Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Retired Supreme Court Justices Courts a Web Site

Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, stymied by young people’s lack of knowledge about basic civic lessons, is the brainchild behind a new Web site aimed at the 7th through 9th grade population. The site will pose dilemmas based on constitutional rights, such as the First Amendment. For instance, should schools censor school publications and dictate the kinds of clothing students wear to school?

O’Connor’s hope is that the gaming Web site will draw students in by its interactivity, and fill the void in civics education today. She in part blames the No Child Left Behind Act with its focus on math and science education for the demise of civics and government education.

Commenting for a New York Times article (June 9, 2008), she compared computer gaming to the best educational practices: “…we learn something, a principle or concept, by doing, by having it happen to us, which you can do by that medium of the computer, and you exercise it and you make an argument and you learn.”

The site, which O’Connor is developing in conjunction Georgetown University Law Center and Arizona State University, is expected to go live this fall and will offer curricular integration suggestions. Look for the site, called Our Courts, at: http://www.ourcourts.org/. A preview of the site is working. Try the link. Consider the site's potential appeal to its intended audience.

Are you surprised that a 78-year-old retired Supreme Court Justice sees computer gaming as one of the most viable ways to teach her discipline: government, constitutional law, and civics? Can an interactive Web site, as O’Connor hopes, reclaim democracy and foster civic engagement? Post your comments. If a former Supreme Court Justice endorses the educational potential of the Internet, what does that say about the power of the medium?

Images : blog.kir.com for photo of O'Connor and www.laapush.org for Supreme Court picture
Source: Schiesel, S. (2008, June 9). Former justice promotes web-based civics lessons. The New York Times, p. E7.


Mike said...

Finnally!!!! Someone out there is realizing that in order to reach students of the 21st century we need to teach them in ways that they feel comfortable learning. It only took a 78 year old retired Justice to see this. I know that one of the things i struggle with in my civics class is relating to the students on a day to day basis. I do attempt to bring in articles that are affecting their everyday lives but finding this type of information and then relating it to not only the students but also the content i am teaching can be very diffiuclt.
I have tried current event fridays and i have constantly brought articles in to read that i have found online. ( Mostly based off of the upcoming election) However, having a website that brings Civics to life for the students will save me a lot of time in trying to find these resources and show students that I am not only one who thinks civics is something that effects them everyday.

So as a Civics teacher I say thank you Mrs. Oconner and everyone else who was insturmental in the development of this website.

Nicole G said...

I think that this is great!! Mike you got it right...We are finally taking a step back and seeing how important civic issues are!! I can truthfully say that I know very little history and I think that it is great that this 78 year old woman is noticing this and doing something about it! I am surprised at the route that she is taking. However, she must understand the youth of America today because it seems that gaming is the only way to get through in this high technology and stimulated world. I will be interested to see her final product of a website and also to see if schools use it. This site would be perfect to use for next years computer class.

Nicki said...

This is the coolest idea, someone who has direct knowledge of the subject being inspired to create a website so that kids can learn first hand.

Students can read about court cases in the paper and watch them on court tv but this is gives them a concrete way to see hwo theings work.

Colleen M. said...

I knew Mike would be happy about this! This is a brilliant idea. I think Justice O'Connor is right in observing the decline in interest in civics and social studies. Whether it is the blame of No Child Left Behind or not, the study of civis has defintely fallen by the wayside. I have seen schools simply slash their social studies courses entirely in order to focus on English and math. Yah for English teachers, but what is that really telling the students? If nothing else perhaps this website will incite a bit of interest - sometimes that alone is the gateway to success!

Jen B. said...

It is interesting to hear Justice O'Connor saying what many of us already know...there is a new generation of student out there. A generation that lacks the social skill of classroom, shared learning. I find that my stduent do learn best through their computers. Anything I can give them that is online and interactive seems to hoom them better than any other thing I have tried. Not to say that it can't be the teacher...but I do find that many of my students have been "raised" by video games and therefore know how to interact with them better than a human. I am overgeneralizing....but basically I htink Justice O'Connor has a great idea...so what if she is old enough to be my grandmother? My grandmother loves to email and create her own cards online! :-) Go Gram!

Anonymous said...

This is wonderful! It teaches children civics in a fun and interesting manner. I agree with Jenn B. when she states, many of our children are raised by video games. Even children as young as 3and 4 are using video games. While these children are lacking social skills they certainly are not missing out on technology. Why not use this technology to enhance the Social Studies curriculum? It just makes sense.
In addition, I agree with O'Connor regarding how Social Studies has been pushed to the side since the NCLB Act. In fact, many items have been pushed aside. As educators, it is our job to find fun and interensting ways for our children to learn items that have gone by the wayside so to speak.

moll said...

I love this idea…Mike I completely agree that it's a bit ironic for a 78 year old woman to have figured it out...but good for her! I happen to love teaching/discussing issues in civics, but often find that the subject is absent from many curriculums. I understand that many articles found in newspapers or online are sometimes challenging for students to read/comprehend, but I don't think we should use it as an excuse to leave it out of our classrooms. So thanks to the Justice for finally doing something about this matter!!