How Technology Changed My Social Studies Classroom
by Thomas Stanley
One of the greatest experiences I have had in teaching World History is to create a blended-learning class that is based on using technology with thematic learning, in-class activities, and world projects. When students can physically and intellectually wrap themselves around a subject doing real-world and simulated activities it helps them take their learning a mile deep.
The use of technology to do blended thematic learning is a great example of this type of teaching. To do this a teacher would teach all or part of their course based on the impact of such things as how technology, science, etc impacted the development of civilizations. This impact would be based on a student’s analysis of the social, economic, political, religious, family, and educational institutions in each area of the world or time period of history. You might also approach thematic learning by helping students learn to investigate how each region of the world developed based on a study of their art, literature, and music.
Another idea is to have traditional “class activities” can be made to come alive in each time period. For example, activities that are group-based can be scaffolded into interesting critical thinking exercises. An activity might ask the students to create their own civilizations along the early river valleys (a 2-person activity) and build into larger group activities such as whether the castles or cathedrals were the most powerful institutions during a countries middle ages. Other examples would include asking students questions like: “Did colonization drive the nation’s states or vice versa?,” or “Can war be avoided?” or “How can we make a lasting peace, “What is the nature of modern warfare and how does it impact a civilization?” Any of these types of activities can be developed to create in-depth studies into certain time periods of history and include a plethora of amazing presentations and discussions using technology. In these cases, technology allows:
- Collaborating in projects
- Curation of content
- Publishing of both learning products and learning process
- Connecting globally
Finally, creating a global project that spans the entire semester or year that takes the place of the old Friday current events activity. For example, a teacher might ask students to study ancient issues that become modern problems and come up with solutions. Some exciting topics might include: the child soldier, refugees, ocean acidification, or other debatable issues.
The chance to discuss or collaborate with other nations or international organizations on any of these topics is a true project-based learning activity In each of these areas there are real world outcomes at can be presented at the end of the semester. An example of this was when some of my students studied the refugee issue, selected organizations to support, and created a “Rock for Refugees” project that raised money for international organizations they selected. There are many places to find such projects that include: the UN Julie Lindsay’s, Global School, Tracy Hanson’s NGGE or Yvonne Andres’s Global School net. Each of these methods are challenging ways to teach but, amazingly fun especially if you include the use of all the resources now available to the classroom. It can even include activities with other teachers or outside experts.
Thanks to the proliferation of technology the teaching of World History does and should not be centered exclusively around lecture and reading, but rather around questions and collaboration, and that’s a significant change. Done well, technology and students and inquiry and history and begin to come together to form a more powerful–and authentic–whole.
With technology in the Social Studies classroom the possibilities are endless, and the real challenge comes in knowing where to begin.
image attribution flickr user lefteris