Using Technology to Motivate Students to Learn Social Studies Tina Heafner University of North Carolina at Charlotte Abstract Many teachers struggle with motivating students to learn. This is especially prevalent in social studies classrooms in which students perceive social studies as boring (Schug, Todd, & Berry, 1984; Shaughnessy & Haladyana, 1985). This article advocates the use of technology in social studies as a means to motivate students by engaging students in the learning process with the use of a familiar instructional tool that improves students’ selfefficacy and self-worth. The potential that technology has to motivate students is discussed as it relates to expectancy-value model of motivation which focuses three areas of motivational theory (Pintrich & Schunk, 1996): value (students’ beliefs about the importance or value of a task), expectancy (students’ beliefs about their ability or skill to perform the task), and affective (emotional reactio ns to the task and self-worth evaluation).
Recently, during fieldwork, the author was observing in a high school government class. The social studies concepts discussed in the lesson were political parties, the role of campaigning, and the impact of media on citizens’ decisions. The teacher integrated a variety of traditional and constructivist instructional methods. She incorporated a brief lecture, questioning strategies to discuss readings, graphic organizers, and video clips of recent election campaign commercials. Despite her efforts to engage students, the class was chaotic. What follows is an excerpt from the author’s field notes describing the complexities of the classroom environment. Twenty -five students are seated in pods of four. One girl in the back is putting on eyeliner and eye shadow. She frequently chats with two boys seated at her table. She proceeds to mash zits. Two girls and one boy socialize in the back of the class. They are more concerned about the social complexities of the school rather than listening. However, periodically one will shout out a correct answer without interrupting the flow of the social conversation. One girl, sitting in the back of the class, totally isolates herself and has no verbal or nonverbal communication with her peers or the teacher. A quiet boy and two girls sit at a table located in the front of the class. They do not share comments and appear to be intimidated by their peers.
Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 4(1)
A girl on the other side of the class begins to sing and continues to do so periodically throughout the class time. Another girl gets up and walks around the room. She is told to sit down, which she does, and in five minutes gets up and walks around again. She is struggling to stay in her seat and is clearly unconcerned with the class discussion. A boy in the center of the class covers his head with his hood, lays his head down, and goes to sleep. Two other girls at his table are engaged in a conversation about who will be homecoming queen. What is a teacher to do with a class like this? This is a perplexing situation, yet a common dilemma teachers encounter. Many teachers struggle with the lack of student interest in the content which translates into a lack of motivation to learn. This is especially prevalent in social studies classrooms. Research indicates that students often are uninterested in social studies because they perceive it as a boring subject (Schug, Todd, & Berry, 1984; Shaughnessy & Haladyana, 1985). Students tend to equate uninteresting with unimportant; thus, students are not motivated to learn social studies content due to the lack of value of the content. Educators suggest that lack of student interest in social studies is related to the instructional methods utilized in disseminating...