How to teach social studies using interactive technology

How to teach social studies using interactive technology

December 16, 2022Arthur Vambaketes

Are you looking to learn how to teach social studies in the classroom? You can increase engagement, focus, and student learning in your social studies classroom with interactive lessons and technology. Getting students from passive participants to active participants in their learning can be the difference between failing and flourishing classrooms. Students can become immersed in fascinating social studies topics by actively participating in various activities, including virtual field trips, embeddable digital media in text and video, and even exciting assessments.

The Nearpod Social Studies Program is a K-12 supplemental curricular program that works with you to create immersive social studies experiences that make students a part of every instructional moment.

Nearpod elevates traditional classroom presentations into interactive experiences that take students to the next level in their learning with formative assessments, dynamic media, and real-time student insights. Teachers control the presentation on their devices or allow students to work at their own pace for individual or group work. In addition to creating your content, the Nearpod Library includes thousands of premade K-12 lessons, activities, and videos developed by their team of experts and brands like iCivics, BBC Worldwide, and World101.

How can I make interactive social studies lessons?

Interactive Social Studies Lessons Guide for Grades K-8 PDF preview

We’ve curated an Interactive Social Studies Lessons Guide for Grades K-8 so you can spend less time searching for resources and more time doing what you love: teaching. With ready-to-launch lessons, activities, and videos, these guides can help you remediate key skills, reteach concepts, and even prep for testing time.

How to teach social studies using interactive technology

1. Use an engaging hook

The attention of school-aged children and adolescents is short. Teachers compete with video games, social media, and everything else for students’ attention. That is why teachers are trained to begin each lesson with something that will hook their learners. This is called the launch, do now, or anticipatory set for those who have been around a while (thank you, Madeline Hunter).

Nearpod has amazing tools at the beginning of your lesson to hook today’s learners. Here is a couple:

  • Polls are an easy way to get students to interact with the lesson. Asking students for their opinions leads to a great dialogue. 
  • Collaborate Board allows students to respond and see other responses to a prompt. Nearpod has options like post-its or bulletin boards and allows teachers to review student responses before being shown to the students.

In the classroom, a teacher may poll the students to rate their opinion about a topic such as taxes to hook their learners into a class discussion before jumping into an economic or civic lesson. Or, use the Collaborate Board to ask students what they know about taxes to engage them. Either way, using Nearpod to catch the interest of your students will help them as they dive deeper into the material.

Collaborate Board being used in a social studies activity about good citizens

2. Use dynamic media to engage students

After you’ve generated excitement about the lesson, students need to build knowledge about the topic.. This is important because, eventually, students need to apply their new information in formative and/or summative assessments. When today’s generation, and previous ones, want to learn something new, what do they do? Yeah, they go to the internet. Nearpod has a multitude of ways to share information from the web. To keep the engagement a top priority in the lesson, students need resources that allow them to explore. Nearpod 3D is a great way to get students thinking about a particular topic. Students can actually observe and manipulate 3D images of temples from Mesoamerica or buildings such as the Sydney Opera House or Taj Mahal.

If a video is what you are looking for, Nearpod has you covered. With Nearpod’s Interactive Video tool, teachers can embed formative assessment questions into any video to take it from passive to active. Create your own video, upload your favorites, or use one of Nearpod’s thousands of K-12 standards-aligned videos from trusted educational publishers. BBC Video also has a collection to select from that includes everything from Athens and Democracy to Immigration, as well as Flocabulary Videos, which are videos about topics with hip-hop-style lyrics. And if you are looking for just audio or text, Nearpod has an Audio tool and PDF Viewer. With all these attractive options for students to explore and build their knowledge, the excitement around your lessons will continue to build!

Social studies video lessons from Flocabulary

3. Check for understanding with virtual reality lessons

Even as teaching transforms into a more facilitating role, students will still need some lecture-style lessons to clear up misconceptions and clarify the content for some learners. Nearpod allows the teacher to control the information on the student devices for a more personal presentation. This is great and seamless for virtual learning as well as the classroom.

Nearpod gives teachers the power to engage during the presentation with tools like Nearpod Virtual Reality (VR) Field Trips, PhET Simulation, and Sway. Nearpod has a virtual reality presentation collection that transports students out of the classroom and into social studies. Imagine the power of a lesson that ‘time-travels’ back to the Boston Tea Party when learning about the causes of the American Revolution. Now that is transformative learning!

How to teach social studies interactively using a Boston Harbor Virtual Reality (VR) Field Trip

The best part is teachers do informal assessments via tools like Fill in the Blanks, Quiz, or Draw It. These tools allow checks for understanding before students move on to independent activities. Accountability ensures engagement even during teacher lectures.

4. Practice and apply using formative assessment tools

Students are becoming proficient in new topics and need practice and application. Nearpod has various ways to allow students to practice their new knowledge and skills through interactive activities and formative assessments. Draw It is a great tool to have students complete graphic organizers and diagrams to practice. The presenter can share student examples with the class anonymously or with student names attached. Matching Pairs and Memory Tests, Quizzes, and Fill in the Blank tools also fit well in this part of the lesson.

Students can then apply their learning using Open-Ended Questions or a student favorite, Flip. Flip, which works alongside Nearpod, is a tool that allows students to create videos to authenticate learning. Often, these videos become remixes of videos that students watch on their own. Think about how-to videos, top-ten lists, or even mock news reports. Students have so much fun creating news programs with top stories, weather, and sports about the different African nations during a geography unit. Whatever the goal, your students will be engaged during the learning process and able to share their learning in original ways.

How to teach social studies online using a Flip topic activity

5. Turbocharge engagement with gamified learning

Even though your Nearpod presentation has allowed for multiple assessments during the lesson, one more tool must be shared. Of course, Quiz, Fill in the Blank, Memory Tests, and other tools can assess students at the end of the lesson. Time to Climb is an educational game where students compete using different characters to climb to the top. A review of the causes of the American Civil War will be an experience the students immerse themselves in if it is gamified in Time to Climb. As the facilitator, cheer on the students, do some play-by-play, and give rewards to the winners and participants! Music, sound, and competition will fuel engagement as the lesson ends.

Students playing Time to Climb as a social studies classroom games on their devices

Star teaching social studies with Nearpod’s interactive tools

Nearpod is the best educational technology tool because its myriad interactive tools increase student engagement throughout the lesson. Whether you use UbD, hyperdocs, the 5 E’s, or even a traditional format like Madeline Hunter’s, Nearpod has the tools and lessons that will have your students excited to learn in your classroom.

The Nearpod Social Studies Program is a K-12 supplemental curricular program that works with you to create immersive social studies experiences that make students a part of every instructional moment. Get 2,500+ standards-aligned interactive lessons, videos, and activities exclusive to the program to help you make every lesson memorable, bring social studies to life, and give students more ways to learn. This program is available as an add-on for school or district licenses.

New to Nearpod? Sign up for free here to access these lessons!

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