Puts kids in the President's gamified shoes

Submitted 10 years ago
Chad  S.
Chad S.
Shelburne Middle School
Staunton VA, US
My Rating

My Take

[Disclaimer: I worked with iCivics as a member of its Teacher Council beginning and ending in 2011.]

"Executive Command" is an iCivics game that puts kids in the President's shoes. Kids pick avatars and travel around a stylized map of Washington, DC. Kids sign and veto bills at the White House and deliver them to federal agencies.

Kids also address Congress to build support for chosen issues. Air Force One aids diplomacy, and the Pentagon helps wage war.

"Executive Command" gives kids a useful overview of the presidency, but the game judges policies as "good" or "bad." While addressing Congress, kids have to choose between obviously correct and incorrect soundbites. While "Executive Command" captures the presidency in broad strokes, it doesn't ask kids to examine, argue, or defend nuanced positions. To earn the most points, kids must be hawks when they might otherwise be doves and endorse policies with which they might not agree. I understand why this President is a centrist, but teachers and students should talk about the moral and political dimensions of the job, as well. Playing "Executive Command" introduces, but doesn't replace, that kind of dialogue about governing.

How I Use It

I used "Executive Command" in the past while teaching civics and economics. It is well-supported by in-game instructions and prompts, and as part of the iCivics curriculum, the game has an online teacher's guide, post-game PowerPoint for debriefing, and several suggested follow-up lessons. I used the game as an enrichment and extension activity during our study of the Executive Branch to reinforce student's knowledge of the federal executive's roles and responsibilities.

I think a basic overview of the Executive Branch and the presidency, along with the content knowledge reinforcement offered by "Executive Command," can serve as a spring-board for deeper student inquiry and class conversations about current events and legislation. Some students might move from "Executive Command" to build their own models of the Executive branch while others move into a debate whether or not the President should sign a bill coming to his desk in the days ahead. With enough teacher support and explanation of the game's scoring, "Executive Command" might also be a good self-check for students to evaluate their own understanding of the Executive Branch against their scores at the end of the game.