Three ways social studies teachers use tech
Social studies lessons are becoming more engaging and interactive, thanks to a variety of classroom technology tools and resources. Here are a few examples.
OER in the classroom
Shannon Blake, an eighth grade social studies teacher at the Charleston Catholic School in Charleston, S.C., uses Net Texts (http://www.net-texts.com), a free open educational resources (OER) content management and delivery platform, to access and create information, organize it by chapter or subject, and make it available to her students.
Teachers can select existing courses or combine items from the OER library with their own resources to create new courses.
Students access courses via an iPad, Android device, or web app. Courses include videos, eBooks, audio books, and more. Once they are accessed, resources download to student devices so students can access them even without an internet connection. Students also can suggest new resources or materials, and Blake said that a few of her former students sent her relevant course materials over the summer for inclusion in future classes.
“Having resources on a tablet, as opposed to in a book, is great,” Blake said. “If something changes ..., I can update our resources and information.”
Net Texts lets students choose from among five different activities, each tailored to different learning preferences but all covering the same concept, which Blake said has helped her differentiate instruction in her classes.
QR codes boost engagement
QR codes are finding their way into social studies classrooms as a means of engaging students. QR codes are square black-and-white images that—when scanned with a smart phone, tablet, or other web-enabled device—direct users to a specified website.
Amanda Fox, a sixth grade social studies teacher at STEM Academy @Bartlett in Georgia, uses visual QR codes from Visualead (http://www.visualead.com) to engage her students and make learning more interactive. Visualead lets users combine QR codes with pictures or images.
Is this the future of high school history?
The future of high school history classes might look a lot like a class being taught right now at Northville High School in Michigan, at least if Bill Gates has his way.
The Microsoft co-founder is the leading backer of a course called the Big History Project that is being developed by education experts, including a professor from the University of Michigan. The course is being tested in a growing number of school districts across the nation, including in 14 Michigan schools.
The course is breaking ground by wrapping a number of academic subjects—especially science—around a history class that intends to survey the entirety of history, all while using technology to keep the course free.
At first glance, the class meeting in a Northville High School classroom doesn't seem much different from any of the dozens of classrooms in the building. History teacher Joseph Cislo has his ninth-grade students read a handout, underlining the key points in it. He then walks them through the handout.
That's when things turn a little different. Instead of lecturing, Cislo clicks on his web browser, pulling up a website that's projected in front of the class. A couple of clicks later, and the students are watching a video featuring David Christian, an Australian university professor, sitting in a chair in front of a large window, talking about the conditions necessary for life to start on Earth.
Christian walks through three conditions necessary for life to be formed, a lecture that would be just as home in a science class as in a history class.
All the materials for the class, including the videos, are available online at www.bighistoryproject.com.
The courses focuses on eight key turning points in history, which it labels as thresholds. The thresholds are the Big Bang, Stars Light Up, New Chemical Elements, Earth and the Solar System, Life on Earth, Collective Learning, Agriculture, and the Modern Revolution.
How teachers are using technology in the social studies classroom
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