixed-method research study explores the outcomes of the iEngage Summer Civics Institutes. Findings suggest that iEngage successfully incorporated four key competences from this framework, including producing 21st-century positive youth leaders, producing active and informed citizens, increasing youth civic participation, and encouraging youth civic creation. However, iEngage was not without its limitations and challenges. © College and University Faculty Assembly of National Council for the Social Studies.
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A balanced view of the effects on students, teachers, and schools of the controversial federal law: the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.
We are now living in a “new media age”, with a dramatic shift from the linguistic to the visual, from books and book pages to screens and windows (Kress, 2003). This article offsets out to explore what happens to educational activities in schools when electronic media and pictures replace written texts. The article draws on interviews and classroom observations of a particular Swedish vocational upper secondary programme, where the social studies teacher observes that students are finding it increasingly difficult to benefit from written texts. Theoretically, the study draws on Meyrowitz (1985/1986) theories concerning the relationship among media, situations and behaviour and the effect of a shift from “print situations” to “electronic situations” on a broad range of social role and Bernstein’s (1996/2000) notions of ‘recontextualisation’, ‘framing’ and ‘classification’. The study shows that classroom relations are changing; hierarchies between students and teachers are being broken down, and classification of subjects is affected in the sense that the students’ own interpretations and references are beginning to govern teaching when pictures and electronic media enter the educational discourse.
The SAGE Handbook of Education for Citizenship and Democracy brings together new work by some of the leading authorities on citizenship education, and is divided into five sections. The first section deals with key ideas about citizenship education including democracy, rights, globalization and equity. Section two contains a wide range of national case studies of citizenship education including African, Asian, Australian, European and North and South American examples. The third section focuses on perspectives about citizenship education with discussions about key areas such as sustainable development, anti-racism, and gender. Section four provides insights into different characterizations of citizenship education with illustrations of democratic schools, peace and conflict education, global education, human rights education etc. The final section provides a series of chapters on the pedagogy of citizenship education with discussions about curriculum, teaching, learning and assessment.
They argue that the role of oral language is almost always entirely misunderstood in debates about digital media. Like the earlier inventions of writing and print, digital media actually “power up” or enhance the powers of oral language.
Attempts to map the political development of individuals inevitably become involved with the relative contribution of different socialization agencies throughout the life cycle. Research has focused to a large extent on the family and to a much lesser degree on other agents such as the educational system. At the secondary school level very little has been done to examine systematically the selected aspects of the total school environment. To gain some insight into the role of the formal school environment, this paper will explore the relationship between the civics curriculum and political attitudes and behavior in American high schools. A number of studies, recently fortified by data from Gabriel Almond and Sidney's Verba's five-nation study, stress the crucial role played by formal education in the political socialization process. [None of the other variables] compares with the educational variable in the extent to which it seems to determine political attitudes. The uneducated man or the man with limited education is a different political actor from the man who has achieved a high level of education. ¹ Such conclusions would not have greatly surprised the founders of the American republic, for they stressed the importance of education to the success of democratic and republican government. Starting from its early days the educational system incorporated civic training. Textbooks exposing threats to the new republic were being used in American schools by the 1790's. By 1915, the term “civics” became associated with high school courses which emphasized the study of political institutions and citizenship training.