Technology-based practices in social studies instruction for students with high-incidence disabilities

Jul 2, 2013, 12:36 PM
Boon, R. T., Fore, C., Blankenship, T., & Chalk, J. (2007). Technology-based practices in social studies instruction for students with high-incidence disabilities. Journal of Special Education Technology, 22(4), 41-56.


  • This study reviews the results of 18 studies published between 1980 and 2006 that evaluate technology-based interventions in social studies for students with high-incidence disabilities.
  • Participants in the studies ranged from elementary to secondary students with a mean age of 12.5 who had diagnoses of either learning disabilities or emotional/behavioral disorders.
  • The studies reviewed examined using the following technologies to assist with social studies instruction: computerized-study guides, project-based learning activities, computerized map tutorials, and concept mapping software.



  • The authors conducted an electronic and manual search for journal articles using social studies interventions with a technology component for students diagnosed with a high-incidence disability.
  • In addition, the publishers of the Inspiration software and university researchers in the field were contacted to provide information regarding any other relevant studies.
  • The articles found were each summarized in order to review of the effectiveness of various technology-based interventions.


Computerized Study Guide Interventions (6 studies)
  • Studies using computerized study guides allowed students to electronically access a summary of relevant information in order to enhance their content knowledge, increase recall and comprehension, and help students master the material.
  • In these studies, students read required passages, completed a computerized study guide, answered comprehension questions relating to the material, and completed a multiple choice exam.
  • The computerized study guide condition was found to lead to higher post-test performance than other study methods in a majority of the studies.
  • In addition, some studies demonstrated that students had better retention of information when using a computerized study guide.
Project-Based Learning Activities (6 studies)
  • Studies using this method had students engage in multi-media instruction in order to enhance their comprehension of text, motivation, and knowledge of social studies concepts.
  • Project-based learning tools included: online encyclopedias, word processing software with multimedia presentations, HyperAuthor, video-based anchored instruction, and student-created presentations.
  • Results of these studies were mixed; in 2 studies the addition of project-based technology tools did not improve student learning more than the traditional presentation format; however, other studies found that students’ knowledge and involvement in the social studies curriculum increased when project-based technology tools were used.
Computerized Map Tutorials (2 studies)
  • These studies used computerized maps to enhance the geography skills of students.
  • The computerized map was more effective than an atlas for increasing the geography skills of students in one study and led to more efficient memorization of country locations for students in the other study.
Concept Mapping (Inspiration Software - 4 studies)
  • Inspiration software was used in these studies to help students organize information, study, outline notes, summarize materials, expand upon concepts, and provide self-reflections via concept mapping.
  • Students’ use of the program led to increased mastery of content and improved recall of factual information.
  • Overall, this synthesis of research suggests that when used effectively, technology can greatly enhance the social studies achievement of students with disabilities.
  • Social Studies