Integrating Technology in Social Studies Curriculum

Here are some happenings within the social studies department at my school:

About a year ago, my social studies department decided we wanted to step outside of the box. We were tired of sharing our building-wide computer carts and iPad cart with the other departments (especially ELA – what ever happened to hand-writing an essay?). Our administrators were totally on board and willing to support us in any way that they could.

We contemplated many different options before settling on Discovery Education’s new curriculum – the Techbook. No we didn’t spend our summer’s creating our own iBooks – that will come later, at least for me. But we were preparing ourselves for some intense professional training a few weeks before school started from Discovery Education to introduce us to this new curriculum.

However, in true eduction fashion, that training didn’t happen before school started, and our new iPad minis (One cart for every social studies teacher! I feel blessed!) weren’t placed in their new otter boxes and weren’t configured with apps that would enhance our teaching experience, hooked in to the shiny new carts placed in our classrooms, ready for students to use on the first day.

Although the devices are still not configured for classroom use yet (we can see them and we can touch them — I feel like a kid who can’t open her Christmas presents until Christmas morning!), we have done some major discussing within our department over the last few days.  Our department has spend the past week discussing app after app. Which ones we want, which ones cost money, which ones we don’t really need . . . and so on.

Things have gotten tense, but as we were having this discussion, I was reminded of a blog post I read by Glenn Wiebe. In it, he discusses that iPads don’t solve problems. I sent the following message to my department and would encourage you to really thing about the 4 Cs that Glenn talked about.

“I feel that we’ve drowned ourselves in this crazy application process for our new curriculum – I wanted to share a blog post from Glenn Wiebe (I think I might’ve shared it with you all last year?). But I encourage us to remember what he’s talking about with the 4 Cs: collect, collaborate, create, communicate.

These iPads are not the solution to all of our problems. They are an amazing tool and we are so lucky to be gaining this awesome amount of technology in our rooms! Other departments in our building, our district, and even other schools will be looking up to us and asking us what we’re doing and using in our curriculum. We can’t just tell them a list of apps to go download. We must have concrete evidence to show that we took a step in the right direction and we must be able to say “look at the awesome things that our students are doing.”

A quote that Glenn used from a guy named Justin Reich really stuck out and left an imprint on my brain:

“Technology doesn’t magically change teacher’s practice. You can have students use iPads in much the same way that they once used slate boards. But what new technologies like tablets or laptops can do is open new avenues for conversation. In schools where every child has a portable, multimedia creation device, what can we do differently? What is possible now that wasn’t possible before?”

This is something to ponder when technology consumes us. It is definitely more than just another educational fad but as professional educators we need to be sure that we are executing technology in a way that serves the needs of all our students – rather than ourselves.

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