Coming of age: Research and pedagogy on geospatial technologies within K-12 social studies education
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Throughout the decades, technology use within education has gone through numerous iterations with each new technology promising a transformation for learners, instructors, and classrooms. From the audiovisual movement in the 1930s, the computer-assisted instruction movement in the 1970’s and 1980’s, and the Internet era of today, the field of educational technology is continually striving to understand how to best integrate technology within educational contexts in order to enhance instruction and learning – a goal that has not been realized. The lessons that researchers within the field of educational technology have learned from the past are that no technology is a panacea for education and that teachers will always be an important factor in better understanding how technology can influence learning (Roblyer, 2000; Clark, 1983, 1985, 1991, 1994). This trepidation about investment in and research about educational technology is also echoed within the field of social studies education. In the late 1990s, Martorella (1997) strongly urged social studies educators and their research communities to tap into the power of technology for supporting and transforming social studies teaching and learning. Although the research community has responded with a small sampling of research, the potential of technology, specifically geographic information systems (GIS), within social studies education has not been realized (e.g., Bednarz & van der Schee, 2006; Freeman, 2003). Ross (2000), editor of a special issue of technology in social studies within Theory and Research in Social Education noted, “until longitudinal in-depth studies incorporating technological and social studies instructional precepts are conducted, technology will only be given a brief nod of acceptance as something that is nice to think about but not a necessity within the social studies community” (p. 500). Furthermore, in response to Martorella’s (1997) comment that technology within the social studies is a “sleeping giant,” Bolick (2004) argues that the “giant is waking” in certain areas within the social studies and calls for collaboration between social studies teacher educators, instructional designers, and technology specialists in order to realize the potential of technology within social studies education. We agree with Bolick that this type of cross-discipline collaboration is necessary if the affordances inherent within and through the use of geospatial technologies (hereafter GTs) in the field of social studies education are to be realized. Specifically, GTs have great potential to enhance the teaching and learning of geography. We believe this vision of a fully awake and functioning “giant” can be a reality through taking to heart and understanding the lessons learned about technology integration from the field of learning technologies and from using theoretical frameworks focused on pedagogy as guides for future social studies educational research. In this chapter, we focus our discussion on technology research within the social studies by highlighting the lessons learned from the field of learning technologies, discussing the disconnect between theory and practice, discussing the current research on GT integration within the social studies, and finally, suggesting frameworks for future research on GT integration in K- 12 contexts.
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