Former Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O’Connor didn’t get a computer until she was in her 40s, and she doesn’t have a Facebook or Twitter account. But using technology, she said on April 7, is the way to teach students about the Constitution and inspire a renewed commitment to civics education in U.S. schools.
Since retiring from the Supreme Court three years ago, the 79-year-old justice has helped develop free web-based games to teach civics. Yet she admits her grandchildren are much more tech-savvy than she is.
"I don’t even do much text messaging," O’Connor told the Associated Press in an interview.
O’Connor spoke to middle school students, civics teachers, and the Florida Legislature about the games she has helped develop.
She told lawmakers that more people can name an "American Idol" judge than the three branches of government. And she said she hopes her games help students learn how to analyze problems and develop arguments.
"You’re going to have greater success if you teach it in ways that [students] like to use," O’Connor said. "They spend 40 hours a week, on average, in front of some type of screen."
Two of the games O’Connor was promoting–"Do I Have a Right" and "Supreme Decision"–are designed for middle school students and are intended to be played in class. The games should be ready this summer, she said, and are part of a project called Our Courts. The project is being backed by Georgetown University and Arizona State University but is largely privately funded.
In the first game, students play the director of a constitutional law firm who must decide which amendment resolves a problem posed by a client. In the other, students play a Supreme Court law clerk. They have to help Justice Irene Waters write the majority opinion on whether a school can ban students from wearing music band T-shirts.
On the fictional court, Waters is one of five women. But O’Connor, whose 1981 appointment by President Reagan made her the first woman on the court, declined to speculate how long it might take for the real court to get to that ratio.
"I’m sorry that we’re down to one [woman] again," she told civics teachers. "We ought to have three or four at least."
Note to readers:
Don’t forget to visit the Empowering Education Through Technology resource center. Integrating technology into the classroom can be a challenge without the right guidance. Go to: Empowering Education Through Technology