Friday, November 5, 2010

Harnessing the Educative Potential of Cell Phones in the Social Studies Classroom

Nationally, most schools ban students from using cell phones on school grounds (Scholastic, 2010). In fact, many administrators and teachers see these digital devices as nuisances that distract students from learning. Such noted distractions include students sending text messages in class, browsing the Internet, and taking pictures/video in school. Chris Deibler, Principal at Pound Middle School near Lincoln Nebraska, recently expressed such an opinion when interviewed in the Lincoln Journal: “We never allow a student to have a phone turned on or use it in the building- ever (Anderson, 9-30-2009).” This zero tolerance policy for student cell phone use in schools is quite common (Lenhart, 2009). Even though districts, principals, and teachers have adopted strict standards against student use of cell phones more than 2/3 of teens admit using their cell phones in school when they shouldn’t (Lenhart, 2009).

Distracters in the social studies classroom have always existed. From passing notes to doing math homework in social studies, students have always tested the boundaries. Especially, since students cite the social studies as one of their least favorite subjects (Martorella, 1997). The field has been especially plagued by its large dependence upon bias textbooks and teacher lectures (Loewen, 2010; Shaughnessy & Haladyana, 1985). These instructional methods often leave students thinking at lower-levels, bored and questioning the importance of the social studies. Marc Prensky, in Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants (2001), comments that when teachers incorporate new technologies into their instruction they genuinely get students excited about learning and often tap into their culture and digital interests. In an age where technology has redefined commerce, communication, advocacy, the integration of these technologies in the social studies classroom can help students gain the skills and etiquette needed to use these technologies appropriately. Furthermore, this technology (cell phones) can serve as an important platform in getting student excited about the social studies (Greenhut & Jones, 2010).

Student Use of Cell Phones

Today’s cell phones hold unprecedented potential for both teachers and students in promoting learning. This holds special significance since according to a 2009 Pew Research Study, 71% of students aged 12-17 own a cell phone (Lenhardt, 2009). As teens get older, they are more likely to own a cell phone. For instance, 83% of teens aged 15-17 own a cell phone (Lenhardt, 2009). This number is growing rapidly, and students are more likely to own a cell phone than a laptop computer. From such basic functions as planners, clocks, and cameras to more smart functions like searching online encyclopedias and browsing the Internet, cell phones are evolving into sophisticated micro-computers. In fact, smart phones hold many of the same capabilities of computers. While smart phones are growing in popularity, this manuscript will learn towards the integration of basic cell phone functions in the classroom. These discussed applications include: Using text messaging to search and translate, sending out free notices to students and parents, making Power Point presentations interactive, and using cell phones to add commentary to a slide-show. These applications were selected for three reasons:

1. All of these applications hold great educative potential in the social studies.
2. While basic cell phone data and minutes rate apply, these applications are free to teachers and students.
3. These resources are user-friendly, and offer educators resources and strategies on the integration of these technologies into their classroom.

Student Use of Text Messaging : SMS (Short Message Service)

Teen use of text messaging has dramatically increased in the past few years. According to a new study, Teens and Mobile Phones Over the Past Five Years, from the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American life Project, over 75% of teens that have a cell phone have unlimited text messaging (Lenhart, 2009). Moreover, more than half of all teens that text message send over 50 text messages a day, and one in three send more than 100 messages a day (Lenhardt, 2010). The Pew Report goes on to cite texting as “… the form of communication that has grown the most for teens during the last four years (Lenhard, 2009).” Between 2006 and 2009, the percent of teens that use texting to contact friends outside of school on a daily basis has gone from 27 to 54 percent. Face-to-face contact, instant messaging, mobile voice and social network messaging have remained flat during the same period, while use of e-mail and the landline phone have decreased (Lenhardt, 2009). The widespread availability of unlimited text messaging plans has “…transformed communication patterns of American teens, many of whom now conduct substantial portions of their daily conversations with friends via texting (Lenhardt, 2009)).


As students turn to text messaging at greater rates, Google Mobile has tapped into this technology to allow teachers and students to access a great deal of information. While Google is known as the Internet’s largest search engine provider, its platform of free mobile products holds great educative potential. Google SMS allows students to access real time information, definitions, translations, stock prices, and maps (Google SMS, 2010). Thus, Google SMS is a dictionary, newspaper, atlas, translation guide, and calculator all in one. All students have to do is text their inquiry to GOOGLE (466453) and then the provider will text message results back. Of course, handsets must be SMS capable and students should be authorized to send text messages as standard text messaging rates apply.

When teaching an economics course, students could be asked to look up the actual stock quote of Target Corporation via Google SMS. To do this, students would have to text sock tgt to GOOGLE (466453). Or, if students wanted to review a map of Cleveland, Ohio, they could text Map downtown Cleveland Ohio to GOOGLE. Besides reviewing stock prices and maps of locations around the world, GOOGLE SMS provides a host of other features social studies teachers and students can tap into to promote learning.

2. Joopz

Joopz is a service offered by MobileSphere that allows teachers the opportunity to send out mass text messages to students and parents using their PC keyboard (, 2010). No longer must teachers use the microscopic keypad on their cell phones to individually alert parents to upcoming important dates (i.e. parent teacher conferences, field trips, or test dates). Social studies teachers can also use Joopz to send out text message reminders to students about their homework assignments, due dates, and other announcements.

When you sign up with Joopz, you provide your mobile telephone number along with your name, e-mail address, and a password. Once verified through an e-mail, Joopz provides users with a variety of different resources that have important instructional implications:

A. Teachers can send out mass group text messages to students and parents. Furthermore, the website easily allows teachers to manage which participants receive text messages. The teacher can also browse the history of all text messages distributed.

B. Teachers can construct SMS messages in advance, and then schedule these messages to be sent out on a future date/time.

The free basic account allows teachers to send 10 outgoing messages to each group per month. For those users that receive the SMS messages, only standard text messaging rates apply. The Joopz service will appeal to teachers wishing to correspond with parents and students through bulk text message, while not having to type individual SMS messages using the tiny cell phone keys.

3. Yodio

Using the Internet and a cell phone, students can add their voice and audio to a slide show. After creating and uploading a slideshow to Yodio, students call in from their cell phone to add music or a narrated track (, 2010). First, users are asked to complete a simple registration process whereby they construct an account that includes the cell phone number they will record from. This number is private, and will never be shared or published. Yodio will use this phone number to recognize the user when they call in to add narration or audio to a slideshow. After users have created a profile and activated their account, they are free to upload slideshows and pictures. Then, users call 1-877-MY-YODIO (699-6346) and follow the prompts to make their recording. After recording their narration, users return to their account at to pair their recording with the slideshow/photo. When students are done, they can share their narrated slide show by publishing it to the web, embedding it in a blog, or by e-mailing it to others.

In American History classes, students could be asked to create slideshows on an important topic in U.S. History. For instance, students may be asked to create a slideshow on the Civil Rights Movement. After researching key figures, events, and issues, students could compile important pictures and images into a slideshow. Then, using their cell phones, students could narrate their slideshow and discuss important themes, concepts, and historical figures. After adding audio to their presentation, students could publish their narrated slideshow to the web or house it on their teacher’s or school’s website.


Social studies teachers are amongst the worst abusers of Power Point presentations and slideshow software to deliver instruction (VanFossen, 1999; Whitworth & Berson ,2003). Social studies teachers often use slide shows that promote lower-level thinking, rote-memorization, with an over-abundance of text (Gabriel, 2008). While there are many ways social studies teachers can enhance the quality of their slideshow presentations, there’s one cell phone SMS based technology that makes PowerPoint slide shows interactive and engaging for students. is a device that allows teachers to embed interactive polls and quizzes into their PowerPoint presentations (, 2010). Students can respond to questions and vote for a particular selection in the social studies through sending text messages. This technology actually lets students use their cell phones to text their votes and opinions into a PowerPoint presentation. The free plan requires that visitors sign-up for an account (they ask for the usual information: name, e-mail address). The free plan is also limited in that only 30 votes can be recorded per poll (so the teacher has a class of fewer than 30 students each student can vote once per question).

After signing up for an account, the teacher has a choice of what type of poll they want to create and embed into a PowerPoint presentation. They can include a fixed response poll whereby students select from possible choices (much like when the audience is asked to text their responses to American Idol). Another type of poll offered is for opened response answers. After the teacher poses a question to students (such as ‘What are your feelings on global warming?’), students can use their cell phones to text their response into the presentation. As student respond, their answers automatically appear in real time into the PowerPoint presentation. The teacher needs a stable Internet connection and computer to display these results to their students. Also, students should be aware that standard text-messaging rates apply.


Today’s cell phones hold unprecedented potential for both teachers and students in promoting learning in the social studies (Friedman, 2010; Greenhut & Jones, 2010). This hold special significance since according to a 2009 Pew Research Study, 71% of students aged 12-17 own a cell phone (Lenhart, 2010). This number is growing rapidly, and students are increasingly gaining access to more sophisticated cell phones. From such basic functions as planners, clocks, and cameras to more smart functions like searching online encyclopedias and browsing the Internet, cell phones are evolving everyday. This article described ways in which social studies teachers can harness the potential of cell phones in the classroom. The discussed applications included: Using SMS (text-messaging) to search and translate, sending out free reminders to students and parents, making Power Point presentations interactive, and using cell phones to add commentary to slideshows.

As students’ access to cell phones increase (Lehnart, 2010), and as new applications and software becomes available, cell phones will continue to grow in their functionality and capability. While it is true that cell phones can be distractions, much like watches and comic books of previous generations, the real test comes in social studies teachers harnessing the massive potential of cell phones in the social studies classroom. Instead of banning all cell phone use, teachers and administrators should encourage proper cell phone etiquette and their appropriate usage as learning tools. Like any classroom technologies, students should learn that having the ability to use this tool is a privilege that can be taken away if used inappropriately. Simply disallowing and prohibiting the use of cell phones by students, especially, as they grow in educational capabilities, marginalizes their ability to serve as 21st century tools that allow students to access information, communicate, and present new information.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The State of Social Studies Education in Ohio

Ohio has recently completed the revision of its social studies standards. While the standards have been adopted (ODE, 2010), school districts will be given some time to transition from the old social studies standards to the new standards. Under the previous model, students were expected to pass an end of the year high school graduate test in social studies (The Ohio Graduate Test). This assessment was/is aligned to the Ohio Academic Content Standards for the Social Studies (OACSSS). These standards included such areas as American History, World History, Economics, American Government, Geography, and People’s in Societies, Citizen Rights and Responsibilities, and Social Studies Skills and Methods. Ohio’s standards were amongst the first in the nation to be both content and skills based. Besides encouraging 21st Century skills and understandings, the Ohio Academic Content Standards in the Social Studies promoted an interdisciplinary approach to teaching the social studies.

Besides updating the Ohio Academic Content Standard for the Social studies, the state is also in the process of updating its high school graduation requirements. While the final requirements are still in flux most social studies professionals believe the new assessment system will be a big change from its predecessor. The old graduation requirements required that all students:

1. Complete 3 Units of Social Studies: ½ a unit must be in American History and another ½ must be in American Government.

2. Successfully pass an Ohio Graduation Test in the Social Studies. This assessment gauged students’ knowledge in American History, World History, Economics, American Government, Geography, and People’s in Societies, Citizen Rights and Responsibilities, and Social Studies Skills and Methods.

As a result of these previous graduation requirements, school districts found it essential to offer many social studies options to students. These options included: American History, World History, American Government, Economics, Geography, Sociology, Psychology, and Problems of Democracy/Current Events. These course offerings were essential in having students meet state graduation requirements AND prepare students to pass the social studies section of the Ohio Graduate Test.

However, the new standards and proposed assessment system makes significant cuts to the social studies curriculum. In the new system, students are still expected to complete 3 units of social studies for graduation: ½ unit must be in American History, ½ unit must be in American Government, and ½ unit must be in Economics/Financial Literacy. This means that students are able to take another 1 ½ units in Geography, Sociology, Anthropology, etc.

Most troubling to social studies educators and researchers in Ohio is the disregard for world history and global issues in the new social studies standards and proposed assessment system. For high school students to graduate in the new assessment system, students are not required to take world history nor are they assessed in world history in an end of the year exam. The new assessment system is very nationalistic and will only test student knowledge in American History and American Government. In the previous assessment system, all students were assessed on their knowledge in world history. Thus, school districts found themselves having to offer students world history in order to prepare them for the state graduation test. Since it’s not tested or required for graduation, many fear world history will not be taught. Simply put, social studies course offerings will dry up and valuable resources and teachers will be reduced. This reduction will have a significant negative influence on student understanding of world events, global issues, and the profound impact globalization has and continues to have politically, economically, environmentally, and socially. All this at a time when students in Ohio and around the United States need to understand the influence of global and international forces the most (i.e. Wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the current global economic recovery).

In order to call concern to this issue, I along with the Ohio Council for the Social Studies (OCSS) am advocating changes to the proposed social studies graduation and assessment requirements. The stakes are too high for students not to have the knowledge and skills necessary to navigate a complicated and connected global system. In order to turn out informed, active, and responsible citizens in a global age we must ensure all students receive training in world history and global studies.

(Below is a copy of a letter sent to my Ohio House and Senate representatives emphasizing the importance of their support for a strong P-12 Social Studies curriculum in Ohio Schools. Feel free to use my letter as a template in contacting members of the Ohio State House)

As a teacher educator, an avid voter, and a citizen deeply concerned about the future of the State of Ohio, I’m asking that you work to curtail the cuts made to social studies education in Ohio. At a time when our nation needs the cultivation of historically aware and geographically literate and economically attune citizens, the Ohio Legislature has weakened social studies instruction in k-12 education.

I ask that you work together with your colleagues to introduce the following measures to restore the vitality of the social studies for our youth. This Educating Ohio’s Citizen’s for a Globally Interconnected Age Bill should do the following:

o Restore K-8 assessments
There is ample research and evidence to illustrate that schools reduce the instructional time and resources for social studies when it is not part of the state assessment program. The “suspension” of the 5th and 8th grade Ohio Achievement Tests for social studies will likely continue (according to legislators) in the next biennium and will erode the social studies program K-8, leaving Ohio’s students unprepared for more rigorous studies at the high school or college level.

o Require world studies as part of the 3 required social studies credits
By including world studies in the Ohio Graduation Test, Ohio assures that all Ohio public school students will receive a survey course in modern world studies. The assessment program that is replacing the OGT may focus only on American History and American Government, relegating world studies to an elective status. We believe that students cannot be prepared for college, careers, or engaged citizenship without a basic understanding of modern world events and trends, such as globalization. Currently, Ohio Revised Code lists ½ credit in American History and ½ credit in American Government as requirements. Since there are three Carnegie Units in social studies required, adding world studies to the required courses would not add to what schools currently offer, and because schools already staff for world studies, it would not add costs to schools.

o Require assessment of world studies as part of the high school assessment program. World studies is currently assessed on the OGT and needs to remain part of the assessment program as Ohio transitions to the end-of-course exams.

I look forward to your support and vote towards successfully educating the youth of Ohio in a globally interconnected age.


Dr. Brad M. Maguth
Professor of Teacher Education
Social Studies Program Coordinator
Hiram College

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Using Technology in the Social Studies Classroom

I have been experimenting with a few different digital technologies that teachers of the social studies can infuse in their classrooms. Here's an example of one technology (xtranormal) that allows students and teachers to create short animated videos on different topics. Users control the characters, the audio, the script, and even camera angels. Also, after publishing their video, users can use Microsoft Movie Maker to add titles, additional audio, and edit the footage. Here's an example of one video I created using these programs. In this video, Larry King Interviews Sarah Palin on the current state of social studies education in k-12 education.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Social Studies & GLBT Issues: It's Time for a Celebration

Social Studies and Controversial Issues:

If there ever was a discipline predicated on the development of citizens that are equipped to reasonably address controversial issues it’s the social studies (NCSS, 2010). Dianna Hess at the University of Wisconsin is at the forefront of this march to help prepare social studies teachers in addressing controversial issues. One of the key features Dr. Hess discusses is the need for students to audit their biases and approach issues with an open mind.

Analyzing My Preconceived Notions: Gay Pride 2010

The reason I bring this up is I yielded this advice as I attended the 2010 Columbus Gay Pride Festival. Knowing that issues like gay marriage and gay family rights are controversial in many parts of the United States, especially, here in Ohio, I sought to better inform myself of this controversy. To better understand my perceptions on this issue, I drew on my initial impressions of what this parade/festival might look like. This included images of a massive amount of angry religious protesters yielding hateful signs and ugly rhetoric. In fact, I envisioned the Stonewall Riots and clashes with police. I also imagined overt expressions of same-sex sexuality and loud dance music (mainly Cher and Madonna). This is the picture painted in my mind as a result of being socialized into this issue, mainly through the media. I can’t help but think of how many students and citizens today hold this stereotypical image in their mind.

Bearing Witness: Gay Pride 2010

What I encountered at the Columbus Gay Pride Festival was nothing like I had imagined. With more than 200,000 people attending this celebration (yes, that’s more that the seating capacity at The Ohio State University’s Football Stadium), it was clear that this was a celebration. In fact, the theme of the festival was ‘Celebrate Our Families’. I came away from this parade with a sense of guilt and frustration that stemmed from the media distorting what these celebrations/festivals were about. What I discovered was that Gay Pride was more than music, parades, and a few protesters. It was about the GLBT community telling their neighbors, their community, and their world ‘we exist’ and we’re good, law-abiding, tax-paying individuals that for too long have been treated as second-class citizens. What was even more impressive was that a vast number of those in attendance were heterosexuals telling their fellow citizens, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, grandmothers, grandfathers, aunts, uncles, and grandchildren we know you ‘exist’ and we love you.

What I Learned: Who Gets to Define The Controversy?

This year’s theme, Celebrate Our Families, served as an opportunity for the GLBT community to showcase their families to the world. I define family not as one mother and one father but as something more powerful and important. I see a family as an exclusive group of people that love and care for one another during times of joy and even distress. When I think of family, I think of an underage son knowing that he’s made a mistake and had too much to drink, can’t drive, and ops to call the person he trusts the most in this world, his father. While at the Pride Festival, I saw lesbian mothers reading to their children, gay fathers playing Frisbee with their children, and moreover, I witnessed family members having fun and taking solace in their membership in a loving family unit. I think it's time for the social studies, which has been largely quiet on this issue, to embrace, accept, and foster this healthy sense of family. Attending this Pride Festival allowed me to gain a clearer image of what it means to be a family (even if the care-givers are GLBT). Upon leaving the festival, I gained a new picture of family. This picture is one of a proud grandmother holding a sign the read, “My grandson’s gay and I love him”.

The Social Studies & Controversial GLTB Issues: Running with its Tail between its Legs

While scholars like Dr. Hess have done a wonderful job depicting the need to embed best practice in addressing controversial issues in the social studies, the field as a whole has “Run like a dog with its tail between its legs” in addressing GLTB issues. In a recent search of Social Education, the Social Studies’ most influential journal for teachers of the social studies, there was an appalling lack of attention to this vital issue. One could attest that the journal has failed in ALL areas to acknowledge the existence of Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals, and Transgender citizens, let alone their families. Thus, the field predicated on citizenship education only facilitates the second class citizenship or marginalization of GLBT individuals.

In my review of the literature in Social Education, only one manuscript published back in 2003 spoke to this issue directly. Ironically enough, this article by Stephen J. Thornton, Silence on Gays and Lesbians in Social Studies Curriculum (see Social Education 67(4) p. 226-230) described the lack of attention to GLBT history in the social studies. Furthermore, it was placed near the back of the journal. One could argue that the editors should have read Dr. Thornton’s article more closely. While scholars like Stephen Thornton and Margret Crocco (See Gender and Sexuality in the Social Studies, Handbook of Research in Social Studies Education, p. 172-196.) have spoken directly to GLBT issues in the social studies, there’s still a lack of support, vision, and research on this topic. No longer should the social studies muddle and closet GLBT citizens, their families, and their histories under the classification of ‘controversial issues’. Much like I witnessed at the Columbus Gay Pride & Festival, it’s time that the social studies begin to celebrate the contributions of GLBT citizens, their history, and their families. Especially, since today’s media tends to be more concerned with fueling the social wars to sell newspapers than accurately informing the next wave of America’s citizens. All members of the social studies community should demand greater resources to help teachers educate their students on the existence of GLTB citizens, their families and their histories. These resources should include more lesson plans, activities, research, and even a Bulletin from NCSS.

To learn more about GLBT History See:
GLBT History

To learn more about GLBT Issues in Teaching the Social Studies, see:

At the Elementary Level:

Wade, R. (1995). Diversity Taboos: Religion and Sexual Orientation in the Social Studies, Social Studies and the Young Learner, 7(4), pp. 19-22.

At the Middle/ High School Level:

Teaching Tolerance (2010). Anti-Gay Discrimination in Schools. A project by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Accessed on 7-5-2010 at

Current Research on GLTB Issues:

Crocco, M.S. (2008). Gender and Sexuality in the Social Studies. In Levstik & Tyson (Eds.), Handbook of Research in Social Studies Education (pp. 172-196). New York, NY: Routledge.

Crocco, M.S. (2002). Homophobic Hallways: Is Anyone Listening?” Theory and Research in Social Education, 30(2), p. 217-232.

Mayo, J.B. (2007). Negotiating sexual orientation and classroom practice(s) at school. Theory and Research in Social Education, 35(3), p. 447-464.

Thornton, S.J. (2002). “Does Everybody Count as Human?” Theory and Research in Social Education, 30(3), p. 178-189.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

OCSS 2010 Presentation: Researching, Producing, Presenting

On April 15th, 2010, over 45 social studies educators and professionals from around Ohio and the United States showed up to participate in a discussion on the role of technology and global education in the social studies at The Annual Conference of the Ohio Council for the Social Studies. This discussion stemmed from a recently published article in Social Education entitled, Researching, Producing, Presenting: Students’ Use of Technology for Global Advocacy in Social Studies (Maguth, Yamaguchi, & Elliott, 2010).

OCSS Res Prod Presenting Tech and Global 2010

In this session, Dr. Maguth discussed the importance of teachers getting students to use technology constructively to forge a global perspective in the social studies. In order to make the presentation as interactive as possible, and to demonstrate the use of a new technology, Dr. Maguth used PollEverywhere. As discussed in an earlier posting (see below), PollEverywhere is a free program whereby teachers can create online polls that students can respond to through the use of their cell phones/text messaging. These polls can be embedded in Power Point presentations, and hold great instructional utility.

While the use of PollEverywhere added life to the discussion, the bulk of Brad's presentation focused on the Global Advocacy Project, a project implemented by a STEM High School in the Columbus, Ohio area. In this project, students used technology meaningfully throughout three different phases of the project:

Stage 1: Students as Researchers- Students used technology (mainly, the Internet) to research the eight UN Millennium Development Goals. This included researching the progress/lack of progress some states are making towards achieving the goals. Students were encouraged to access multiple sources, thinking critically about the data collected, and use SKYPE and e-mail to interview experts on their topic.

Stage 2: Students as Producers- After using technology to research state progress towards fulfilling the MDGs, students were asked to create a proposal to help accelerate progress on one specific MDG. For instance, after researching a lack of progress in regards to Ensuring Environmental Sustainability (MDG 7), one student proposed a potential multilayered solution to help developing states (mainly, in Sub Saharan Africa) achieve access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation. Then, she used iMovie to create a digital documentary on her proposal.

Stage 3: After using technology to create a digital artifact (i.e. Narrated Slideshow, digital documentary, website, etc.), students were asked to use their work for advocacy and to encourage greater societal awareness on this issue. Thus, the teacher created a YouTube channel whereby all students uploaded their artifact. Besides uploading these videos to YouTube for public display, the teacher embedded student videos on the school's webpage. Furthermore, many students embedded these movies on their Facebook and Myspace pages to draw attention towards their research. Besides presenting their artifacts digitally, the students also presented their research in person to members of their local community.

Students used technology appropriate and constructively in all three phases of the project. With over 87% of all students aged 12-17 using the Internet (Pew Research, 2010), and 80% of all teachers believing students' use of technology positively influences their learning, Dr. Maguth encouraged all social studies educators to devise instructional methods and assessments that both foster 21st Century Skills (Researching, Producing, Presenting), and appeal to the interests of students living in a digital and global age. Especially, since the majority of student technology use in the social studies encourages low level thinking (Friedman, 2008).

To access Dr. Maguth's presentation at the 2010 OCSS Annual Conference, Click Here

To access Dr. Maguth's global education lesson plans and activities, Click Here

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Social Studies: Fostering the Next Wave of Consumer Citizens, Investors, and Entrepreneurs

In the midst of one of our nation’s worst economic disasters, employment and job creation have been at the forefront of national, state, and local agendas. With unemployment well over 10%, citizens are demanding more out of their government to put people back to work and do more to improve wages. This was evident in President’s Barrack Obama’s State of the Union Address in January that almost entirely focused on job creation in the United States. As our nation’s businesses work to rebound, it’s clear that as a nation we have to look long and hard at creating the type of jobs that put Americans back to work, and pay a livable salary. Due to an increase in global forces, countries are now competing with one another for these ‘jobs’ of the future (‘green’ jobs, technology, marketing, etc.)

Knowing that k-12 education is the most fundamental national apparatus to prepare the next wave of citizens and business owners/managers with the skills, understandings, and attitudes necessary to help bolster the national economy, there needs to be a thorough examination of where ‘economic education’ fits into the curriculum. Furthermore, knowing that the marketplace is changing (due to both global and technological forces) we must ask our self as a nation whether our students are ready for this new global environment.

When looking closely at the different content areas, it’s clear that one area of study stands out in preparing the next wave of informed and skilled entrepreneurs and consumer citizens needed in these challenging economic times. Economics, public policy courses, global studies courses, and many other financial literacy courses are often housed in the social studies. For instance, as of 2010, all Ohio high school students must take course work in both economics and finances. The Ohio Department of Education has placed these courses under the umbrella of the social studies. The field charged with the preparation of informed and active democratic citizens has embraced the importance of students learning about key economic literacies such as consumption, production, and distribution (NCSS, Curriculum Standards, 2008). Now, under current economic pressures, states and national organizations are advocating the importance of the social studies to job creation and the nation’s economic health.

Harnessing the power of the social studies in a time of national need is not new. In fact, during WWII, the federal government used the social studies to “Mobilize a Nation to War.” No other discipline holds the capability to inform students and citizens of their rights and responsibilities in strengthening the republic. Thus, it is no surprise that the business community, legislatures, administrators, teachers, and institutions of the social studies are advocating a strong social studies education in bolster our nation’s economy.

What is a surprise is that while a strong social studies education holds so much promise in equipping future business owners/entrepreneurs and consumer citizens with the skills needed to invest in our country, the social studies has come under attack. In a time when the United States is engaged in two wars, an economic crisis, and critical political debates over the future of the nation, the social studies is being squeezed out of the curriculum. In elementary schools, the social studies is being eliminated due to an increased focus on reading, writing, and math (Wills, 2007; McGuire, 2007). What is most disturbing is that even when social studies is taught at the elementary level, it is often used only as an apparatus for literacy development (Maguth, Pending). This sort of approach completely ignores the call by the National Council for the Social Studies for elementary school teachers to infuse the many integrated disciplines of the social studies (history, geography, economics, global studies, etc.) in their teaching. The most influential journal for elementary school teachers, Social Studies and the Young Learning, advocates the importance of teaching key economic skills in their February, 2010 issue (see ). However, with the social studies being marginalized and hijacked by an exclusive focus on literacy development in many elementary schools, these vital called forth economic literacies are often left out of teachers’ instruction.

At the high school and middle school level, the social studies has also come under attack. Due to a greater emphasis on teaching to standardized tests, social studies teachers often teach for rote memorization to increase scores on yearly tests (Heafner, 2006). Thus, the quality of social studies instruction can suffer greatly, making students dread their time in class (Shaughnessy & Haladyana,1985). This does little to further the mission of the social studies of fostering informed and active democratic citizens. Furthermore, with a national call to bolster STEM Education, and an increase in charter schools devoted entirely to Science and Math, the social studies is increasingly held hostage to a movement that devalues its worth and, at times, its existence.

Global and Social Studies Education

The website/blog allows educators in the social studies to reflect upon key issues in the social studies. It also allows teachers the opportunity to access resources that help infuse instructional media and technology, and global perspectives in their teaching.