Cast Your Vote is a great way to model how to be an informed voter and develop your political opinions.
How I Use It
Cast Your Vote was recently redesigned, and I play-tested the new version before using it with my students. I haven't played the old version, but based on the reviews it wasn't great. The new version seems to be much better, similar to other new iCivics games like Race to Ratify and Do I Have a Right.
The gameplay was straightforward, and it was engaging. The actual content of the town hall debates was a bit cursory, but I don't think the purpose of the game is to actually teach about those issues. Rather, the power of Cast Your Vote is in teaching your students about the process of researching a candidate and casting an informed vote.
Cast Your Vote did a good job of modeling how to take notes about a candidates issues. It demonstrated different ways to gather research, including reading the news, reading candidates' websites, and attending town hall debates. After completing the game, students should have a much greater understanding of how to develop an informed opinion about a candidate.
I'll use this next year in the time leading up to election day in conjunction with the mock election my school participates in. I may also use it as a springboard into a Project Citizen unit, since this does a good job of introducing some of the common issues facing municipal government.
Cast Your Vote is a great game about elections. It does a great job offering accessibility to all learners. You can play the game in Spanish, and the handout in the teacher's guide is also translated into Spanish. Students can play on a mobile device, so they don't need a laptop. Throughout the game, difficult words are also directly linked to definitions, providing scaffolding for struggling readers.
I liked the variety of tasks that students complete in playing the game. This gives them a good sense of the different ways you can go about learning about a candidate. It also demonstrates that there's only so much you can learn at home on the Internet. At some point, you need to get up, leave your house, and attend a real town hall, debate, or meeting.
I also liked the variety of topics, issues, and solutions that were addressed in the campaign. These seemed to represent a gamut of real issues and potential solutions. However, there wasn't any depth to them. That may be besides the point, because the purpose of the game isn't necessarily to teach the students about those issues and solutions. But just a little more depth would have been nice.
You may find gameplay is a little on the long side, too. The game didn't feel too long, but at the end I realized it had taken me about 40 minutes to complete it. If a student took their time, I can see this reaching 50 or 60 minutes. That's problematic if you want to finish the game in one 40 minute class period. I'd be a lot less worried about this if I taught in longer block periods.
I also liked that there weren't necessarily easy choices. When I played, I was presented with several city council candidates and none of them aligned with me completely. There were things I liked about each, as well as things I didn't like. I had to make a tough decision about who to vote for.
Overall, the new version of Cast Your Vote is great. It's fun, engaging, and models how to be an informed voter. I wouldn't spend too much class time on it, but I think it's a great way to spend two or three days during the days leading up to an election.