Smart Board technology is still relatively new and not enough time has elapsed to examine the results of any longitudinal studies (if any are being conducted) regarding its effectiveness in the relationship between its use and improved achievement by elementary and middle school social studies students. However, some success has already been reported anecdotally.
Byrd (2005) stated “this new wave of teaching is so much more hands-on, integrated and thematic instead of worksheet and drill-oriented.” (p. 12) in teaching social studies content at Byrds school, Liberty Drive Elementary in Thomasville, North Carolina, teachers retrieve maps and images from a database; teachers and students alike can use Smart Board highlighters to note geographic features.
Similarly, in a study sponsored by the University of Michigan-Dearborn, social studies teachers reported that students were more engaged in lessons delivered with the use of technology and the level of student achievement increased. Taylor and Duran (2006) were not surprised by this finding and noted “the positive effects which the use of computers has on student achievement in history have been documented by the United States Department of Education.” (p. 10)
The use of technology in the social studies classroom is not a brand-new phenomenon. Even ten years ago, White (2000) concluded that
Social Studies has experienced a tremendous transformation regarding the integration of technology. Despite remaining a discipline whose status in schools and society is much less than adequate, professional social studies educators are engaging in dynamic technology oriented projects. These projects not only have a very positive influence on the discipline of social studies itself, but we are also witnessing a greater impact on our students. (p.1)
Ten years hence, technology has evolved in ways that White, indeed any of us, could scarcely imagine. While there is no data that tells us exactly how many classrooms nationwide are equipped with Smart Boards (and how many of those are being used on a regular basis), there is evidence that there are a good number of teachers of social studies who are using Smart Boards.
The Smart Exchange, a free website sponsored by Smart Technologies, invites teachers within all disciplines to post lessons they have created. Anyone can download lessons to use “as is” or to adapt to their own classrooms. As of the writing of this paper, there were nearly eight hundred social studies lessons posted. A simple Google search, using the terms “smart board” and “social studies” revealed that a number of school and district websites are repositories for lessons created by teachers and made available for use by others.
Research indicates that todays students are technologically savvy and expect that technology will be used in the classroom. Research also indicates that students are more engaged in lessons in which they can actively participate, using technology as a learning tool. It seems reasonable to expect that Smart Board technology will be effective for teaching social studies to a group of fifth graders with diverse learning styles and abilities. It seems reasonable to expect that greater engagement will facilitate understanding of the content, as reflected in scores on end-of-chapter tests, a measure used by all the fifth grade classrooms school-wide.
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Smart Exchange. Retrieved from http://exchange.smarttech.com/search.html
Tally, B. (2007, Spring). Digital technology and the end of social studies education. Theory and Research in Social Education, 35(2) 305-321.
Taylor, J.A., & Duran, M. (2006, November). Teaching social studies with technology: New research on collaborative approaches. History Teacher, 40(1) 9-25.
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