Social studies education, computer games, video games, civic education


Democratic theorists argue that democratic institutions thrive when the citizens of the society robustly participate in governance (Galston, 2004; Barber, 2001). A traditional indicator of democratic participation is voting in elections or referendums. However, democratic apologetics posit that humans need to be trained in democratic processes in order to be democratic citizens (Dewey, 1916; Gutmann, 1990; Sehr, 1997; Goodlad, 2001). Citizens need to know not only the protocol of participation, they also need to be trained in the processes of mind (Dewey, 1916; 1927). Educational systems in this country have been the traditional place where democratic training has been vested (Spring, 2001). It seems, though, that the methods that educators are using to train young people fail to meet this challenge as voting rates among the youngest citizens (under 30) have never been higher than slightly more than half of eligible voters in the age group. To remedy this situation, Congress and several private civic-education organizations have called for changing curricular approaches to engage more youth. One such method that may hold promise is the use of video game technology. The current generation of youth has grown up in a digital world where they have been labeled "Digital Natives" (Prensky, 2001a). They are "tech savvy" and comfortable with their lives being integrated with various forms of digital technology. Significantly, industry research suggests that over 90% of "Digital Natives" have played a video game in the last 30 days, and business is booming to the level that video games pulled in more money than the movie industry did in 2008 (ESA, 2009). As early as the 1970s, educational researchers have looked at the use of video game technology to engage student learning; however, this research has been limited at best. More recently, educational scholars such as James Gee (2003; 2007) and Kurt Squire (2002; iii 2003; 2006) have sought to make the academic conversation more mature with regard to using video games as a classroom supplement. This study continues that conversation by using quantitative methods to investigate whether or not different groups of middle school students self-report a greater propensity to be civically engaged as a result of civic-themed video gameplay. The investigator collected data from middle school students who were given access to civic-themed video games to see if there were statistically significant differences in self-reported civic-engagement scores as a result of gameplay. This investigation was conducted at a large, urban middle school in the Southeast region of the United States.


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Graduation Date





Russell, William B.


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Education and Human Performance

Degree Program

Education; Social Science Education








Release Date

August 2012

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)


Dissertations, Academic -- Education, Education -- Dissertations, Academic

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