The website which I have built this semester focuses on Social Sciences in general but in particular teaching history to 5th grade pupils. Initially I included some geography resources but then began to narrow down to just history so the project would have more focus. In learning and reading about the benefits and advantages of using technology to support social science subjects I have learned a lot. The reading I have done has also helped me to confirm that I am on the right path in how I have been going about things so far.
In teaching children about the past we aim to try and help them reflect and become better equipped to reflect on their own ideas, thoughts, behaviors and contributions to society. History is not about learning facts and figures but about understanding who we were, who we are and deciding who we are going to be. Technology tools enable us to improve the teaching and learning experiences of our students. They, “make possible a variety of strategies to enhance learning for the diverse topics and concepts that comprise social studies.” (Roblyer p. 340)
In teaching 5th grade history there are a number of relative advantages of using technology. The nature of the subject often makes in inaccessible to children. They have little in their lives to help them relate to the past and so the more we can ‘bring it to life’ the better their learning experiences will be. It is important that educators ask, “Does the technology-based product help in designing activities that actively engage students in significant social studies content?” Don’t assume just because it is there it is better. Evaluate the Tech. (Rose & Fernlund p. 166)
The relative advantages of using technology to teach History can be seen through exemplification. Below is a list of ways that the technology provides opportunities that don’t exist without it.
- Virtual Field trips. The reality is that most children can’t travel the world visiting historical places. A ‘virtual’ field trip can not replace the experience but it goes a long way to making it more exciting than simple book work. Here are some examples of American History Field virtual field trips.
- Digital Storytelling. Combining images with audio is something that ordinary books can’t do. Students can either use others’ digital stories to enhance their learning experiences or create their own. A digital story can really bring history to life and especially if a student is able to relate past events to their own life. Here is an example from TeacherTube.
- Simulations. Software which simulates different historical scenarios is a powerful way for pupils to try and understand tropics which are complex and difficult. Problems solving scenarios can be involved, encouraging students to think through different possible scenarios and make decisions based on what they are learning about. Have a look at Making-History to see one example of using simulations at work.
- Electronic research strategies. A wealth of information is available to our pupils now -largely because the internet has connected us in ways we cold not imagine 25 years ago. Information is much more quickly available but care must be taken that students have good search strategies. Building the correct search skills online just as important as it was pre-internet. Knowing how to look for and then assess results is very important. Historical websites, and online records can be used to help pupils connect with the world around them.
- Access to Primary sources. Many historical artifacts and records have now been digitized and are available to students to access. “Primary sources foster the visual literacy and historical enquiry of students by making academic content meaningful and building on prior experience” (Robyler p. 341) The National Archives is a great place to start.
- Visualization tools. “Students often have problems visualizing abstract concepts and data” (Roblyer p. 343). Trying to have 5th graders understand the scale of deaths in the American Civil War for example is hard. Using software is is now easier to create graphs, charts, pictograms with available data. Looking at a visual is far easier to access for most people than sets of numbers. Have a look at Datawrapper to get an idea.
Teaching history is not always easy. Many pupils think it is boring to learn about the past. If we can excite them about history (and social sciences in general) then I really believe that we can help them to become better citizens. Learning about now as a result of the past is what we all do every day. Prior learning is the foundation of our new learning. The tools available to us now present opportunities that were not there before and advantages which are huge. Explore and find out how true that is for you.
Roblyer, M. D. (2016). Integrating educational technology into teaching. 7th Edition. Massachusetts: Pearson.
Rose, S.A., & Fernlund, P.M. (1997). Using technology for powerful social studies learning. Social Education, 61(3), 160-166.