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Technology Integration for Social Studies

Benefits and Suggestions for Technology Integration for Middle Grades Social Studies
Elizabeth Sheehe
North Carolina State University

Technology Integration for Social Studies

Technology integration in social studies is vital for deepening student interest in learning
and understanding. A key component of social studies education is making connections from the
past to the present; students need to be able to comprehend the importance of not only history;
but geography, civics and government, culture, and economics. As an interdisciplinary subject,
social studies draws upon multiple curricular contents related to the social sciences (Zhao,
2007). In the past, social studies education was focused on listening to a lecture and taking notes
from a teacher; or reading a textbook and answering questions. Social Studies involves not only
key literacy skills of reading and writing, but speaking, listening, and cooperating and
collaborating with others. When technology is used in a student-centered environment, students
are able to develop a number of higher order thinking skills including critical thinking, problem
solving, real world applications, research, and communication and collaboration as Cradler et al.
(2002) mentions. Incorporating technology into instruction allows the subject matter to come to
life; students can visualize the topic and further understand it. The transition to a digital learning
environment may seem daunting for many, but there are numerous benefits to technology
integration for teaching and learning.
There are a variety of ways technology can be integrated into the social studies
curriculum. Hammond (2009) refers to 3 levels of technology integration: Giving, Prompting,
and Making as hierarchies of developing 21st century skills using technology. Giving refers to
resources that simply are meant for students to absorb and retain information. Prompting refers
to resources in which students are to interpret meaning or make inferences. Making refers to
resources students would use to create a product to demonstrate learning. When students create
documents and projects to demonstrate their learning, it promotes the constructivist classroom
model in which learning is promoted through collaboration among the students and with a

Technology Integration for Social Studies

teacher, higher-order thinking and problem solving are encouraged, the teacher attempts to relate
subject matter to the students lives (Rice & Wilson, 1999, p. 29). While Making is often the
most challenging to students and best supports constructivist learning, there are numerous
technology tools and resources that are excellent for social studies.
One benefit of technology integration is it helps students visualize the curriculum and see
the relevance and importance of the content. Using resources such as primary and secondary
sources and webquests prompts students to investigate material deeper and interpret meaning
(Hammond, 2009). There are numerous websites that provide excellent materials for middle
grades social studies teachers to incorporate into their teaching. Our Documents
(http://www.ourdocuments.gov) is a website rich in American History and the meanings of
democracy. The website is a collection of one hundred primary source documents from the years
of 1776 - 1965. For each document, there is a description and history of the document, a primary
source copy of the document, and a transcript of the document.
Another resource to access primary and secondary sources is Kids.gov
(https://kids.usa.gov). The website has resources geared towards grades K-5 and grades 6-8. It
contains resources related not only to civics, geography and history, but also current events and
digital citizenship. The website has videos, diagrams, articles, and games. There are also several
links to credible outside sources. This resource is excellent for the various realms of the social
studies content area. Students could research information on a variety of topics in order to create
their own representation of a topic. Major benefits to social studies teachers who integrate
technology to support constructivism include the ability to obtain relevant information in the
form of documents, photographs, transcripts, videos and audio clips; and the opportunities for

Technology Integration for Social Studies

students to examine a variety of viewpoints so they can construct their own knowledge on
various topics (Rice & Wilson, 1999, p. 29).
Incorporating current events is a vital component in any social studies class. Making
connections from past to the present aids in student understanding of history.Two excellent
technology tools providing current events are Channel One News (http://www.channelone.com)
and NewsELA (www.newsela.com). Channel One News produces a daily twelve minute news
broadcast that covers a variety of topics; from national to international. In addition to providing
the daily news segment, they provide interactive opportunities for students to communicate
including replying to polls and discussion posts via their website and invite students to contact
them via Facebook or Twitter. They also produce news articles and provide supplemental videos
on news topics from past to present.
NewsELA is another excellent resource for current events. This resource is excellent for
focusing on students literacy skills and keeping students informed on world events. There are
over one thousand articles that cover a variety of topics. The articles can be individually assigned
to students at five different reading levels. Quizzes are provided to assess comprehension of
information. This resource would be great for students to research a topic and create a visual
representation using an online graphic organizer builder such as Popplet (www.popplet.com).
Students could also use the web tool Padlet (www.padlet.com) to share their research findings
with their classmates. Using computers increases student knowledge in skills such as research
skills, the ability to apply learning to real-world situations, organizational skills, and interest in
the content (Cradler et al., 2002).
Another benefit of technology integration in middle grades social studies is it allows
teachers to not only build curriculum using a variety of resources, it also allows students to take

Technology Integration for Social Studies

accountability of their learning by creating projects that are meaningful and relevant. Learning
reaches its highest stages when students actively participate in the design of the database, collect
the data themselves, and then develop questions and inquiry probes for other classmates or
adults (Braun, 1999, p. 349). The website CIA World Factbook
(https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/) is an excellent resource for
students to learn important facts about world countries. Students could research physical
geography, human geography, cultures, political and economic systems, and current issues of
countries and create presentations, either audio and/or video using webtools such as Voicethread
(www.voicethread.com), PhotoStory, or MovieMaker/iMovie. Project work, and specifically the
act of student creation, provides opportunities for content knowledge formation and skill
developmentsuch as research, organization, and writing (Hammond, 2009).
Incorporating technology tools into social studies provides students with vital skills they
will need for their futures including: the ability to collaborate and work in teams, teach others,
lead, negotiate, interpret and evaluate data, reason and problem solve (Rice & Wilson, 2009).
Making the learning environment student-centered challenges students to develop these essential
21st century skills students will need to be successful beyond high school. The resources listed
above are excellent for integrating technology on all three levels of Giving, Prompting, and
Making. Although teachers may have to invest time to learn new tools and resources, there are
numerous benefits to technology integration that are worthwhile.

Technology Integration for Social Studies

References
Braun J. A. (1999). Ten ways to integrate technology into middle school social studies. The
Clearing House: A Journal of Educational Strategies, Issues and Ideas, 72(6),
345-351.
Cradler, J., McNabb, M., Freeman, M., & Burchett, R. (2002). How does technology influence
student learning?. Learning and Leading with Technology, 29(8), 46-49.
Hammond, T.C. (2009). Giving, prompting, making: Aligning technology and pedagogy within
TPACK for social studies instruction". Contemporary Issues in Technology and
Teacher Education, 9(2), 160-185.
Rice, M. L., & Wilson, E. K. (1999). How technology aids constructivism in the social studies
classroom. Social Studies, 90(1), 28.
Zhao, Y. (2007). Social studies teachers' perspectives of technology integration. Journal of
Technology and Teacher Education, 15(3), 311-333.