A screen capture of the program Civic Mirror.
The Agenda is asking teachers to send in photos of a tool they can't do their job without. It's a small part of our new, year-long series, Learning 2030. Anyone can check out what photos teachers have sent us on our Pinterest page.
We've been profiling some of the more notable submissions to the Pinterest photo spread on this blog. Last week, teacher Rick McCleary wrote about how he uses Twitter, a social media site, to be a better educator. Today Grade 10 teacher Daniel Ballantyne outlines how he uses a program called Civic Mirror and how gamification -- using games to help people learn -- is changing education.
Prior to using Civic Mirror it was a struggle to engage students in a topic like responsible citizenship. Most would argue that they were “good” citizens, and would support their assertion with examples like recycling their garbage or being friendly to their neighbours. Although these are both great things to do, I believe that what they should know about participating in our society goes much further. While the Ministry curriculum provides excellent criteria (active, informed, purposeful) for judging what a responsible citizen looks like, my previous civics course did not provide a suitable context where students could actually practice being responsible citizens.
The classroom country simulation is not a new idea. However, the Civic Mirror incorporates online and in-class activities which engage students, especially boys, in topics (like the constitution and how a bill becomes a law!) that they would normally find boring. When they are the victims of an injustice, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms becomes very real. They begin to understand why the rule of law is so fundamental to our society and why social programs have been created in response to unjust situations. However, they also begin to understand the role of markets as they manage their country’s economy, how freedom can be squelched by too much government involvement through over-regulation, and just how difficult it is to have the initiative to become an entrepreneur.
Gamification is currently a buzzword in education and the Civic Mirror exemplifies the best of this trend by harnessing the potential of a game but linking it with sound pedagogy to enable students to meet the majority of the Ministry’s curriculum expectations. What makes it indispensible is that it does this in a way that is centered on student inquiry and problem-based learning; in short, the students are given agency within a broad framework created by the Civic Mirror. As Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown describe in their book, A New Culture of Learning, “when play happens within a medium for learning… it creates a context in which information, ideas, and passions grow” (2011, p.18).
After experiencing the Civic Mirror, students are more knowledgeable, engaged, and passionate about their role as Canadian citizens and in my view, that is the purpose of a Civics course. That is why I could not teach Civics without it.