Some of the most oft heard comments from history and geography students are, “Why do we have to know this stuff?” “It happened over 100 years ago! It’s so boring!” And yes, ancient history or even history from just a few decades ago can seem dull to the younger generation. Engaging young historians can be quite a challenge for teachers, but the effective use of technology can make history come alive.
Clearly, helping students to understand the world around them and make global connections requires the opening of classroom walls.The National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) has determined ten themes related to social studies standards. One of the themes, science, technology, and society, directly addresses the integration and implementation of technology. Social studies instruction is designed to help us discover and better understand our world and its people, and technology-based strategies have become integral to this instruction (Diem & Berson, 2010).
Thankfully, educators now have a wide variety of technology-based tools to enhance the social studies curriculum. Some of these tools include simulations and problem-solving environments, access to primary sources, electronic research strategies, timeline generators, virtual field trips, digital storytelling, and geospatial technologies. I have used a few of these tools in my geography classroom and have found the students much more engaged in the lesson. Recently, prior to a field trip to Ellis Island, I introduced the students to the immigrant experience through the Scholastic website Immigration: Stories of Yesterday and Today. The students were excited to hear the audio recordings of immigrants who had made the long and perilous journey from Europe to America. We then viewed the digital timeline and used the data to compare the number of immigrants who came to America from 1820 through 2009. The students were then able to “meet” young immigrants who have recently come to the United States. Through the website, my students were able to watch videos, listen to audio recordings, and explore a historical timeline. The students’ engagement increased as these technology tools were implemented.
Geospatial technologies can also increase student motivation and interest. Teachers no longer need to purchase expensive GPS devices. Today’’s smartphones and mapping software such as Google Maps provide all the information a class of budding geographers need. Geocaching, the recreational activity of hunting for and finding a hidden object by means of GPS coordinates posted on a website, has become a popular classroom activity. Students can go on a geocaching treasure hunt around their school grounds. While discovering small “treasures”, students learn mapping, GPS, and navigation skills, all vital to the geography curriculum. Google Earth has revolutionized the task of plotting locations on a map.
Blogging about history, creating “virtual” battles, and social networking with students across the globe are a few more of the ways we can teach our students to become global citizens. With today’s technological advances, the opportunities to make history come alive for our students are only limited by a teacher’s and the students’ imaginations.
Bernard, S. (2009, May 27). How to Teach with Technology: Social Studies. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/digital-generation-social-studies-lessons
Ellis Island Interactive Tour With Facts, Pictures, Video | Scholastic.com. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://teacher.scholastic.com/activities/immigration/tour/
Integrated Learning: Broadcasting and Social Studies. (2015, May 20). Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/practice/integrated-learning-broadcasting-and-social-studies
Roblyer, M. D. (2016). Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching (7th ed.). Pearson.