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Technology Learning

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  • Feb. 2012
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Using Technology for Powerful Social Studies Learning
By Stephen A. Rose and Phyllis Maxey Fernlund Recent developments have created new opportunities for powerful social studies teaching assisted by technology. Major improvements have taken place in both hardware and software. Computers are much more powerful and versatile than they were a decade ago. Although many educational programs at that time were oriented toward drill and practice, it is now easy to find interactive and engaging programs. Using the right combination of hardware and software, teachers can develop lessons that enhance student skills in information retrieval, the presentation of data, the comparison and evaluation of different perspectives, and critical reflection and decision making. As is often the case, efforts to take advantage of these opportunities in the classroom make important demands on individual teachers. Successful computer-based instruction requires careful planning, informed choices of hardware and software, and the matching of educational programs to curricular objectives and student abilities. Our purpose in this article is to identify the key considerations that should influence the selection of instructional technology in order to assist educators to evaluate current products and assess the feasibility of their use in the classroom.

The Changing Technological Landscape
The field has come a long way in the thirteen years since Social Education published microcomputer courseware evaluation guidelines developed by an ad hoc committee established by National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS).1 The typical computer in 1984 had 256k memory, dual 5.25" floppy drives or, in some cases, a 10 to 30 megabyte hard drive. Many monitors were monochromatic, and graphical interfaces were virtually absent, except for Apple Computer’s Macintosh,ª which was introduced that year in a memorable Super Bowl television advertisement. The computer software of 1984 was also primitive by...

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