Investigating social studies teachers’ implementation of an immersive history curricular unit as a cybernetic zone of proximal development

In this paper, we present illustrative vignettes and insights from the Digital Civic Learning (DCL) curriculum, which we developed and piloted in a hybrid format in the 2020-21 school year during the COVID-19 pandemic. We applied principles of culturally relevant and responsive education when designing and piloting the curriculum. In addition, technology tools such as the use of discussion boards, online synchronous discussions, and video essays were used to enhance online and face-to-face dialogic instruction. 

Insights from our pilot study suggest that our curriculum evidenced both success and challenges in serving minoritized students. Students and teachers reported that the curriculum helped them address issues that were relevant to their lives and communities, which made learning social studies more interesting and engaging. However, our curriculum was less responsive to the needs of minoritized students who participated in hybrid and online formats. Students and teachers reported that their home learning environments were not optimal for engaging in dialogic discussions and group activities. 

Our results highlight how inequities (e.g., lack of access to quality broadband) create obstacles to students’ learning experiences. Curriculum design should take into account structural inequities when integrating technology tools to enhance learning for minoritized students.