Over the past decade, the popularity of digital technology usage in the world of education has significantly increased. In fact, according to a study conducted by Gallup¹, digital technology has become integral to learning inside and outside of the classroom, as 65% of the teachers that were surveyed indicated that they use digital learning tools daily. Moreover, 64% of teachers, 73% of principals, and 66% of the administrators that were surveyed indicated that they would like to use digital learning tools more often. According to this same study, this desire can be attributed to the availability of immediate and actionable student data, the contributions toward personalized learning, an increase in student engagement, and the ease of use. Though these benefits can be applied to various academic subjects, technology is especially helpful when integrated with social studies instruction.
Technology’s Role in Social Studies and Student Engagement
If you haven’t already incorporated technology into your social studies lessons, there is a variety of technology options to choose from to meet your students’ needs. For example, if you are looking for a digital tool to help with geography education, there’s an app for that. If you are looking for texts about world history, the U.S. Government, or cultures around the world, there are digital books for that. If you are looking for technology to increase engagement with civics concepts, there are many digital games for that. The integration of technology with social studies lessons truly allows you to meet students where they are as far as their interests and their familiarity with technologies that will keep them engaged.
In addition, educators have the ability to incorporate digital platforms to connect students with global pen pals, enabling them to receive information about other parts of the world first-hand. When paired with a research-based social studies curriculum, the integration of technology has the power to create significant learning gains while preparing students to become future leaders, voters, and more.
Virtual Field Trips: A Window to Interactive Studies
Field trips can be so fun and informative for students, but it isn’t always easy to drop everything and go on a field trip due to funding and academic obligations, among other reasons. With the integration of technology, social studies field trips are so much easier to take. When schools were closed and travel was restricted due to the pandemic, many schools and parents began to search for virtual meetups, virtual field trips, and other virtual events that would help students acquire knowledge and have fun learning experiences without the risk. Since then, these tools have continued to serve students around the world. Here are a few examples:
- The National Park Service began to offer virtual tours of its over 400 sites to allow students to learn about native animals, plants, and the history behind national parks all over the world.
- Social studies-specific virtual field trips hosted by virtualfieldtrips.org allow students to tour places like Washington, D.C., the Sahara Desert, Ancient Egypt, and more.
- Virtual field trips offered by LearnAroundtheWorld.org expose the youth to new cultures and sites around the world no matter their learning background or access with the guidance of a live tour guide to provide an authentic experience of global destinations around the world.
Virtual Field Trips With Learn Around the World
These technology-enabled experiences can help students build background knowledge that can strengthen their learning skills both inside and outside of the classroom.
Gamification and Augmented Reality in Social Studies
It is no secret that students are significantly more engaged in lessons when provided kinesthetic experiences or games to fully immerse themselves in the learning process. In fact, according to a study conducted by the Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education², students that use augmented reality (AR) actually performed better than those that learned using traditional methods. Augmented reality offers an interactive experience that blends portions of the real world with computer-generated content, stimulating varying senses simultaneously, including auditory, visual, and haptic sensory modalities.
All students (control and experimental) that participated in this study were given a pre-test prior to the lesson and a post-test after the lesson. The control group was taught about social sciences using traditional methods, whereas the experimental group was taught using AR on a tablet. As a result, the experimental group performed significantly better with a 4.5 point increase from the pre-test to the post-test compared to a 3.2 point increase for the control group. If you’re looking to find augmented reality tools specifically for social studies, there are many out there that will allow students to explore cultural festivals, revisit historical moments, and investigate historical occurrences in a way that is simply not as easy to do using traditional methods.
Improving Student Outcomes With Technology
Integrating technology into social studies instruction can truly benefit students and teachers alike. Outside of offering new, more engaging learning opportunities such as virtual field trips, digital reading material, game-based learning, and augmented reality, incorporating technology into social studies lessons can also translate into improved academic outcomes.
If you are curious about how you can utilize technology to meet your students’ needs, make teaching easier, and make learning more fun, check out Raz-Plus, our award-winning solution for PreK-6 literacy development. Raz-Plus offers all the classroom essentials teachers need, including nearly a thousand social studies texts and hundreds of resources specifically designed for English language learners. Learn more about why our best-in-class literacy resources and texts are so impactful for your social studies curriculum.
Integrate Technology With Social Studies Instruction
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- Gallup. Gallup, Inc., Washington, D.C., 2019, pp. 1–64, Education Technology Use in Schools.
- Toledo-Morales, Dr. Purificacion, and Dr. Jose Manuel Sanchez-Garcia. 3rd ed., vol. 19, Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education, Seville, July, 2018, pp. 1–15, Use of Augmented Reality in Social Sciences as Educational Resource.
- Learn Around the World, director. VFT Experience. LearnAroundtheWorld.Org, Learn Around the World, 24 Nov. 2022, https://learnaroundtheworld.org/vft-experience/. Accessed 11 Oct. 2023.