Why combine social studies with language arts? Because language, reading, writing, and speaking are woven threads in the fabric of social studies. Reporting, debating, persuading, and decision-making skills are found in both curricula. Collaboration between social studies topics and reading and writing assignments in language arts deepens understanding through reading about related social studies topics and provides students the opportunity to refine and polish their social studies writing activities. The effect is a reciprocal enhancement of both social studies and language arts by bringing relevancy to language arts assignments while giving students the opportunity to mold, expand, and present their ideas and projects.

The primary purpose of social studies as stated by the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) is to help people develop the ability to make informed and reasoned decisions for the public good as citizens of a culturally diverse, democratic society in an interdependent world. Social studies educators facilitate their students' building content knowledge, intellectual skills, decision-making skills, and civic values necessary for fulfilling the duties of citizenship in a participatory democracy. Students should be challenged in their social studies classes. They should be made to think. They need to understand what the world is all about. They have to know how to make informed decisions. In order to properly prepare students, educators must use the most current information available to them. Never before has information been so accessible, from textbooks, to media, to the Internet. Educators can no longer be expected to know all, but they can be expected to guide their students in the search for information, analysis of information, and use of information. As the students synthesize and evaluate information, they use the resources available to them to create products that display their new knowledge. Throughout the learning process in both social studies and language arts, technology can be integral.

The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) and the International Reading Association believe that technology opens up new worlds to students, making available a tremendous assortment of information, ideas, and images. It also provides new motivation for writing and allows students to assume greater responsibility for their own learning. English and language arts teachers must enable students to develop their abilities in speaking, listening, reading, writing, viewing, and visual representation. In the Elementary School Practice position paper published by NCTE it is stated that children learn best when they are working on meaningful projects -- actively involved in experiments or explorations on a range of topics that interest them, when they can share their new ideas with others, and when they can take control of and reflect upon their own learning. Technology opens great opportunities to accomplish the standards of English and language arts.

The writing process is P.O.W.E.R -- prewriting, organizing, writing, editing, and revision and rewriting. Applications that help the students with these steps -- graphic organizers and word processing programs -- are powerful tools in the hands of students. When asked how technology helped them with the writing process, students said:

"On the computer you get to edit to make your writing better so other people can read your ideas."

"It would be hard to write everything down by hand because your hands get all sweaty holding the pencil and you need lots of paper because you have to copy everything over. And with a pencil you have to erase, and sometimes the erasing doesn't work very well, and the paper tears. When you have the computer, you can just delete and type again!"

"There are always new things, new opportunities. It's exciting."

Students interviewing elder
Pre-writing: Gathering information from elder by conducting an interview. Credit: GLEF

In a perfect blend of social studies, language arts, and technology, students participating in the International Education and Resource Network's (iEARN) First People's Project share their stories, poems, photographs, and art work, displaying them on the Internet and exchanging packages through the mail once a year. Students from Pearl River Elementary School in Philadelphia, Mississippi, conduct interviews with their elders about their tribe's rich history. Moments after their interviews, the students present their stories and digital photographs to a global audience on five continents. The project for the Pearl River students evolved into a cultural awareness about students in Thailand. The Pearl River students sent blankets and raised money to send a generator to the school in Thailand. Find out more in New Technologies Link Ancient Cultures.

The study "The Future of Children: Children and Computer Technology" by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation suggests that technology can enhance how children learn by supporting four key components of learning: (1) active engagement; (2) participation in groups; (3) frequent interaction and feedback, and (4) connections to real-world experts.

Look at the research findings on student learning in CARET's Questions & Answers for the question "How can technology influence student academic performance?"

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