Ask Marsha: Aps for High School Social Studies Class

With the onslaught of the Common Core into the classroom brings the need for technology for all students.  Many school districts are purchasing iPads and similar products for their students.  This is a blessing for teacher who could never get enough time in the computer lab.  The question one teacher asked me was what aps I recommended for social studies class.  That requires some research on my part.

Social Studies aps

However using any technology effectively is more complicated than adding aps to the student’s iPads, and turning them loose.  To start out with each student having almost the full use of a computer at their fingertips presents its own set of difficulties for the inexperienced teacher.

Dear Teacher,

The most important thing when you first start using iPads is instilling protocols. Will students have ultimate freedom to be connected to the internet at all times?  If you don’t trust the kids to stay with you, or you are just getting started, here is an article that tells how to lock the ipads.  http://www.wired.com/geekdad/2013/01/lock-ipad/.  Other questions that you need to discuss are:  How are they going to treat each other online? How are they going to use the internet? What about copyright issues? These are actually all social studies skills that need to be taught K-12.

Productivity Aps

I use mostly productivity aps: Evernote for taking and recording notes, Pages and Docs to go for word processing, Prezi and Slide Shark for presentations.  So whatever I could do with a desktop computer, I can do with the iPad. The possibilities are endless. As a social studies teacher, more important than having aps is that having iPads means students can research as never before.

I read an article about a number of geography aps that are primarily drill and kill type aps.  While all of these may be great aps for home use, they encourage simple learning of rote facts rather than the developing the complex thinking skills demanded of the 21st century student.  These aps remind me of the early Computer Assisted Technology such as practicing math facts, or reading skills.  There is nothing wrong with them as space fillers, but they shouldn’t be the primary diet of the day.

Lesson Idea

boy using ipad L

Students listen to many lectures, videos, or other presentations.  With the addition of iPads in the class, they can google the topic and immediately know more about the subject in seconds than the teacher can deliver in a 30 minute lecture.  They can find the teacher’s “mistakes,” especially those made on purpose – ie. controversial statements meant to engage students.

One wonderful way to use ipads would be for answering questions that come from students. For example, the teacher is in the middle of a lesson, and José asks a question.   Instead of the teacher responding, she/he asks the students to use different search engines to find out the answer.  This gives the teacher 100% student participation, which is the target goal to hit.  Depending on the complexity of the question, students could then break into groups, compare the answers, and debate them.  During the classroom discussion after the group sharing, the class can decide if further investigation is needed or if additional questions have been generated that need more research.  THEN the teacher can go on with the lesson.  If any awards are given, the teacher can stretch students to begin asking complex questions, and give an award for the best question of the day.

Additional Resources and Articles

  • Searching the internet for resources, I immediately liked Ed Technology and Mobile Learning’s site layout and recommendations of aps for social studies because they suggest aps that give students information with which to create.  They also have a page of aps for all teachers.
  • TCEA.org has a list of free aps that look fabulous.
  • This site lists many aps and has a short description to go with each.
  • Within that list is this is a site that lists History Social Studies Aps.  I haven’t checked them out, but the list is very long.
  • I’m not personally recommending this company, but they offer aps for their textbooks, as well as test prep.

These resources should be enough to help you start the school year.  Remember too, to think of California Council for the Social Studies, an affiliate of National Council for the Social Studies, and share what you are learning with us.  As you develop lesson plans go to CCSS.org and post a comment on our technology or California Council for the Social Studies Facebook Page  or post right on our wall at and describe your lesson to other teachers.  By recording it publicly, you also record it for yourself for next year!  🙂

Other helpful articles:

CCSS logo
California Council for the Social Studies

Author: Marsha

Hi, I'm Marsha Ingrao, and I'm working on retirement. heheh Read more about me here. http://wp.me/P7tP3I-2

11 thoughts on “Ask Marsha: Aps for High School Social Studies Class”

    1. Thanks JT! Where are my eyes? Yikes! It was an easy fix, though. I should send all my stuff through you for proofing. My husband usually does it, but he missed those! Sometimes I don’t even know how I came up with the mistakes I make! Yikes. Good to see you here, though! Come back soon. Are you swamped since you got Fresh Pressed?

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      1. Swamped, but not the FP. That lasted a day or two. I’m currently trying to learn/figure-out book marketing. Not too long ago all I wanted to do was write a few stories. Now I don’t get out and about very often anymore. I miss all my buddies.

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        1. What’s up with that JT? Step away from the computer! Life goes on. I was off the grid for three days. Amazing my world didn’t come to a complete end, but it was weird. I spent the whole day today sitting catching up! I took a few breaks, but it’s a beautiful day in paradise! 🙂

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          1. ok. I just sent a trouble ticket to wordpress support about the Music Player widget. It absolutely doesn’t work. I thought maybe you were using the ‘cloud music thing’ instead of the widget.

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