TIVERTON — The goal is to get students to understand they do have a voice in their government and their vote does count, but getting them to pay attention to what is going on and take part is a challenge.
A pilot program called Two Codes that would bridge computer science with United States government and politics is in its early stages of development by educators at eight schools in the state, including Tiverton and Middletown. The schools are working with the College Board, the state Department of Education, and PrepareRI on the project.
“We’re hoping we can find some common ground between the two,” said Lorne Teeter who teaches AP United States Government and Politics at Tiverton High School. “We’re more technology-centered” than ever before. “We’re looking to get kids to integrate politics into technology” he said. And for those who are more interested in government and politics, finding a pathway to incorporate technology.
He and Judy Moore who teaches AP Computer Science at Tiverton High are working on the project along with educators in seven other schools in the state to “develop a tool box” and design lessons.
“This year we’ll come up with a game plan, a playbook,” said Teeter, that could eventually be shared with school districts throughout the country.
Teeter has found through discussions with students that there is “definitely a disconnect between what they think they can do and what they can do. There’s a feeling of apathy among most of the students. They don’t think their vote counts. We need to show them their vote can effect change.”
The day after an angry mob stormed the Capitol this month, Teeter said he tried to have a conversation with students about it.
“Most had no idea it had ever happened,” said Teeter.
It’s not that the students aren’t plugged in.
“I think they live on the internet,” said Moore. “They’re plugged in all the time. I think it’s part of who they are. They’re so tech savvy. That’s their world,” she said. Educators have to take advantage of their ability to integrate it.
Having students develop apps for civic engagement is one way to get them more involved in politics, said Teeter.
Moore said things have changed so much over the years. Instead of telling students to put their cell phones away, they can instead be instructed to use them to research something they’re discussing.
Moore and Teeter presented the Two Codes pilot to the School Committee recently. Moore read a passage from PrepareRI, that captures the essence of what they’re trying to do.
“Technology is the code of the economy and innovation, democracy the code of our public life. At a time when these big forces are colliding in unexpected ways and creating unexpected challenges, students deserve the chance to master both disciplines,” Moore read.
Committee members embraced the pilot program.
“It’s very appropriate to begin to get involved in this type of program simply because of what’s happened in the world in the last year or so – the direction things are going in,” said School Committeewoman Elaine Pavao. “I’m hoping it’s going to excite the kids and get them more interested in getting involved in the government and the nation.”
“My kids, that’s all they want to do is social media,” said School Committeeman Michael DeCotis who has two elementary-aged children. “This is what is going to help excite our youth,” he said of bridging technology with other disciplines.
“I think we can all agree the merging of these two topics is becoming more and more relevant with each passing day,” said Committee Vice Chairwoman Diane Farnworth.
Said Committee Chairman Jerome Larkin: “It’s hard to think of a more timely and more urgently needed thing in this area right at the moment.”