Argument Wars is a free, game-based simulation offered through iCivics that provides a creative way for students to learn about nine landmark Supreme Court cases (Brown v. Board of Education, Gideon v Wainwright, and others). Each case is a different immersive experience. Students play the role of a lawyer and choose what side to represent, then argue their points in four rounds using supporting documents and other historical cases. Whoever wins the round earns more points, and the player with the most points at the end wins the case. This game also has a read-aloud feature, is available in Spanish, and provides extension packs for each activity. Teachers and students can create accounts to keep track of the points accrued and the time spent on cases. Teachers can also create classes to view the data from their students’ experiences with the interactives. Please note that players do not need to choose the same result as the historic court case to win—regardless of the outcome, the interactive’s final screen reveals the verdict of the landmark court case.
Applying the Triple E Framework
The Triple E Framework, created by Dr. Liz Kolb, believes that “effective technology integration begins with good instructional strategies and not fancy tools” (tripleeframework.com). Dr. Kolb wrote a book on the topic, Learning First, Technology Second (ISTE, 2017), that lays out the three main uses for technology in education: to Engage, Enhance, or Extend learning goals. We can use this framework to decipher why we use specific classroom tools. Here is a rubric based on the Triple E Framework you can use to evaluate whether Argument Wars (or any other technology) is a good fit with your learning goals and whether you should use it in your lesson.
- Engage in learning goals: Argument Wars engages students by focusing them on the task and allowing them to work at their own pace. They can click to advance the dialog at their own speed, and there are no advertisements to distract from the learning process. Students become active learners by making their own choices throughout the simulation and are motivated to begin the learning process through the gaming style of the simulation.
- Enhance learning goals: Using Argument Wars enhances learning goals by helping students demonstrate a more sophisticated understanding of the court cases by reading through the case information and making informed decisions. The interactive provides scaffolding and a read-aloud feature to support students as they progress through the steps and rounds of the trial.
- Extend learning goals: Dr. Kolb describes extended learning as an opportunity for students to learn, connect, and collaborate outside the regular school day and as a bridge between the school day and real-life experiences. The simulations require students to use critical thinking skills to answer tough questions and win a favorable verdict. Learning to think critically is a real-life experience students will need throughout their futures. We’re preparing our students for a world that doesn’t exist yet, but most jobs require independent motivation, knowledge of technology, and critical thinking. Argument Wars can be used outside the classroom and fits well with flipped, blended, and remote learning. Students can work independently on a case, and teachers can see how much time the students spent on the task and the outcome. Students can also work collaboratively in class; working in small groups requires fewer devices and allows students to work together through the steps of the case. Argument Wars allows students to practice skills they will use in the future, as many classes and careers require students to use technology and collaborate to review work-related projects.
The SAMR Model, by Dr. Ruben Puentedura, suggests that technology implementation has four levels. Therefore, we can use this model as a guideline to analyze how we use technology tools in the classroom. Argument Wars can be used at substitution, augmentation, and modification levels.
- Substitution: The substitution level is the most basic level of SAMR and refers to when technology acts as a direct substitute without any functional improvements. This tool could be used at the substitution level if students read the cases online rather than reading the details in a textbook.
- Augmentation: At the level of augmentation, the technology acts as a direct substitute and includes some functional improvements. Argument Wars reaches the level of augmentation when using features that are not available without technology, such as the read-aloud feature and Spanish translations.
- Modification: The level of modification allows us to make (or modify) the activity into something more integrated with technology, meaning there is significant task redesign. Argument Wars immerses students into the role of a lawyer. Students are not just sitting, reading, and answering questions—they use critical thinking and interactive cards to make objections and prove points.
Take advantage of Part 2 of the Tech Tool of the Month: Argument Wars, where we’ll discuss using the tool and classroom ideas. In the meantime, let us know how you have used Argument Wars in your education setting in the comment section below.