Engaging diverse learners: lessons learned from a dialogic, technology-enabled social studies curriculum

There are numerous digital tools marketed to schools and educators, but often the latest technology can be costly and challenging to seamlessly integrate into instruction. Teachers may struggle to balance the use of digital content and in-person instruction in engaging and interactive ways.  

This article uses narrative inquiry and the work of the pioneering theorists in the field of technology and educational psychology to explain how elements of the DCL curriculum can help teachers accomplish such goals. Additionally, it discusses how digital tools combined with thoughtful face-to-face instruction and discussion can help students build interpersonal competencies like collaborative problem solving. The 27 fourth and fifth graders spoke of how teachers guided them through material, facilitated challenging conversations, and modeled thought processes, and became participant observers during small group discussions. 

Researchers argue that the actions of these educators, when combined with the inexpensive digital tools from the DCL curriculum, meaningful in-person discussions, and having a common problem to address created a new zone of proximal development for students to extend their learning. 

The article also includes suggestions and considerations for teachers when planning and integrating digital tools to create similar learning environments. For example, teachers get to know students' interests and online habits well enough to incorporate clear and seamless connections between online materials, in-person interactions, and course content.  

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