Lighting A Fire in Social Studies: Successfully Integrating Technology in Social Studies

“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”

     ---William Butler Yeats

         Yeats made that iconic statement over one hundred years ago. Whether or not he was the originator of that quote is irrelevant to its veracity. In modern pedagogy, the fire that Yeats referenced is engagement. Engagement is the attention, curiosity, interest, optimism, and enthusiasm that students experience when they are learning or being taught, which includes the amount of motivation to learn and succeed in their education. Engagement is the opposite of apathy.  For a significant part of my thirty-three years as a teacher when asked, “what is your greatest challenge in teaching social studies?”  I answered emphatically A-P-A-T-H-Y. 

          Maintaining the attention of my students was a sobering challenge.  Most of the students viewed social studies as boring and irrelevant. To mitigate this perspective, I planned numerous hours a week and struggled to find ways to make social studies relevant and interesting to my students. However, this changed when my social studies department received thirty sparkling new laptop computers because of a technology grant that I had co-written. The year was 2007. The school was a small middle school in St. Helena Parish---located in the piney woods of rural Louisiana.   My students utilized the laptops to create do research, do projects, and create PowerPoint presentations.  Most importantly they engaged with other students around the state in an online stock market game.                                         

The appropriate integration of technology can ignite a blazing fire of engagement in social studies that allows students to create and engage in authentic real-world phenomenon.

        The need for appropriate technology integration is significant for social studies. Social studies, more than the other school discipline, deals with real-world situations. However, technology shouldn’t be used by teachers just for the sake of using technology. Viable integration of technology should meet the following criteria:        It is impossible to over-stress the necessity of integrating technology in social studies, and the necessity of educators embracing the use of technology. Today’s information and global interdependent society demands it.  Most students can adroitly use a myriad of technology---smartphones, smart televisions, laptops, tablets, digital cameras, etc.  Today, nearly five billion (4.88) people in the world use the internet as compared to 16 million in 1995 (DataReportal, 2021).  In the past 12 months the number of people using the internet increased by 222 million---more than 600,000 new users each day (DataReportal, 2021).                                                                

          The modern learner can use the internet to share insightful perspectives and create new possibilities. This immense capacity should be aligned to enable the retention, and comprehension of social studies content.

  • Promotes Project Based Learning (PBL)
  • Promotes real-world connections and interactions

  • Promotes building learning communities

  • Promotes students connecting and learning from each other in class and outside of class

  • Promotes curriculum choices and diverse learning styles


Favorite Links

Mindshift                    Provides tools for students to create videos.                                                                                                                         

Upfront                       Allows students to interact online with current events content.                                                                                                                                                            

Animoto                     Enables students to create videos.

Evernote                     Assist students in taking digital notes.

Poll Every Where       Supports seamless engagement of audiences across hybrid workspaces

                                    through online polls.

Explee                        Allows students to find and add images, text, video clips or audio to a


          Social studies content consistently connects to real world situations; therefore, it is imperative that meaningful technology is integrated into instructional practices. Meaningful technology is technology that promotes critical thinking, interacting, creating, and innovating, entrepreneurship, self-directed learning, collaboration, and global citizenship.  Most importantly technology should expand learning beyond the classroom walls. If technology integration does not align with these criteria, then it is irrelevant to increasing student engagement.


Idella Washington Smith

Northcentral University School of Education

Doctoral Student, EdD – Teaching and Curriculum






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This article was written by Idella Smith, who is currently enrolled online at:

 Northcentral University School of Education

CT-7100-Dispositions: Learner and Teacher

Submitted to:  Dr. David Thomas

December 19,2021