An evaluation of Eagle Eye Citizen, a site on which users can “Solve and create American history and civics challenges to explore Library of Congress Primary sources – and look closer.” Created by the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media and the Congress Civic Participation and Primary Sources Project.
Eagle Eye Citizen is a fun, informative website that provides opportunities to play games and compete puzzles to help enrich historical learning. When playing games on Eagle Eye Citizen, the user is prompted to create a login and password, and register to become a frequent user of the site. By registering and logging in, Eagle Eye Citizen creates a profile for the user, and collects their point information once they win a game. Your profile makes you a “Member of Congress” and through a point system, you can win badges and move up the ranking board. Once logged in, the user can decide to play the “Feature Challenge” or the “Popular Challenge” as well as choose between the standard three games the site has available, which include Create, Solve, and Teach.
If the user chooses to Solve, they are given options to play three different games, Time after Time, Sort It Out, and Big Picture. Time after Time is where the user puts images in the correct chronological order, Big Picture, the user is given a large image and it is divided into multiple squares. The user can turn over one square at a time, and then has to guess what the image was used for, and Sort It Out, the user is given primary sources and two categories, and has to choose which category the source belongs to.
If the user chooses to Create, they are prompted to create any of the above mentioned games, through “how-to” sources provided by the website. So the user can choose to create a Time after Time game, through resources provided by the site. The Teach tab provides resources, videos, lesson planning, assessments, etc. about the different subject for a wide range of educators.
Content: The website uses primary sources which include videos, photographs, audio and text to create games and puzzles that the site user can complete for points. Unlike a “traditional” history website, Eagle Eye Citizen is completely game focused, and once the user competes a game, then traditional historical scholarship “blurbs” pop up on screen.. After playing a few of the games/puzzles, you do gain a sense of the scholarship and the information appears to be thoroughly researched and current. The historical blurbs explain the images that the user just put in order, and they also provide links for more information on the subject, as well as links to find the images they used. For example, in the “Time after Time” category, they have roughly 96 possible puzzles for completion, ranging in categories from Separate but Equal, Evolution of the Vote, Ladies Choice, Voting Rights over Time, Citizenship Duty, Women in War, and Congressional Democracy (each of these puzzles are accompanied by four to five images). The use of mixed primary sources provides sound scholarship for the historical blurbs, which is then communicated quite well to the users. As soon as you complete a game, the scholarship prompted explains the history of the primary sources used in the making of the game, as well as the reasoning behind using this primary documents. It also provides context on the time period of the primary sources. The interpretive view is through games/puzzles, which help the user define what is a primary source, how was it being used at the time it was made, what did it accomplish, and the historical context. Through the use of these games, Eagle Eye Citizen promotes understanding of historical knowledge through an interactive web face.
Design: When a user first begins using the site, it is not entirely clear what you are supposed to be doing or how each button functions. As a user, you really have to learn by doing, and start playing the games to understand the point of the website. The structure makes it incredibly easy to navigate. The front web page is very self-explanatory, there are just the few buttons on the homepage, however, there is no clear definition as to what each game does or means, and you do have to walk through each puzzle to figure that out. A small caption accompanying each game would have been really helpful for a first time user. All the sections function as expected! After using each section, you understand what you are supposed to be doing, and it becomes easier to navigate through each puzzle. Once the user “gets the hang of it,” you realize that all the sections are doing exactly what they say they are (Time after Time = images in chronological order). The design of the website is clear, effective and original. It has a simple, but aesthetically pleasing homepage, and effective tabs. Again, the only thing that is unclear is when a user first logs in and begins playing the game, the games are not well defined on the homepage. The only section that has something that resembles this is the Teach tab, which features a small “Welcome Teachers” explanatory paragraph at the top. This website appears to be only stationary computer friendly (it may work on a tablet if you had Wi-Fi and access to the internet). I couldn’t find an app for it on the iPhone app store. That being said, this website is incredibly accessible for all individuals! It is clearly communicated (once you get the hang of it), the historical scholarship is sound and easy to read (you don’t need an advanced degree to understand what they’re communicating), and it’s fun! The creators did a stellar job of incorporating historical scholarship and knowledge into the puzzle form and made it easy to understand by (I would say) 99% of their users.
Audience: The project has a very clear audience. When a first time user signs up, it asks if you are a “Teacher,” “Student,” or “Other Eagle Eye Citizen.” The site is very clearly directed towards students and educators studying American history, specifically civics. In the “Teach” section, it provides resources for educators, including lesson plans and learning assessments. For students, you can create an account and play games to help supplement learning about American history. I signed up as “Other Eagle Eye Citizen,” and still had access to all the resources the site provides, and personally, I thought the games were just as fun. The puzzles/games appears to be intended for an upper middle school/early high school age range. In terms of needs of the audience, I think the website does a great job of assessing the needs teachers might have by providing additional learning tools.
***On their “About” tab located at the bottom of the website, they state “Eagle Eye Citizen engages middle and high school students in solving and creating interactive challenges about Congress, American history, civics, and government with Library of Congress primary sources while developing civic understanding and historical thinking skills.” I noticed then when looking for the creators of the project.
Digital Media: While this website doesn’t really use “new” technology, it makes great use of the digital media it incorporates! This includes videos, images, text, and audio. You can listen to oral histories and read the transcriptions as well. What the website does well, and something that cannot be done in other media, is provide the instant game/puzzle opportunities the ability to create a profile, win points, and interact with other users on the website. The interaction that Eagle Eye Citizen provides with the user is something that I think would prove difficult with other media.
Creators: Eagle Eye Citizen was created by the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media and the Congress Civic Participation and Primary Sources Project. Its creation was supported by a grant from the Library of Congress. A collaborative team project, Eagle Eye Citizen’s concept was created by the RRCHNM, designed and produced by Big Yellow Taxi (Design and Interactive Consultant agency), and pilot tested by the National History Day nonprofit organization, headquartered in Maryland.