American History and Civics Initiative: Research on Digital Games and History Learning
2007 to 2008

As part of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB)'s American History and Civics Initiative, CCT is working with two diverse development teams to produce interactive prototypes that put digital gaming and storytelling to work for history learning. CCT is the research and evaluation partner on both pilot projects.

These prototypes are two of an initial seven funded by the $20 million project, which seeks to develop multi-platform prototypes that will engage youth in deepening their knowledge of history and civics. Prototypes represent the first phase of the Initiative. At the end of this phase, based partly on the results of research, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting will choose several prototypes for full-fledged development with a launch goal of 2009.

Mission America: The Road to Revolution (working title) is an adventure game that immerses middle school-aged students and game players in historical events and personalities in colonial Boston during the years leading up to the American Revolution. The game is the first of a proposed series of 10 that will address key periods in American history. Headed by Thirteen/WNET, the project team also includes game developers Electric Funstuff, historians from the American Social History Project at CUNY, and master classroom teachers. CCT is conducting formative research on elements of the game environment and a classroom field test of the pilot materials.

Young American Heroes, a project of Docere Palace Studios in Norwalk, Conn., takes a more narrative approach, in which filmed biographical dramas about historical figures are interrupted at key decision points so that students can debate their own choices and tell their own stories. The pilot materials are focused on the life of young Frederick Douglass, and include digital story-making tools that help students imagine their way into dramatic conflicts in Douglass' life-gathering and organizing primary and secondary sources to support their decisions. The development team on this project includes teacher educators from Fairfield University, historians from the Gilder Lehrman Institute, and the software developer EduWeb. CCT is helping conduct formative and field test studies to examine how the materials might support student history and civics knowledge and thinking skills.


Jim Diamond