Technology in Social Studies
Throughout this chapter we will be focusing on the integration of technology into the Social Studies classroom. Our focus will be in the middle school setting. The objective of this chapter to provide guidance and ideas for integrating technology to middle school social studies teachers. It is intended for both teachers who are just starting to look for ways to integrate technology into their classroom, as well as the teachers who are already integrating technology into their classroom and are looking for new ideas.
In this chapter we first outline the curricular standards for middle school social studies, then discuss the effective use of technology in social studies, look at the barriers specific to our field of study, provide examples of integration, and give a list of software and web sources that would be helpful in the social studies classroom.
The National Council of Social Studies (NCSS) has put together a list of National Standards for Social Studies classes. NCSS has devised a list of 10 themes that cover the general curriculum goals of grades 6-12 Social Studies classes. NCSS suggest that Social Studies programs provide for the study of these themes and offers examples in order to illustrate how to “design learning experiences to help students meet the performance expectations.”
According to NCSS, “Teachers and curriculum designers are encouraged first to establish their program frameworks using the social studies standards as a guide, and then to use the standards from history, geography, civics, economics, and others to guide the development of grade level strands and courses. Using all of these standards in concert with one another allows educators to give adequate attention to both integrated and single discipline configurations.”
Standards specifically covered in Grades 6-8:
Rationale for Using Technology in Social Studies
Across the disciplines technology offers unique opportunities to the teacher. Examples of these opportunities include the ability to research,create presentations, and communicate on discussion boards. For Social Studies technology offers a new way to reach out for the world. Much of the Social Studies curriculum is based around the idea of learning about the world around us and the myriad ways that people across the globe function and live differently but effectively. With technology we, as social studies teachers, have a chance to allow our students to explore and experience the world in a new virtual way. Through technology our students can now see satellite or regular pictures of geographic locations of their choosing, communicate instantly with international children through email, instant messager, or skype, explore a historic tomb through the virtual world of the computer, listen to cultural music through I-tunes and CD players among other oppurtunities. The possibilities are enormous for showing our students the world beyond.
Additionally, for many social studies teachers one of the best ways to challenge and teach the past is through the use of primary sources. While books are wonderful, they are often expensive, and contain other sources we may not need - thus not justifying the cost of expensive books. The internet has provided a way for social studies teachers to bring in more primary sources for our students to learn with more efficiency and ease through online databases like the Library of Congress, the National Archive's Database, Australia's Coombsweb, and more.
Thus technology is a new tool to be explored and bent to provide instruction in a new way.
Implementation of Technology Integration in the Social Studies Classroom
Integrating technology into the classroom can be exciting and advantageous to students and teachers alike. Successful and worthwhile technology integration involves five major phases. These phases were outlined by M.D. Roblyer in Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching, 3rd Ed.
Phase 1: Determining Relative Advantage
Identify current teaching problems or areas for potential growth, and then select technology based methods that could offer good solutions or improvement. When determining relative advantage consider the following:
- Compatibility: The methods of technology integration are consistent with the educator, and the students, cultural values and beliefs
- Complexity: Technology integration should produce activities that are easy for students to learn from and carry out on a frequent basis.
- Trialability: All technology based activities should be testable prior to implementation
- Observability: The advantages of the technology integration are observable to outsiders.
Phase 2: Decide on Objectives and Assessment
Outline mastery objectives students will be able to obtain from the lessons. Design assessments that will allow for effective and efficient evaluation of student mastery of the objectives. In order to evaluate student performance in an observable and measurable way, teachers should design the following tools:
- Performance Checklists: These are lists of tasks students must accomplish during the activity. Each step in the list is provided with a predetermined point value.
- Criterion Checklists: Criterion Checklists provide the criteria for each task on the performance checklist as well as the point spread used to determine quality of work on each criterion.
- Rubrics: A scale of performance levels for each aspect of the product or activity.
Phase 3: Design Integration Strategies
After determining areas where relative-advantage can be achieved through technology integration and outlining mastery objectives students will accomplish, you must determine the best instructional strategies and how to carry them out. When designing instructional strategies for technology integration you make sure to consider the needs of the students as well as environmental restrictions. When determining strategies for integration consider the following:
- Instructional Approaches: Traditionally classroom instruction was provided in a direct approach where the instructor presented new information and students had the opportunity absorb and practice that information before being assessed on it. Technology integration provides platforms to provide more constructivist or inquiry based instructional methods where students are required to discover some of the class concepts on their own.
- Curriculum Approaches: Technology provides the necessary tools to provide more of an interdisciplinary approach to curricular instruction. Instructors are able to move away from single subject instruction and provide students with more of a cosmopolitan instructional base.
- Grouping: Technology integration provides more opportunities for diversification of activities. This allows for activities where individual students must master specific skills and content knowledge and activates where students can work in pairs or small groups.
- Sequence: Teachers must consider when planning integrations activities whether or not students have the prerequisite skills required to participate as well as that there will be equity of technology use.
Phase 4: Preparing Environment
Technology integration can only be accomplished and used effectively if the proper resources are available. These resources include but are not limited to hardware, software and technical support. When adequate resources are not available, lessons must be adapted accordingly or technology integration must be reconsidered.
Phase 5: Evaluate and Revise
The evaluation and revision phase is an essential component in any technology integration scenario. It is always important to ask two questions: What worked well? and What could be improved? These two questions can be answered through a variety of indicators. First, evaluate student’s assessments and formal outcomes created in Phase II. Second, formatively assess daily activates by taking notes or longs on implementation problems and issues. Finally, interview (formally or informally) students to determine their impression of the activities. Ask what they think could be improved and what worked well.
Technology integration can often be an intimidating and difficult task the first time around. By taking the time to evaluate the activities, meaningful revisions can greatly improve the activities and reduce the stresses involved the next time.
Roblyer, M. D. (2005). Integrating educational technology into teaching,(4th edition). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Examples of Technology Integration
When you are first trying to integrate technology it is hard to figure out where to begin. To help you get started we have listed examples below for integrating Technology into Social Studies. Included with each is a description of the activity, the hardware/software needed, and the area of study it could be used for.
Key: S/H=Software/Hardware (title of software or type of hardware used) T=Topic (topic or subject area to which this applies)
- Online Search Engines and Databases: Online search engines are engines that search through websites that match keywords you enter for it to find. Search engines can help students to research topics for projects or papers. There are many individualized search engines the are available beyond Google. Online databases are put together onto a webpage and and are usually set around single topic. The Library of Congress has a database that centers around American history and culture. Online databases can help students find specific material without the mess of sorting through search engine finds.
For example student can plan a virtual trip to a country they are studying, using the internet to research that country and historical sites that they should visit.
- Webquests: These webquests allow students to find out and explore information on their own. Also, with webquests the linked websites are provided by teachers, thus bypassing the student's oppurtunity to find poor websites or distractions. (S/H: Internet) (T:Any)
- CDs/ CD Players: Students can analyze culture through music. This helps and challenges students to distinguish different cultures of the world by having them listen and compare the traditional music of each. (S/H:CDs/ CD Player (T: Culture)
- Word Processing: Students can use this program for word processing to type up information and create professional reports. Many word processing softwares include different formatting choices. You can also use them to translate words into different languages allowing students to expose students to different parts of culture.
- Slide Show presentations: Students create slideshow presentations to enhance class presentations. They are able to incorporate outlines, pictures and streaming video (United Streaming Video) to support spoken information. Slideshow software can also be set up to run on their own, automatically transitioning, almost like a personal video.
- Brochures/Pamphlets: Students create brochures or informational pamphlets in order to ‘sell’ a product, location or activity. By using a programs like Microsoft Publisher students can seamlessly integrate written information, pictures, charts and diagrams in order to create a professional product.
- Inspiration Brainstorming: Using the Inspiration program students are able to create visual webs or brainstorming, individually or in groups
- TV Studio/ Video Camera: Students could bring historic characters to life and moderate about different questions from the point of view of their characters. (Ms. Wagner) (S/H: Video equipment/TVs) (T:Historical Figures)
- Graphics/Drawing Programs: Students can use this draw or create designs that represent different cultures or create a logo for a historic person. For example, students can create a logo for Julius Caesar, or practice writing Chinese symbols.
Instruction Aid Examples
- LCD Projectors: The projectors, used in conjunction with computers or DVD players, or zoom cams, can be helpful to showing students information in an easy, colorful format. By projecting videos or PowerPoint, or Zoom cams onto the screen students are better able to see smaller details that might get lost on a TV screen or showing an object far away. This is useful in Social Studies because when you are learning about a culture is it often important to look at the details of a background scene or at the small print of a coin.
- Class websites Teacher can create their own websites that post information about the class including assignments, resources and contact information. Parents and students can access this from home to help them stay in better contact with the teacher as well as providing a way for the student to better access the information. Click below to see and example of a class website.
- Scanners: This could be helpful to scanning in work or primary source documents that you want to share with the students. After saving the file you don't have to worry about making copies year after year, plus each child could a colorized copy of the material (as appropriate). Please make sure you follow copyright information when scanning material.
- Digital Cameras: Students can use these for scavenger hunts. For example if you were teaching about Greek columns and you went on a field trip you could have the students take pictures of the different columns as they see them. (S/H:Digital camera, software to bring up pictures on computer and label)
- Zoom Cameras: Teachers can use these cameras to show students objects that might be to fragile or valuable to pass around. For example, if a teacher had a Roman coin, or students had brought in an artifacts from home, the teacher could use the eye cam to project it onto the screen or on the TV. (S/H: Eye cam, TV or projecter with screen) (T: Anything)
- Podcasts: Students could use i-pods to create their own radio casts of information that they researched in class. (S/H: Ipods, computer, webpage (optional)) (T: Any Area)
- Blogs: Students and teachers can use blogs to host online discussions about curricular concepts. Students are able to thoughts and ideas and respond to other teacher or student discussion questions. Here are two examples you can view.
- Pen Pals: Students could use email to email students in a country that they are studying. This would allow them to ask questions first hand and ‘experience’ the culture through someone their own age. (S/H: Email technology, internet) (T: Culture)
- Videoconferencing: This would allow students to talk with a guest speaker who normally wouldn’t be able to come to the actual school. (S/H: Internet, video equipment) (T: Any)
Individual Use Examples
- Check Book: While teaching the Silk Road or talking about the costs of government students could keep a virtual checkbook that they would have to update as a member of a business or government allowing them to see the economic terms: scarcity, interdependence, etc at work. (S/H: Quicken)(T: Economics)
- Map Dancing: Students use handmade map floormats and the game Dance Revolution to help learn and emphasize the geography of the country they are studying. (S/H: Playstation 2, Dance Dance Revolution Game, TV or LCD projector with screen) (T: Geography)
Differentiation with Technology in Social Studies
All of our students are unique people, thus they are also unique learners. As teachers we must do our utmost to adapt our teaching to reach all of our students. Some ways that technology helps to differentiate are listed below.
- Allowing different learning style options for how to access the material: creation of assignments using audio for some students, video for others. This can also be used in the completion of assignments. Students could be given options for what type of assignment that want to complete: and word processing document or a graphic.
- Webquests: these web guiders provide students with the ability to work at their own pace on curriculum material.
- Use can use picture text and readers: help ESOL students and low readers by providing them with help reading and providing pictures to learn vocabulary and material. (pg. 225, 'Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching' by M.D. Roblyer, 2003)
- The internet offers resources in almost every spoken language. By providing time to research online, ESOL students are able to engage in similar research projects as their English speaking peers
- Voice Recognition: helps students with low writing ability to write papers by allowing them to dictate their papers to the computer. (pg. 225, 'Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching' by M.D. Roblyer, 2003)
- Teachers can use Excel to input information to sort or highlight student scores. This is help the teacher to determine who needs more help or aid.
Class Based Links and Web Quests
The following links provide access to curricular directed internet sites and web quests. They are intended to provide additional resources for classroom instruction and facilitate the integration of web based instruction into the classroom. Each website and web quest was specifically chosen to support Montgomery County Middle School Curriculum.
6th Grade Links: These links will aid in teaching courses on ancient civilizations from Mesopotamia, through ancient China, India, Egypt, Greece and Rome.
7th Grade Links: These links will aid in teaching courses on Medieval Europe, West African Civilization, Mesoamerican Civilization, Latin America and Renaissance Europe.
8th Grade Links These links will aid in teaching courses on American History from the establishment of the 13 colonies through the Civil War.
Software, Games and Internet Sites for Middle School Social Studies
Social Studies Software
There are many programs that have been designed specifically to aid in the instruction social studies topics. These programs exhibit a wide spectrum of capabilities, from providing historical information, to creating graphic organizers, timelines and maps.
This list includes the title of the software, a link, and a description of the software's capabilities.
Social Studies Games
There are many commercial games currently being sold that can indirectly support social studies instruction. These games focus on concepts such as diplomacy, economic systems and trade, exploration, scientific discovery, and good governance. In addition, many of the games include historical themes, historical figures and are based around accurate world maps.
This list includes the title of the game, a link, and a description of the games benifits.
Social Studies Internet Sites
There are many interactive websites that support student learning of social studies themes. These sites are based around user participation and are not simply text documents. This participation engages students and creates interactive learning scenarios.
This list includes the title of the title of the website, a link, and a description of the website.
Online databases provide access online fulltext online journal articles and unpubulished papers. They are an excellent research resource within the social studies discipline. While many online databases are free, other require subscriptions. Check out your local public library or schools to access online databases that require subscriptions.
- US Department of Education Social Studies Resources
This site, sponsored by the US Department of Education provides over 800 resources for the Social Studies teacher. It is availabel in alphabetical form or by categories. (Free site)
The Educational Resources Information Center (ERIC) is sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) of the U.S. Department of Education. It is the ‘world’s premier database of journal and non-journal educational literature.’ The data base contains over a million citations dating back to 1966 and contains over 100,000 full-text articles. The ERIC database is the premier data base to freely access educational journal articles and research. (Free site)
- CIA Factbook
The CIA offers a conprehensive factbook online that offers geographic information and cultural information on all the nations of the world. It offers reference maps as well a cultural profile one each country. This is free database. (Free site) http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/
- Library of Congress
The Library of Congress is a huge database that has a section specifically targeted for educators. Included among its many sections are reference maps, multimedia resources, online pages of information, historical photos, video and audio, multilingual world culture resources, and government history and information. (Free site) http://www.loc.gov/index.html
- National Archives
The National Archieves offers a slew of primary source documents in the form of video, audio, and paper formats. It also offers online exhibits to visit. (Free site) http://www.archives.gov/
- ProQuest Education Journals
Proquest Educational Journals offer an extensive range of classroom-focused educational resources. These resources support the literacy needs of teachers and students across all curriculum areas in the modern class setting. In addition to educator guides and hands-on, technology based, student learning activities Proquest offers access to SIRS – an extensive database of full-text newspaper articles. SIRS is an ideal research tool for student-based research projects.
Although Proquest is a subscription based site it does offer free trial access.
Lexis-Nexis is the ‘worlds largest collection of public records.’ It’s Academic and Library Web services are designed to serve researchers and students alike. Its database contains full-text newspaper articles, statistical information, as well as full-text government and non-government documents and legal records.
Lexis-Nexis is a subscription based site.
- United Online Streaming Video
United Streaming Video is an online database of videos and images. It’s library contains over 40,000 video clips and thousands more still images. In addition, it offers grade-level specific quizzes to support the video material. United Streaming Video clips range in length from just a few seconds to over an hour. They are the perfect visual support to inject student interest into direct instruction, or provide in-depth analysis of a certain topic.
Although United Streaming Video is a subscription based site, it does offer free trial access.
- Web Quest Portal
Web Quest Portal is a database of academic webquests covering all grade levels and subject areas. The webquests provided on this site have been created by teachers, for teachers. Web Quest Portal is a free site.
- The Educational Podcast Network
This site provides a collection of podcasts on different academic subject matter, and is also split by educational level. It is a free site.
- US Department of Education - Educational Technology Site
This site offers a list of databases and materials to use technology in classroom including free access to media material (audio/visual). Covers multiple content areas. (Free site)
Barriers to Integrating Technology
As with everything, technology and its integration is not perfect. There are many difficulties that must be breached before technology can reach true efficacy. Some common problems can be seen on the following page:
- Social Studies Not the Priority: For many school systems, and especially in elementary school, social studies is not a priority. With testing occuring in math and english this is the focus for school systems. Since this is the case, social studies classes and their needs can often be left behind in favor of trying to boost test scores.
Conclusion and User Rubric
Integrating Technology into the classroom is a great way to bring students the interaction, pacing, and sources they need to successfully master material. It allows educators to greatly diversify instruction and provide powerful, authentic activities that will engage students in the learning process. Effective use of technology in the classroom, can allow students greater flexibility to assume a sense of ownership over their learning. In addition it can greatly increase the educators the ability to scaffold instruction to meet the needs of all students.
Assesment of Social Studies Technology Page
Answer the following questions to determine if you understand the material presented on this page.
1. Name 3 examples of ways to integrate technology in Social Studies.
2. What group created the Standards for Social Studies? Why are the standards important?
3. Why is integrating/using technology really helpful in Social Studies?
4. Explain 2 ways technology can help succesfully differentiate.
5. Joe is a kinetic learner. Name an activity that would be good for him and why. Casey is a student who works best when a person or computer is interacting with me individually. What website could be helpful for her and why?
Technology in Social Studies
Written by: Kim Boughan and Matthew Kerwin 2006
Edited by: Demetri Orlando 2006