When Eduflack talks about 21st century skills, I usually focus on a very basic concept. At the heart and soul of the 21CS movement is using new media to teach core subjects. How do we ensure that students remain plugged in while in the classroom? How do we tap into student interests (particularly as they relate to technology) to ensure they are getting the reading, math, and social science skills required of an effective K-12 education? How do we keep the tried-and-true, core subjects fresh through new approaches, new formats, and new information distribution channels?
Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor seems to have one answer for our classrooms. The Associated Press reports that the first woman to serve on the High Court has helped develop a series of video games designed to engage students on the core elements of civics and social studies. With games such as “Do I Have a Right” and “Supreme Decision,” the jurist is promoting these technology-based lessons and intended for the classroom and developed for middle schoolers. Largely private funded, the effort is also backed by Georgetown University and Arizona State University. The best part? The games are free.
O’Connor is the first to admit she isn’t the most tech-savvy of our current educational entrepreneurs. According to the AP, she’s not on Facebook, she doesn’t Tweet, and she doesn’t event text much. But she recognizes that our children’s social studies skills are lacking. She knows our students understanding of civics, social studies, and history are not at acceptable levels. So she is helping bring the content to the student. If that means teaching constitutional rights through a video game platform, then so be it.
That, quite frankly, is what 21CS are all about. O’Connor and her colleagues are applying a new teaching and learning medium to teach core materials to students in need. By tying student interests and student skills with fundamental instructional lessons, O’Connor is offering just the sort of new thinking our classrooms need to improve student proficiency. it doesn’t take a unanimous decision from the High Court to see the value of this idea.