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

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Encouraging students to blog about their responses to the material way has proven to be a very effective tool to spark higher-level thinking and peer evaluation. There is a wealth of information online on how to implement blogging in the classroom, but EduBlogs, Blogger and WordPress are good places to start.

A similar tool is creating a wiki for the class. A wiki, a website created by any small community, allows teachers and students to share materials and feedback in a common space and can be used for content delivery, assessment and discussion.  

Some of the current digital tools offer alternative forms of learning, such as history-themed interactive games such as GeoSense and PlayingHistory. European Exploration: The Age of Discovery is a free iPad app that allows students to do role-play as explorers of the “New World.” In the game,  students select explorers and ships to send out to the New World and then manage the finances of their expeditions so that they don’t run out of money before they can return home safely.

FreePoverty takes the games a step further by encouraging learning and civic involvement at the same time. The water-related non-profit that created this game donates money towards water-lacking communities based on the students ability to locate landmarks on a map. Mission U.S. offers two role-playing games designed as interactive journeys that lead students through two periods of US History.

Another thought-provoking site is 10×10 where RSS feeds are screened for the most important words of every hour. Students can see what is being talked about around the world and can also look back at the most influential ideas and events of each day, month or year.

A similar site great for a holistic view of current events in Newsmap; this site also aggregates the top news stories of the day and breaks them down into topics like politics, economy, health, etc. Users can also see which news stories are making the biggest headlines in a variety of countries.

Teachers looking to spark a good debate should look at Ticckle, an video debate forum offering students the opportunity to weigh in a variety of topics with carefully-composed arguments. An interesting twist is FlipGrid wherein the teacher poses a question and students respond to the question in video format. This allows them to prepare their response and present an argument, tapping into the Evaluation Process of Bloom’s Taxonomy.

The MuseumBox site works in a similar manner, except the student’s argument (or description of an event) is placed in a virtual box. The site supports text files, .pdf files, videos, images or webcam audio/video recording which is produced directly on the site.

Assessment and Content Creation

When it comes to forms of assessment, new digital tools are providing social studies teachers with a wealth of innovative options. As current brain-based research has shown, encouraging students to synthesize their learning into a learning “product” substantially develops their knowledge.

Multi-media presentations are proving to be effective in not only keeping students focused on the material, but developing the higher-level thinking teachers encourage. Within the realm of history/social studies, the possibilities here are endless.