Special Report
Social Studies

Social Studies Relies on Tech Tools That Are Not Tailored to the Subject

By Michelle R. Davis — June 12, 2017 1 min read
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Technology has changed social studies instruction in many ways—bringing primary sources to students’ classrooms, allowing access to archival information, and using interactive maps to visualize migration or population trends.

But many of the tools social studies teachers are using—everything from GoogleEarth to Prezi or Nearpod—are not specific to the subject.

Bethany Petty, a technology blogger and American government teacher at Central High School in Park Hills, Mo., uses general technology tools like Screencastify to produce videos on government concepts, EDpuzzle for interactive videos and formative assessments, and game-based Kahoot! to check for understanding.

Many of these creation apps and sites are good tools for helping students collaborate on lessons, detail their knowledge in a meaningful and individualized way, and promote historical and critical thinking, Petty said.

But these are tools that will work in just about any subject. Educators report there are fewer social-studies-specific digital curriculum offerings available than for subjects like math and English/language arts, which are part of the Common Core State Standards.

That seems to be changing. Educators are making use of Discovery Education’s digital Social Studies Techbook, IXL’s adaptive social studies middle school curriculum, and lesson plans from iCivics.

In addition, the sites allowing access to archival information, primary sources, interactive information, and video about everything from ancient Mesopotamia to the Holocaust have changed how students think about what they study. Sites such as the British Museum, World Digital Library, the Library of Congress, and Go Social Studies Go all offer material that is also adaptable based on grade level and interest, said Rachel Langenhorst, a technology integrationist and instructional coach and former social studies teacher at Rock Valley Community school district in Iowa.

The technology can “bring the outside in,” she said.

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A version of this article appeared in the June 14, 2017 edition of Education Week as Social Studies: Many of the digital tools teachers use are not tailored to the subject


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