Technology Position Statement and Guidelines
A Position Statement of National Council for the Social Studies
This position statement was prepared by the Technology Select Subcommittee, approved by the NCSS board of directors in 2006.
Electronic portfolios and digital projects are old ideas in technological clothing. Handhelds, virtual reality, and the merging of wireless forms of communication are examples of technologies that are changing life in and outside of the classroom, and are raising questions about what and how our students learn social studies. In turn, emerging information and communication technologies have the potential to reshape how the National Council for the Social Studies and its members seek to fulfill the mission to prepare young people "to fulfill the duties of citizenship in a participatory democracy." As Fairey, Lee, and Bennett concluded:
Technology and the social studies has the power to become a ?dynamic and forceful agent for change in the social studies curriculum' (Martorella, 1997), but only if the academic subject matter is enriched by a clear and comprehensive rationale for integrating technology with social studies.1
Articulating such a rationale, though, is a two-edged sword, which is why this statement is designed both to provide guidance to social studies educators and to raise questions about the relation between technology and social studies.
A rationale for integrating technology with social studies arises from the purpose of social studies, the role of technology in the lives of our students, and the nature of technology in the social studies curriculum. As concluded in the report, Toward A New Golden Age In American Education: How the Internet, the Law and Today's Students are Revolutionizing Expectations:
There is no dispute over the need for America's students to have the knowledge and competence to compete in an increasingly technology-driven world economy. This need demands new models of education facilitated by educational technology.2
A similar argument holds true for students as they gain an understanding of democratic principles and values, as well as acquire the skills necessary for life in our civic society. As we as a democracy move into the electronic age, what might this mean for how we prepare our youth as citizens? One concern is how technological advances are changing how we politically and socially interact with one another. Will the arrival of online campaigning, for example, change significantly the process we now use to elect our political leaders? Will instantaneous access to news worldwide affect our ability both to digest and to reflect upon national and global policy matters? In turn, how might these technological changes influence how we conceive of citizenship? Will citizenship take on both national and global dimensions? Will it be connected to one's ability to have access to the newest forms of technology? Obviously, there are no ready answers to such questions; but by considering such questions, NCSS seeks to better enable social studies educators to prepare their students for life in a technologically-oriented civic society.
While such preparation is a long-term goal, students often are unable to see that far into the future. This is why we need to consider the role of technology in students' daily lives and its implication for classroom practice. How closely, for example, should students' worlds outside of the classroom match what occurs in the classroom? The ability of a student to send a friend a text message as opposed to a paper note represents the simplest example of cell phone capability. In turn, access to newer and newer forms of technology adds a new dimension to the idea of the digital divide as affluent students, for example, can surround themselves with technology that enables them to communicate instantly with friends nation-wide by sending them, [for example] digitized videos of last weekend's social highlights. Now, imagine moving from this digitally connected environment to what for many seems like the lifeless and adult-centered world known as a classroom, where learning means spending time gathering information by reading a book! In an age of standards and accountability, teachers need to include the realities of students' lives, technology use in students' everyday lives, and the role and use of technology when planning for instruction. How well do standards, which tend to focus on a static body of knowledge, align with students' growing abilities to access information in a way that enables them to manipulate and generate their own knowledge? As Mason, et, al., noted, "[T]echnology opens the door to learning social studies skills and content in ways impossible in the traditional classroom."3 We need to capitalize on many students' ubiquitous, yet social, use of such technology and demonstrate the technology's power as a tool for learning.
We can accomplish this end by seamlessly weaving technology into the social studies curriculum. As Berson and Balyta observed:
[T]he discipline of social studies has had a precarious relationship with technology, simultaneously touting its potential benefits and critiquing its limitations in facilitating social studies practice.4
As an organization, we continually need to demonstrate and research how effective use of technology enhances social studies teaching and learning. The new technologies, for example, enable users to access, organize, and communicate information in ways unfathomable until recently. Imagine the impact that the digitizing of U.S. history, as exemplified by the National Archives and the Library of Congress, has had on social studies instruction. How do we measure learning when we send students online to the National Archives "Powers of Persuasion" exhibit of World War II posters, where they can investigate the use of propaganda techniques to secure support for America's war effort? How do we define student leaning when teachers make use of the Geographic Information Systems software to build inquiry-oriented lessons about voting patterns that draw upon data provided by the U.S. Census Bureau? An emerging body of research over the past five years is beginning to address such questions and the next step is to more explicitly link such research to best practice.
In turn, we need to consider the relation between the standards movement and the use of such technology, since the acquisition of knowledge cannot occur devoid of the learning and assessment of related skills. How well do the standards enable teachers to capitalize upon the growing bodies of online databases and enable students to demonstrate learning based on these data? How should we conceive of research and interpersonal skills in the classroom? In the past, students conducted research in the school library, where experts had chosen the books to stock on the shelves. Often, the media specialist undertook a second culling by selecting and placing on a cart those most appropriate for the students and their topics. Today, many students begin online searches without these benefits. What skills are basic as students conduct research on the internet? Discussion boards, online chat rooms, and e-pals are examples of new tools available for students to interact with one another and with people worldwide. Previously, teacher discussions with students on how to interact with a person from another culture took place in the abstract; today, those discussions should be the prelude to initiating an online discussion. What skills do students need to engage in extended social and academic online discussions with culturally different individuals?
Finally, in relation to the curriculum, unlike most other disciplines, those of us in social studies also have an obligation to help students learn the relation of science, technology, and society. As Mason, et al., noted:
Science and technology have a complex interrelationship with society. While technology is the impetus to advancements in human development, technologies also contribute to the perpetuation of existing imbalances and inequities in power and diffusion of knowledge.
This harks back to the prior point about connecting the use of technology to the students' daily lives. As adults, we are aware of how technological advances are influencing society and how who we are as a society affects, in part, the direction that such advances take. How obvious, though, are such relations to young people? Just as we as an organization continually stress the need to connect knowledge and skills, so too we need to emphasize the links between the use of technology as a teaching and learning tool and the effects of the relation between technology and society.
As an organization we are not only obligated to assist social studies educators today, but also to realize that our mission obligates us to prepare young people for tomorrow. This requires us to consider how best to position NCSS for schooling in the twenty-first century. While we cannot predict the future, we can anticipate where the emerging communication and information technologies might take us and start discussing how best to prepare ourselves and our students for what might occur.
While Mason et. al., offered the following principles as "guides for the appropriate infusion of technology in social studies teacher preparation programs," they also serve as an excellent foundation on which to base K-12 social studies teaching and learning and have thus shaped the formation of the guidelines that follow. The guidelines are divided into five distinct areas, and are intended to serve as an overview of how technology may be integrated into the social studies in a variety of means and methods.
- "Extend learning beyond what could be done without technology." One way to extend learning in a meaningful way is to use digital archives of primary sources to engage students in historical inquiry.
- "Introduce technology in context." Students should use technology as a tool for learning social studies content and skills, rather than using technology for its own sake.
- "Include opportunities for students to study relationships among science, technology, and society." Science and technology cannot be separated from their impact on society. Teachers and students should examine the benefits and risks of new technologies including the digital divide, the opportunity for global understanding, and concerns about inappropriate information and online behavior.
- "Foster the development of the skills, knowledge, and participation as good citizens in a democratic society." Research suggests that many social studies teachers do not use technology's potential to revitalize citizenship education. In particular the internet's capacity to provide multiple current perspectives on controversial issues can promote the development of personal civic beliefs. Moreover, sites that provide opportunities for social and political action can help students develop the capacity for civic action both locally and globally.
- "Contribute to the research and evaluation of social studies and technology." Educators should take advantage of the ways in which technologies advance the purposes of social studies education.
As a final thought, this position paper and guidelines are grounded in the theory that content must come before technology. In other words, technology should be thought of in terms of its effect on the teaching and learning of social studies, and should be considered for use only if it will provide an improvement in one (or both) of these areas. NCSS offers the following guidelines to technology use, and these are intended as a way both to guide social studies educators when making instructional and curricular decisions related to the use and study of technology, and to help frame the discussion over the questions raised above.5
Effective Use of Instructional Technology: Guidelines for K-16 Social Studies Educators
These guidelines, drawn from the National Educational Technology Standards, are to provide guidance on how to integrate the use of instructional technology into one's practice. A rationale for the guidelines is provided in a complementary position statement. National Council for the Social Studies is identifying resources to aid social studies educators in implementing the guidelines.
Technology Operations and Concepts: Social Studies Educators
- demonstrate a sound understanding of technology operations and concepts as they relate to social studies education;
- demonstrate introductory knowledge, skills, and understanding of concepts related to technology;
- demonstrate continual growth in technology knowledge and skills to stay abreast of current and emerging technologies.
Planning and Designing Learning Environments and Experiences: Social Studies Educators
- plan and design effective social studies learning environments and experiences supported by technology;
design developmentally appropriate learning opportunities that apply technology-enhanced instructional strategies to support the diverse needs of learners;
- apply current research on teaching and learning with technology when planning learning environments and experiences;
identify and locate technology resources and evaluate them for accuracy and suitability;
- plan for the management of technology resources within the context of learning activities;
- plan strategies to manage student learning in a technology-enhanced environment.
Teaching, Learning, and the Curriculum: Social Studies Educators
- teachers implement curriculum plans that include methods and strategies for applying technology to maximize student learning in social studies;
- facilitate technology-enhanced experiences that address content standards and student technology standards;
- use technology to support learner-centered strategies that address the diverse needs of students;
- apply technology to develop students' higher order skills and creativity;
- manage student-learning activities in a technology-enhanced environment.
Assessment and Evaluation: Social Studies Educators
- apply technology through a variety of strategies to assess and evaluate student learning in social studies;
- apply technology in assessing student learning of subject matter using a variety of assessment techniques;
- use technology resources to collect and analyze data, interpret results, and communicate findings to improve instructional practice and maximize student learning;
- apply multiple methods of evaluation to determine students' appropriate use of technology resources.
Social, Ethical, Legal, and Human Issues: Social Studies Educators
- model and teach legal and ethical practice related to technology use.
- apply technology resources to enable and empower learners with diverse backgrounds, characteristics, and abilities.
- identify and use technology resources that affirm diversity
- promote safe and healthy use of technology resources.
- facilitate equitable access to technology resources for all students.
- Chad Fairey, John K. Lee, and Clifford Bennett, "Technology and Social Studies: A Conceptual Model for Integration," Journal of Social Studies Research 24, no. 2 (2000): 3?9; P. Martorella, Interactive Technologies on the Social Studies: Emerging Issues and Applications (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1997).
- U.S. Department of Education, Toward A New Golden Age In American Education: How the Internet, the Law and Today's Students are Revolutionizing Expectations (Washington, D.C., 2004), 45.
- Cheryl Mason, Michael Berson, Richard Diem, David Hicks, John Lee, and Tony Dralle, (2000). "Guidelines for Using Technology to Prepare Social Studies Teachers," Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education [Online serial], 1, (1). Available: http://www.citejournal.org/vol1/iss1/currentissues/socialstudies/article....
- Michael Berson and Peter Balyta, "Technological Thinking and Practice in the Social Studies: Transcending the Tumultuous Adolescence of Reform," Journal of Computing in Education 20, no. 4 (2004): 141.
- Retrieved from cnets.iste.org/currstands/cstands-netst.html on March 8, 2005. This position statement, which was prepared by the Technology Select Subcommittee, was approved by the NCSS board of directors.
Technology Select Subcommittee: Linda Bennett, Joe Braun, Cheryl Franklin, Adam Friedman, Cheryl Mason Bolick, Joe O'Brien, Pamela Roach, Linda Unger, Zora Warren
(C) Copyright 2006 National Council for the Social Studies. All rights reserved.