There are thousands of documentaries that can be streamed on TopDocumentaryFilms including hundreds geared toward history and social sciences. Another good resource are Dan Izzo’s 3,000 videos on his YouTube channel, many of them short (two to five minute) US History and World History videos. If teachers wish to assign their own taped lectures, they can record them with webcam and simply upload them to You Tube, Vimeo or Google Drive. To enhance the lectures, they can embed photos, voice-overs and text into their lectures using tools such as VoiceThread, PowerPoint or Screencast.

Effective Digital Tools to Design History/Social Studies Classrooms of the Future

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Beyond lectures, there is a wealth of web-based information pertaining to history/social studies. Launched by developer Kenneth Udhe, Go Social Studies Go is a very informative and easy-to-navigate series of multimedia books about history/social studies topics. The site is divided into four main sections: World Geography, World Religions, World History and U.S. History. Each section consists of booklets composed of text, pictures, videos, and links to additional resources.

History Animated offers animated online tours of notable battles in the American Revolution, the War of 1812, the American Civil War, and WWII. Another good military history resource is Conflict History which allows students to view conflicts on a global scale through time via interactive world maps and time lines.

History Animated’s maps also show troop movements throughout various wars. Students can progress through the tour at their own pace using the fast forward, pause, and rewind buttons. Another site worth mentioning is Gooru, which is a service that provides teachers and students with an extensive collection of videos, interactive displays, documents, diagrams, and quizzes for learning about a wide range of topics including social studies. Teachers can drag a wide range of resources (from videos to text to lesson plans) to their personal resources to download or present to their class.

A fun alternative is History for Music Lovers which has a catalogue of music videos related to dozens of topics in World History. in the American Revolution, the War of 1812, the American Civil War, and WWII. The videos are set to the music of well-known songs with the lyrics changed to tell the stories of historical events like The Crusades, The French Revolution and William the Conqueror.

Though most of the on-line content being delivered is secondary source material, there are plenty of primary source materials available as well. One really ground-breaking site is DocsTeach which really brings history to life by allowing teachers to find primary sources and then insert them into a customizable activity for their students. The activities are designed to develop historical thinking skills.

Similarly,  HistoryPin relies on primary source material from the general public in order to create an archive of history. Using Google Maps and Street View technology, users are able to upload their personal stories about different historical periods and pin their old photos to the map as well.

Processing the Material

Once the content has been delivered, the next step is finding innovative ways to engage students in the material they have been presented with. As we have learned in recent years, the days of sitting silently and taking notes have passed us by. Note-taking has evolved, as new apps like NotesPlus have proven.

The app recognizes both type-written and hand-written notes and allows students to lay audio, video and photos over their notes. Students can record their teacher’s lecture while layering their notes over it. Graphic organizers are easy to create, giving teachers a great tool in terms of assessment. Finally, students can take notes directly onto a .pdf which opens a lot of possibilities for instruction. Similar apps of note are Notability and GoodNotes Free.