The year 2012 marked the 15th anniversary of Peter Martorella’s (1997) short but influential article, “Technology and the Social Studies—or: Which Way to the Sleeping Giant?” The College and University Faculty Assembly of the National Council for the Social Studies marked its anniversary with a symposium reflecting on the article and its aftermath. In 2014, Contemporary Issues in Technology and Social Studies Teacher Education will publish articles by social studies researchers who describe the evolution of technology integration in the field of the social studies and future research in this area.
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In his 1997 article “Technology and the Social Studies – or: Which Way to the Sleeping Giant?” Peter Martorella made several predictions regarding technology resources in the social studies. Through a 2014 lens, Martorella’s Internet seems archaic, yet two of his predictions were particularly poignant and have had a significant impact on social studies instruction: the phenomenon of “computer as data gatherer” (p. 513) and a “new generation” of the Internet that would become more interactive (p. 512). This paper highlights the literature in these two areas, beginning with a focus on the vantage point from which Martorella was writing. The paper also describes the learning potential inherent in more recent technological developments, particularly mobile technology devices, and the degree to which they are currently being used in K-12 social studies.
More than 15 years ago, Martorella (1997) asked what has now become a seminal question in the field of social studies and technology; that is, “Which way to the sleeping giant?” (p. 511). He suggested a number of roles that technology can play in the social studies classroom. Although these roles are certainly relevant in 2014, the roles of computer (as well as other digital technology tools and resources) as a means to deeper engagement with content and as a means for students to share their understanding in rich, divergent ways have emerged as two of the more robust opportunities for technology in the social studies. In these 17 years researchers have begun to explore ways in which technology can support disciplined inquiry in the social studies—particularly in terms of engaging students in historical thinking and providing students with opportunities to demonstrate their understanding of social studies skills and concepts through the creation of content. In this piece we trace efforts to engage students in these two learning opportunities for technology in the social studies.