Explore, Dig Deep, and Have Fun in Social Studies

As a social studies teacher and instructional technology specialist, I'm always looking for new ways to connect with students and help them find value in what they're learning. My goal is to spark a lifelong interest in our past. Here are three of my favorite digital tools for students in the social studies classroom that help them explore, dig deep, and have fun.



Explore with Field Trip

Field Trip is the first app I download on every mobile device I get. Why? Because it's fun! Field Trip uses your GPS coordinates to highlight interesting things nearby. I might get a notification that I'm near the location where Dark Knight Rises was filmed, a notification I'm close to the site where John F. Kennedy debated Richard Nixon in 1947 (that's right -- the presidential debate was not the first time those two squared off), or an old cartoon that depicts steamboat races that occurred near our school in the 1920s. You can use Field Trip when you're on a bus on an actual field trip, or use it from the comfort of your own classroom by exploring the map. Having students use Field Trip over a break can be a fun way of talking about where everyone traveled while still connecting to history.



Dig Deep with Google News Archive

I need to start by warning you that I've lost countless hours of my life down the rabbit hole that is the Google News Archive. It's just what the name implies -- a repository for old newspapers dating back as far as the early 1700s. You can browse an alphabetical list of newspaper titles or use the search bar to pull by keyword. This is a great way for students to learn about events from the perspective of someone who was there. For example, when we study the Establishment Clause, we can study the Supreme Court Case County of Allegheny v. American Civil Liberties Union and examine how it was reported in one of our local newspapers



Have Fun with Do I Have a Right? by iCivics

Do I Have a Right?, on the iCivics website, is a Web-based simulation in which students run their own law firm. They manage the firm by hiring lawyers, deciding if they should take a case, and assigning a lawyer to the case. To be successful, students need to understand their rights and which rights are protected by which amendments. Students grow their firms by carefully hiring more lawyers, running ads, and updating the office. There are two versions of the game; the original covers all the Amendments, and the second is the "Bill of Rights Edition," which includes only the first 10 Amendments. Over the years, my students have always had fun competing against their peers and, occasionally, their teacher.


Photo "Washington D.C. - Capitol Building Dome" by David Ohmer. Used under a CC BY-ND 2.0 license.

Kris H.

Kris Hupp is the Social Studies Department Chair and 21st Century Teaching and Learning Coach at Cornell High School in Coraopolis where he has taught since 2000. He currently teachers College in High School American Government through La Roche College and advises the senior high student council and the broadcasting club. Kris facilitates our professional learning community and book studies in the secondary. He is a Keystone Technology Integrator and holds certificates in PA as a social studies teacher and instructional technology specialist. Kris is a graduate of The Fund for American Studies’ Engalitcheff Institute on Comparative Political and Economic Systems at Georgetown University. He earned his B.S. Ed. in Secondary Education, Social Studies at Slippery Rock University and his M.S. Ed. in Instructional Technology at Duquesne University. He is a member of the Heinz History Center’s Educator Advisory Board, Three Rivers Educational Technology Conference (TRETC) planning committee and the Pittsburgh Kids+Creativity Network. In 2011 He presented at the International Society of Technology in Education (ISTE) Conference in Philadelphia on instructional coaching. Kris’ article, “Give Your Student News Program an Upgrade,” was published in the International Society for Technology in Education’s (ISTE) February 2014 issue of Learning and Leading with Technology. He was a Walmart Teacher of the Year in 2007, named as one of 101 Teachers of Excellence by the Teacher Excellence Center in 2007-2008, co-recipient of the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh’s George C. Oehmler Educator Award in 2013, and the Busting Boundaries Awardee for the Digital Innovation and Learning Awards (DILA) presented by Digital Promise and EdSurge in 2014.