Teaching Social Studies with PowerPoint

Published: 11th June 2010
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Mentioning PowerPoint often brings to mind an official presentation in a corporate boardroom. However, PowerPoint is increasingly being used in the classroom, as educational tools during lessons. Teaching social studies with PowerPoint is a particularly effective way to maximize the potential of the program in education technology.

Social studies is a discipline with many aspects, covering practical and historical, economic and conceptual subjects, and thus can be difficult to teach, and lessons can be hard to structure. PowerPoint provides an effective solution to this problem as their slide and text format provides a tidy, clear, framework for presenting social studies lesson plans.

PowerPoint lessons are easily carried by teachers on lightweight CD-Roms. This reduces the need to carry heavy texts at all times. They also facilitate the multiple-choice test format, common in social studies lessons. Tests can be sent to students on their computers, filled out and returned to the examiner easily. This saves on printing and photocopying costs.

Teachers can also use PowerPoint to present social studies games, a popular classroom activity during lessons and fun way to test students' subject knowledge.

Teaching social studies with PowerPoint has the added advantage that information can be electronically circulated to students, making for effective follow-up study after lessons and clarifying any confusion with names or dates. Class notes can also be passed on easily to students who miss classes or even social studies students who are based in other cities or countries.

A 1995 pilot project carried out in Dayton Ohio's Wright State University found that PowerPoint is a popular tool with students. 71 percent of students questioned said they made lessons more interesting. This is especially the case when care is taken with presentations and clip art or original images are used. The study also showed that students who considered themselves visual learners especially benefited from the use of this technology during lessons.

However, the implementation of PowerPoint within the social studies faculty is not as straightforward as it seems. It requires a time investment as book information must be converted into Powerpoint, an investment which some social studies teachers might not be willing to make. Also, not all teachers are eager to embrace new technologies within the classroom. Some consider it distracting, others unnecessary, during lessons.

Even when teachers do embrace teaching social studies with PowerPoint, it is important that they do so professionally. An inept teacher struggling to co-ordinate facts and figures will distract from the material and disrupt the lesson.

There is the possibility that teaching social studies using PowerPoint might encourage laziness. Some teachers could be prompted to simply sit behind the computer and try to let it do the work for them rather than circulating through the classroom to maintain students alert. There is also the possibility that teachers might rely on PowerPoint too much and that the empirical, practical elements of the lesson might be reduced.

A great option is to purchase professionally made PowerPoint classes. These are available for easy internet download, or can be delivered to homes or schools in CD and DVD format. They can be re-used every year, giving teachers a lot of mileage from a single purchase. And, given the hours it would take a teacher to produce the same materials, the prices are low.

It's like having a "classroom in a box" with PowerPoints that include lessons, crossword puzzles, exams and everything you need to teach. They're very flexible, as they can be used in many ways in the classroom, for instance, as an opening activity, in the middle of a unit, or for review. They are also easy for teachers to navigate, as they are organized with a hyperlinked table of contents.

Teachers don't actually need PowerPoint loaded on a computer if they buy these materials in DVD form. The DVD can be played on any computer or and even a DVD player with remote control.

They are ready out of the box (or after the download), with no editing necessary, but can be easily customized if a teacher does want to make changes. 

Besides being able to hold the attention of students, they are linked to national history standards and major state standards, which helps with state test prep, and can improve students' state test scores.

Overall, they offer great value to both teachers and students.

Written by Muireann Prendergast. MultiMedia Learning LLC provides social studies power points, as well as social studies games and history PowerPoints through their unique software. Students learn History through classroom social studies games and engaging technology. Learn more at http://www.multimedialearning.org.

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