Our Courts (now known as iCivics) is a free, interactive, web-based program designed to fill the information/ inspiration gap in civics education. The vision of Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, iCivics hopes to promote civics education in the schools by creating discovery-based learning games for students and useful classroom resources for teachers. Georgetown University Law Center, The College of Teacher Education and Leadership at Arizona State University, and Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University are the three lead partners in this initiative.
Our Courts selected Cabengo as its interactive partner in the development of the Our Courts identity and website. In concert, Cabengo designed and developed the animated online game, Supreme Decision, with development partner, Studio Mobile. In Supreme Decision, the player is a clerk to a U.S. Supreme Court Justice who must help his or her justice decide a challenging First Amendment case. In the fictional case, modeled loosely on Tinker vs. Des Moines, a student has been suspended for wearing a T-shirt with his favorite band’s logo, against school policy.
Focusing on the affordances of digital media and how it can support student learning and teacher practice, Supreme Decision encourages thoughtful engagement with first amendment issues through a series of internal challenges. Game play involves evaluating animated disagreements between pairs of justices to determine whether the shirt should be given the same protection as political speech or whether the school was justified in the suspension. The playful interface, and charming, quirky illustrations and animations are appealing to middle school audiences.
In 2009, the Persephone Group, an educational evaluation service, conducted an independent assessment of iCivics’ effectiveness and popularity. Students were given a pretest before and a post test after playing Supreme Decision. According to the study, post test scores improved 14.4% after playing Supreme Decision in class, and 78% of said they would like to play the game again. 100% of participating teachers said they would use iCivics again and would recommend it to a colleague.