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Research & Resources

Service Learning Entangled in the Web

Anna C. Clifford, Ed.D., Professor of Education

December 9, 2006 - Tucked away in the new computer lab at the university sat a group of preservice teachers enrolled in the Instructional Technology for the Classroom course. The local school district’s third grade Social Studies Standards were spread on the tabletops and the preservice teachers were experiencing their first standards adventure. Discussion continued as the professor guided them through the process and called attention to specific standards relating to local historical landmarks.

“This is an example of standards that have to be met and the content is not in the textbook,” the professor explained. Their faces were stunned! As discussion continued, the preservice teachers agreed the third grade teachers had work to do!

The Opportunity to Serve
These preservice teachers are expected to learn how to use technology, and to be able to create and deliver high-quality technology-infused lessons that engage their students and improve learning (United States Department of Education, 2002). And now, they are about to experience "a credit-bearing educational experience in which they participate in an organized service activity that meets identified community needs and reflect on the service activity in such a way as to gain further understanding of the course content, a broader appreciation of the discipline, and an enhanced sense of civic responsibility,” otherwise known as service learning (Bringle, 1997).

The Assignment
Alignment of the standards with teaching and assessment was mentioned and the preservice teachers nodded their heads in agreement. The professor continued, “I was thinking you could visit one of the local historical landmarks, as a class. You will gather information from a variety of resources (e.g., books, Internet, interviews) and then visit the site and take pictures. Then, you will have the content and pictures and create doable activities (e.g., virtual fieldtrip) for learning. Later on, you will design and develop an electronic technology portfolio and hyperlink your teacher resources to the webpage.”

The preservice teachers were a bit skeptical but were willing to spend time to gather the information and agreed the fieldtrip would be fun! The professor assigned the class the historical landmark: Pinson, Tennessee. After Mapquest-ing, the preservice teachers found that Pinson was a little township, south of Jackson, about 20 miles from the university. “What does Pinson have to do with Jackson?” asked one of the students. What a thought!

The Challenge
As the preservice teachers ventured to their respective computers to surf the Web for information about the little town, disappointment filled the air! They found information about the Pinson Mounds State Archaeological Park, a few churches listed in an area Church Directory and a newspaper article from The Jackson Sun. One brave preservice teacher asked, “Now, what do we do?

The Experience
As the time unfolded, the class gathered information from a variety of other resources (e.g., books) and arranged a visit to the community. With cameras in hand, they traveled together to check out the Pinson of today. Conversations with the locals at the corner convenience store and open doors to the old Pinson school building were added features of the trip. One of the local historians, Linda Holder, invited them to her home for a visit and the history of the little community fell into a timeline of memorabilia, artifacts, newspaper clippings and family pictures, dating back to the late 1700’s. There were churches, schools, a drug store, the Pinson Pottery, a blacksmith shop, Bear Creek, the Indian Mounds, the railroad, Eddy Arnold…and so much more! A drink from the artesian water wells gave them the energy they needed to write interview notes, audio tape, capture photos and choose pictures and artifacts to scan.

The preservice teachers returned to the classroom to develop activities (e.g., virtual fieldtrip, fieldtrip invitation/permission slip, crossword puzzle, word search puzzle, newsletter, interactive game, card game, and an Internet scavenger hunt) suitable for third grade students, aligning them with the Social Studies Standards. They created the activities using Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, FrontPage, HyperStudio and The original purpose of the webpage experience took on a different meaning. The preservice teachers decided to create individual webpages for the township and hyperlink the activities, adding Pinson, Tennessee to the Internet at

The Opportunity to Learn
These preservice teachers experienced scaffolding of integration of technology in both teacher-directed and student-focused dimension (Collier et al., 2004; Ertmer, 2005; Grove et al., 2004) and connected education with community service in collaborative ways that intentionally acknowledge their interdependent nature (Bringle, 1997). Service learning happened and Pinson, Tennessee became accessible on the Internet.


Bringle, R. (1997). Service learning in higher education: Concepts and practices. The Journal of Higher Education, 68(6), 715-717.

Collier, S., Weinburgh, M. H., & Rivera, M. (2004). Infusing technology skills into a teacher education program: Change in student's knowledge and use of technology. Journal of Technology and Teacher Education, 12(3), 447-468.

Ertmer, P. A. (2005). Teacher Pedagogical Beliefs: The Final Frontier in Our Quest for Technology Integration. Educational Technology Research and Development, 53(4), 25-39.

Grove, K., Strudler, N., & Odell, S. (2004). Mentoring toward technology use: Cooperating teacher practice in supporting student teachers. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 37(1), 85-109.

United States Department of Education. (2002). Preparing tomorrow's teachers to use technology. Retrieved March 2, 2005, from


This article first appeared on the University of Memphis, Instructional Design and Technology website, July 2006.

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