So you want to flip your history classroom and integrate digital learning but you have no idea where to start? We’ve got you covered.
Below is a list of resources (both free and for a fee) along with project ideas that can help facilitate new modes of learning in your history class.
1. Timelines: One of the most common activities in a history classroom is the creation of collaborative timelines. If you want to make them interactive and specific to your course, try one of these products:
2. Historical debates: The best history classes ground their historical debates in primary source evidence. Whether you’re focusing on Booker T. Washington Vs. W.E.B. Du Bois at the turn of the twentieth century, the 1958 Doulas-Lincoln debates, or Japanese Internment, consider using a combination of primary source texts and media. Instead of simply reading documents, have students read along to a fireside chat by President Roosevelt, watch a CPSAN Interview with a Japanese Internment Camp survivor, and watch propaganda films from the United States army’s War Relocation program to integrate into evidence.
3. Collaborative Writing: While “doing history” is often portrayed as a solitary effort, learning can be greatly enhanced through collaborative research and writing. The following tools provide students with an easy way to work on group writing projects together:
4. Multimedia Projects: If you want students to practice writing and public speaking for a general audience, multimedia projects can be a great and fun way to get students excited in a history class. The challenge here is to make sure your students have access to rentable equipment at a public library.
- Zeega ( a great free alternative for lower income schools that cannot rely on camera/video editing equipment)
- If your school or city has access, iMovie and Final Cut Pro are also useful tools
5. Digital Diaries: Historians are reliant on primary sources like diaries, journals, and letters to understand the past. Help students develop historical empathy by engaging in this same genre by having students practice writing them.
6. Digital Photography: Most students have access to a cell phone or digital camera. Send students on a scavenger hunt to find everything around them that related to a certain era, event or person (e.g. Civil Rights or George Washington). Students can also use historical images from American Memory (many Library of Congress images are in public domain—especially anything taken by the U.S Government, military or WPA) and create digital photo collages.
- Facebook photo albums (create a class project page)
- American Memory from the Library of Congress
7. Digital Map Assignments: Visual learners love maps. Have students produce an interactive map highlighting course material (major people’s movements, places of key battles, locations of events) to understand spatial history. If you have access to historical maps, you can also overlay them with Google Earth to integrate spatial data.
8. Oral history: Creating oral histories can be very meaningful to students. Have them produce a podcast with a historical figure from their local Civil Rights Movement, a veteran, or even a family member.
9. Digital Quizzes: Curious about whether or not your students understand basic concepts from lecture? Try quizzing them. You can do this many different ways.
10. 3D and Museum Objects: If you want students to interact with a rare object or book that would be too fragile to leave the archive, consider asking a librarian or curator to help you make a 3D digital model for your classroom.
11. Virtual Office Hours and Classes: Have a cold and you want to make sure students are caught up after the substitute’s lecture? Travelling for research but want to hold office hours? Have a classroom that is separated due to a natural disaster or emergency? During the Boston Bombings when my students were under lockdown, we engaged with virtual classrooms to continue to learn together.
12. Digital Annotations: Want students to practice critically analyzing primary source documents like political cartoons? Have them collaborate with an annotation tool that lets students write their analysis and notes directly onto text or images as a group or individually.
13. Digital Lectures: Finally, sometimes another teacher or historian can make the point best. If you want students to watch lectures or conferences from university professors and historians, have them watch videos online (this can help integrate learning on the morning commute, during an afternoon rest, etc.)
Rhae Lynn Barnes is a Presidential Instructional Technology Fellow and doctoral candidate in the Department of History at Harvard University. Her research and teaching focuses on the digital humanities, U.S. and the world in the nineteenth century, and gender and racial formation in print and popular culture. Her research, Darkology: The History of Amateur Blackface Minstrelsy and the Making of Modern America has received funding support from the Library of Congress, the Council on Library & Information Resources, the American Antiquarian Society, and she is an Andrew W. Mellon Fellow in Critical Bibliography at the Rare Book School for 2013-2015. She is the co-organizer of the New Media in American Literary History and co-founder of U.S. History Scene. She is a four time recipient of the Harvard University Certificate of Excellence and Distinction in Teaching.