Games and Interactive Media
Games and videos have become a fixture of youth daily life and are effective ways to engage young people in learning social issues. In this section, educators will be able to find both games and videos that help young people to experience and understand the issues of federal budget and the challenges of national debt.
The Social Security VideoQuiz features a group of Washington, DC teens answering questions about the program. The VideoQuiz conveys basic information about Social Security and includes information especially relevant to Latino youth. The VideoQuiz also provides a downloadable, information page in English and Spanish containing links to other respected resources. The Social Security VideoQuiz was created by the National Council of La Raza.
Visualizing Economics is a website that creates various infographics about economics. Their infographics spans the spectrum of issues related to economics: income distribution, the federal budget, and taxes, among others.
The Federal Budget Challenge is an interactive web survey tool that is created by Next 10 and The Concord Coalition. Participants can learn major public policies and their impact on the U.S. fiscal future, make budget decisions, read real-time budget meter that indicates the overall national debt based on their policy choices, and get a summary report of their decisions by completing this challenge. As the website states, “the Federal Budget Challenge allows you to decide which options constitute the fairest and most effective way to work toward a balanced federal budget.”
The Data Viz Challenge, a visualization project initiated by Eyebeam in partnership with Google, presents a variety of engaging visualizations about U.S. government’s spending of the tax money. From the website:
“Every year, Americans fill out income tax forms and make a payment to the IRS. It’s an important civic duty, but it is also a lot of money. Where does it all go? Using data provided by WhatWePayFor.com, we challenged artists, coders, and the general public to create data visualizations that would make it easier for U.S. citizens to understand how the government spends our tax money.”
Your Federal Tax Receipt is an interactive web page that allows you to calculate how much of your federal tax dollars are allocated to various federal expenses. Simply put the federal taxes you paid this year in the entry column, and you will get your federal tax receipt with details about your tax expenses on social security, national defense, education, and more. You can find a similar interactive web page from the White House website.
The Secret Millionaires Club is a web based animation series that teaches young people basic and valuable financial lessons. The series features an animated Warren Buffet as a mentor to a group of children aspiring to create their own businesses. He advises them on everything from the need to save to the importance of investing.
This vivid and eye opening documentary focuses on America’s escalating debt and its resulting consequences on its citizens in the coming years. It follows former U.S. Comptroller General David Walker across the country as he tries to explain the current economic predicament to concerned citizens and highlights historical evidence and statistical data to further support the claim that our nation faces a very uncertain future if we do not resolve our debt issues.
April 24, 2010
Budget Hero, an interactive game produced by American Public Media, allows users to allocate tax dollars to government programs and observe the long-term effects of this allocation on the budget deficit and the national debt. From the website: “Budget Hero provides an interactive experience involving policy options that have been extensively researched and vetted with non-partisan government and think tank experts to enable players to objectively evaluate candidates.”
Teachers could use this game to engage students in the process of creating the federal budget. As with any website, students should do more than simply clicking through the pages and reading information. Teachers should ask students to critically examine the choices they make concerning the budget, the outcomes of these choices, and whether or not they agree with the game’s conclusions.
The following questions could help guide students thinking:
- What three values did you choose to guide your budget? What led you to choose those values? What other options were available? What might lead you to choose different values upon which to base your budgeting decisions?
- How did your budget look before you played any cards? Did you begin with a deficit or a surplus? Was your government big or small? In what year will your budget bust? What does this imply about the future of the government under your budget?
- In which areas did you play cards? Did this improve your deficit / surplus? Which budgetary decisions were the easiest? Which were the most difficult? Why? How did your final budget stack up? What was your 10-year budget impact? Do you agree with the conclusions of the website?
After creating their own budgets, students should work with classmates to try and develop a budget that the entire class can agree upon. This activity should help students begin to appreciate the trade-offs required in balancing the budget. They should understand that there are no easy decisions, and compromise will be necessary to help solve our fiscal crisis.
Budget Explorer is an interactive online application that allows students to change the priority of U.S. federal budget and learn how to balance U.S. federal budget and reduce U.S. national debt.