Why Teach with Technology?

Technology, when used appropriately, can help make the history and social studies classroom a site of active learning and critical thinking and further student connections with the past. Teachers can use technology to enable students to meet people of different cultures, explore ancient and modern worlds, do authentic primary-source research, problem-solve through inquiry-based activities, and much more.

Technology can be used to enable students to explore fundamental curriculum issues and answer core questions. Students can use the Internet, electronic databases and other online sources to gather information. They can use spreadsheets, timelines, and other programs to store, organize, and analyze information. Students can also integrate multimedia desktop publishing, web publishing, video and audio editing, and graphics programs to create and present information in innovative and engaging ways.

Using Technology in Social Studies Classrooms

How has technology changed the way you teach? How is technology transforming the lives of students? These are the two questions addressed in this video as EdTechTeacher’s Tom Daccord and Justin Reich discuss the power of technology in the classroom.

Historical sources are increasingly online

Consider for a moment the amount of historical sources that are already digitized and available online. Google, university libraries, and online book repositories are making millions of books and other print materials publicly accessible online. Now think ahead 40 years. What percentage of all historical source material will be available online by mid-century? Many feel it will approach or surpass 90%.

Outstanding Online Historical Resources:

If the heart of historical activity is to research and analyze historical sources then technology will play an increasingly important role in historical activity. Future historians are likely to be accessing and analyzing digitized historical materials as part of their daily professional activities. (Many are already doing so.) Moreover, they will be communicating and collaborating with other historians online and presenting their findings via online publications and media and via multimedia presentations. As video becomes ubiquitous 21st century media, an increasing number of historical primary sources will be video-based. Modern society’s “digital age” transition from print-based, conventional text to screen-based, multimedia communication will have a profound effect on historians of the 21st century.

EdTechTeacher’s Tom Daccord Discusses “Digital Equivalency”

Technology and essential skills for the 21st Century

There are scores of educators and researchers deeply concerned with how our schools, largely the product of 19th century industrial society, are going to prepare students for the 21st century. Researchers like Howard Gardner (2006), Tony Wagner (2008), Henry Jenkins (2007), Frank Levy and Richard Murnane (2004), and others have produced a lists of the skills and competencies for our students in the future. The framework produced by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills is playing an important role in affecting how many think about a 21st Century Education. While the lists and frameworks are diverse, they all tend to recognize three major competencies: Creativity, critical thinking, cross-cultural communication and collaboration, and digital age literacy. To develop these skills, we need classrooms where students are working in teams and using technology to build creative, meaningful content that reflects their understanding and learning. In these environments, teachers act often as facilitators and mentors rather than always fonts of authoritative knowledge. (For those teachers accustomed to being the front-and-center speaker and “expert” in the classroom such a transition can be uncomfortable.) These classrooms are dramatically different from the ones where our most current teachers grew up, apprenticed, and taught. As a result, helping teachers effectively use new technology to support innovative, student-centered learning will involve immersing teachers in new collaborative learning environments supported by emerging technologies.

Technology and academic performance

Moreover, there are several prominent studies that demonstrate a strong relationship between technology use and higher academic performance and technology-using teachers supply much anecdotal evidence to show that technology helps educators teach better and students learn more effectively. Finally, teachers can adopt technology resources to develop and tailor instructional materials to better meet individual student needs. In all, technology use can further higher-order thinking “by engaging students in authentic, complex tasks within collaborative learning contexts.”.

There are many fundamental reasons for incorporating technology in the classroom:

  • Resources: Using technology can bring traditional classrooms otherwise inaccessible resources — information, people, media, and events.
  • Information Literacy: The 21st century workplace requires more sophisticated skills for finding, selecting, analyzing, manipulating, modifying, and distributing information. Students and teachers need more training and experience in information literacy. (The Internet is becoming an increasingly important source of information and young people are the likeliest users of the Internet with 97% of 12-18 years olds reporting Net use).
  • Connections: Technology fosters global connections and communication in our shrinking, “flat,” and interconnected world.
  • Collaboration: Email, discussion rooms, and other technologies help support collaborative learning and group communication.
  • Motivation: Teachers and students regain energy and enthusiasm for their academic work as they create new ways of learning and thinking.
  • Personalization: Technology tools enable teachers to provide students with access to instructional materials that better match their learning needs.
  • Skills: A growing number of fields include tasks in which information technology has become essential.
  • Access: Technology can provide access to instructional materials that would otherwise be unavailable due to scheduling, location, or physical restrictions.
  • Results: Teachers can reasonably expect higher results from students who have access to technology tools such as word processing, email, and the Web.
  • Expectations: Students and young faculty often have high expectations of access to, and use of, technology.
  • Relationships: Technology can help teachers foster mutually supportive relationships with educators across the country and create partnerships with school librarians and media specialists.

Studies Evaluating Technology and Student Achievement

Educational technology is a relatively new field of study and yet there are increasing number of classroom studies on how technology impacts learning. There are some notable reports that demonstrate a positive link between technology use and student achievement:

National Center for Education Statistics“The Nation’s Report Card”
The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), coordinates a Technology-Based Assessment project designed to explore the use of technology, especially the use of the computer as a tool to enhance the quality and efficiency of educational assessments.

Findings related to history and geography:

United States History: correlation between use of computers and higher test scores.

  • Eighth- and twelfth-graders who made more extensive use of computers for research projects by using CD-ROMs or the Internet scored higher, on average, than those who did so less frequently.
  • Eighth- and twelfth-graders who made extensive use of computers to write reports scored higher, on average, than peers who did so less frequently.

Geography: connection between use of computers and higher standardized test scores.

  • Fourth-graders whose teachers had them use the Internet to a small or moderate extent to locate and retrieve social studies information had higher average scores than those who did not use the Internet at all.
  • Eighth-graders whose teachers had them use the Internet to a large extent had higher average scores than those who used the Internet to a small extent or not at all.
  • Twelfth-graders who reported using the Internet or CD-ROMs for research projects about topics in history or geography to a moderate or large extent had higher average scores than those who said they did so to a small extent or not at all.

Enhancing Missouri’s Instructional Networked Teaching Strategies (eMINTS)Final Report 
A two-year evaluation of 85 eMINTs classrooms showed that the students who participated in the program scored consistently higher in every subject area on the state’s standardized tests.

The Web ProjectAssessing the Impact of Instructional Technology on Student Achievement
The WEB Project has infused standards-based instruction in multimedia, digital art, music composition, and online discourse into the general arts and humanities curricula of Vermont K-12 and reports a significant correlation between motivation and metacognition, indicating that students’ enthusiasm for learning with technology may stimulate students’ metacognitive (strategic) thinking processes.

Learning Points Associates21st Century Skills
21st Century Skills, Education & Competitiveness, which investigates the links between strong, viable economies and 21st century education systems.

Milken Family FoundationThe Impact of Educational Technology on Student Achievement
This Milken Family Foundation briefing, released in June of 1999, outlines what research has discovered regarding the impact of educational technology on learning, and identifies resources for further study.

Rockman et alReport of a Laptop Program Pilot
The ROCKMAN ET AL conducted three years of studies among hundreds of students and teachers who use laptops regularly in schools. Students with access to their own laptops at school and at home were compared with those who had access to computers at home and school, but did not use laptops regularly.

Cable in the ClassroomLearning With Technology: Evidence that technology can, and does, support learning
Cable in the Classroom has research on the use of technology in the classroom. Their focus is not specifically on computers but on technology with a wider definition, including cable programming and broadband resources.

WBEC: The Power of the Internet for Learning
The final report of the Web-Based Education Commission (WBEC) was published on 19 December 2000. Senator Bob Kerrey (D. Neb.), Chairman, and Representative Johnny Isakson (R. Ga.), Vice-Chairman of the Web-Based Education Commission urge the new Administration and 107th Congress to make E-learning a centerpiece of the nation’s education policy.

Significant Findings

  1. Students learn basic skills – reading, writing, and arithmetic – better and faster if they have a chance to practice those skills using technology.
  2. Students develop the technical skills required to use the Internet for communication and information gathering acquire geographic awareness based on understanding the global nature of Internet connections and communications
  3. Technology engages students, and as a result they spend more time on basic learning tasks than students who use a more traditional approach.
  4. Technology offers educators a way to individualize curriculum and customize it to the needs of individual students so all children can achieve their potential.
  5. Students who have the opportunity to use technology to acquire and organize information show a higher level of comprehension and a greater likelihood of using what they learn later in their lives.
  6. By giving students access to a broader range of resources and technologies, students can use a variety of communication media to express their ideas more clearly and powerfully.
  7. Technology can decrease absenteeism, lower dropout rates, and motivate more students to continue on to college.
  8. Students who regularly use technology take more pride in their work, have greater confidence in their abilities, and develop higher levels of self-esteem.

SourceApple Classrooms of Tomorrow Project (ACOT), “The Impact of Technology on Student Achievement”