Social studies courses are almost tailor-made for digital learning, because information about history, geography, and culture can be portrayed through words, sounds, and visuals. Here are some well-regarded social studies software programs:

1. Map Detectives ( This is a game for elementary and middle school students that teaches geography and map-reading skills. By solving mysteries and finding stolen items, students learn to use maps, judge distances, and differentiate between time zones.

2. Disappearing World ( From the publisher that produces Map Detectives, this program is less of a game and more of an educational tool. It is a multimedia look at eight distinct cultures that are alive today, such as Spain’s Basque peoples and yam farmers in the West Pacific. It was designed for middle and high school students.

3. Smudge Discovers the World (http://www.storm– Designed for kids ages 5-9, this software is a pleasing introduction to new places and new worlds. The main character, Smudge the Spaniel, explores the differences and similarities of peoples and places. Supplemental parts of the CD-ROM package enable students to prepare postcards and maps.

4. Multimedia Collections ( This is a vast collection of clip art, video footage, and audio material that students can use to create reports. Subject matter runs the gamut, from the earliest historical cultures—such as Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, and Rome—to Renaissance Europe and key developments in American history. It can also serve as a valuable tool for teachers to enliven their classroom lectures.

5. New Millennium World Atlas Deluxe Education Edition ( Developed by Rand McNally, this is an interactive map of the world that can be shown on-screen as either a three-dimensional globe or a flattened wall map. By clicking on various parts of the map, users can call up geography, climatic, flora, and fauna facts. The atlas also provides history about each region. Students can save information into separate files for creating reports.

6. National Geographic Maps ( This is an atlas of every foldout map ever published in National Geographic magazine, and an extraordinary resource. The maps also include links to supplemental information and the timelines for which National Geographic is famous, as well as a history of map-making. Users can zoom in or zoom out on the maps.

7. Our Earth ( Also by National Geographic Society, this is a world map with all sorts of drill-down information. Written for young elementary schoolers, the drill-downs contain information about weather and geography for all of the world’s regions, as well as the “why” on basic geographic questions (such as, Why does it rain?).

8. Inspiration 6 ( This is a project development tool that helps teachers show students how human or natural events are interconnected. The software enables teachers or students to graphically link various historical events, such as the precedents of a major military conflict, and then translates these links into an outline that can be used to develop a report.

9. Great American States Race ( This is an advanced trivia game about each state in the U.S., beginning with the basics of state capitals and state birds. The States Race is valuable for younger students facing statewide or national standardized tests that need to learn these facts.

abstracted from “Software: Focus on Social Studies”
T.H.E. Journal, October 2001, page 48