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Thursday, January 17, 2013

13 Good Resources for Social Studies Teachers

I recently met an old colleague of mine for breakfast. Steve and I team taught a course together for a couple of years before he retired a few years ago. During our conversation he said to me, "Richard, what I knew you were good at was finding things our students liked." Coming from Steve, whose opinions I hold in high regards, took that as a compliment and as a reminder that I haven't published a good list for fellow social studies teachers in quite a while. Therefore, this evening I sat down and combed through my archives to pick what I think are some off the better free resources for social studies teachers and students.

Museum Box is a great tool for creating virtual displays of artifacts that you find online. By using Museum Box students can organize images, text, videos, links, and audio clips about any topic that they're researching. When completed , students' "boxes" become digital dioramas.


Mission U.S. offers two interactive journeys through two important eras in U.S. History. The journeys are designed as role-playing games or missions. Both games can be played entirely online or downloaded for play on your PC or Mac (you do need an Internet connection to save a game in progress). The first mission in Mission U.S. is set in Boston in 1770. Students play the role of 14 year old Nat Wheeler who, after the Boston Massacre, must choose to side with the Loyalists or the Patriots. The second mission in Mission U.S. is set in Kentucky and Ohio in 1850. Students take on the role of a fourteen year old slave named Lucy. In the mission students escape slavery in Kentucky and navigate to Ohio.

Hip Hughes History is a fantastic YouTube channel that I promoted a few times in 2012. Hip Hughes History is a series of short, upbeat lectures on topics in US History and World History. The videos are produced by Keith Hughes, a high school history teacher in Buffalo, New York. A sample video is embedded below.


Meograph is a digital storytelling tool that I featured a couple of times in 2012. Meograph provides tools for creating map-based and timeline-based narrated stories. When you watch a Meograph story (click here to watch one about women's rights in the USA) you will notice that it is very similar to a watching a narrated Google Earth tour. That is because it is based on the Google Maps and the Google Earth browser plug-in. As the story plays you can stop it to explore additional content in the forms of videos, texts, and images. Meograph has an education page on which they are featuring examples of using the service in education.

The Google Cultural Institute offers 42 new online historical exhibitions. The exhibitions feature images, documents, and artifacts from some of the most significant cultural events of the last one hundred years. The exhibitions are built as interactive slideshows that you can scroll and click through to discover the artifacts and stories.

European Exploration: The Age of Discovery is a free iPad app that puts students in charge of exploring the "New World." In the game students are in charge of selecting explorers and ships to send out to the New World. Students have to manage the finances of their expeditions so that they don't run out of money before they can return home safely. European Exploration: The Age of Discovery provides students with historical information about the explorers that are available to lead expeditions. Some of the explorers available include Giovanni da Verrazano, Christopher Columbus, and Juan Ponce de Leon. The explorers are graded based on their navigation, cartography, and shipkeeping skills. Each explorer has a different salary which students must account for when managing the budgets of their expeditions. The object of the game is to unveil the entire New World. To do this students draw expedition maps and send out their explorers. If the expedition is successful it will earn money that students can then parlay into financing another expedition. Successful managers of European Exploration: The Age of Discovery will be able to manage multiple expeditions simultaneously.

GE Teach is built around the Google Earth browser plug-in. The purpose of the site is to help teachers develop lessons in which students explore spatial distributions. Visitors to GE Teach can select from a variety of physical geography and human geography layers to display and explore. A fantastic feature of GE Teach is the option use the "two Earths" mode to show two maps side-by-side. In the image below (click to view full size) you can see that I have used the Earth on the left to view climate regions and the Earth on the right to view population density. The "two Earths" mode could be useful for prompting students to make comparisons and or correlations between two maps.

  History Engine is an educational project developed by The University of Richmond for the purpose of giving students a place to explore stories of American life and publish their own stories based upon their research. I was initially drawn to History Engine by the map and timeline that was featured on Google Maps Mania. The History Engine map allows students to search for stories by selecting a decade on the timeline then clicking a location on the map. Students will find stories about ordinary citizens making minor news in their communities as well as stories about famous Americans like George Washington.

History Animated offers animated online tours of notable battles and strategies and the outcomes of each battle in the American Revolution, the War of 1812, the American Civil War, and WWII. History Animated's maps show troop movements throughout the wars. Students can advance through the tour at their own paces using the fast forward, pause, and rewind buttons.


 Go Social Studies Go is a nice site developed by Kenneth Udhe, a social studies teacher in Michigan, for his students and the world. Go Social Studies Go is essentially a series of multimedia books about common social studies topics. The site is divided into four main sections; World Geography, World Religions, Ancient History, and Colonial America. Within each section is a series of booklets containing text, pictures, videos, and links to additional resources.

Gooru is a service that aims to provide teachers and students with an extensive collection of videos, interactive displays, documents, diagrams, and quizzes for learning about topics in math, social studies, and science. As a Gooru member you have access to hundreds of resources according to subject areas such as social studies,  chemistry, biology, ecology, algebra, calculus, and more. Within each subject area you can look for resources according to media type such as video, interactive display, slides, text, and lesson plans. When you find resources that you want to use, drag them to the resources folder within your account. Gooru also offers you the option to add resources to your folders even if you did not find them within Gooru.

 Dipity is a great timeline creation tool that allows users to incorporate text, images, and videos into each entry on their timeline. Like most good web tools, Dipity has a collaboration option and has multiple options for sharing your timelines publicly or privately. Each entry to a Dipity timeline can include multiple types of media which allows users to add more detail and information than can be included in a traditional timeline. If you want to import Tweets and other social media messages, you can do that too on Dipity. Dipity will work on your iPad.

  iCivics offers seventeen educational game for students. The games introduce students to the roles of citizens and government in the United States. Students who register for a free iCivics account can pause the games and come back to them at a later time. Click here for a list of all of the games offered by iCivics. All of the iCivics games have curriculum units connected to them.

A Simple Tool for Finding SAT & ACT Vocabulary Words on Any Website

During a workshop that I ran on Monday someone noticed the Professor Word bookmarklet that I have displayed in my Chrome browser. So during a break I showed off what Professor Word can do and I've decided to share it again here.

Professor Word is a service that can help students learn new SAT and ACT vocabulary words. Professor Word operates as a browser bookmarklet in Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Safari. When you're reading a webpage click on the Professor Word bookmarklet to quickly identify SAT and ACT vocabulary words on that page. You can also use Professor Word to get definitions for any unfamiliar word on a webpage. To get a definition just highlight the word a small dialogue box containing the definition will appear.


Applications for Education
Professor Word could be a great little tool for students to use to not only read definitions, but to also see SAT and ACT words used in "real world" context.

BBC Nature Videos - Animals and Habitats of Africa

Last weekend I found myself lost in the BBC's wonderful maze of websites. One of the neat features that I stumbled my way upon is this collection of videos about the animals and habitats of Africa. In the African Wildlife collection on BBC Nature students can watch video clips about 41 animals, their habitats, and their adaptations to their environments.

Applications for Education
Science teachers looking for some short clips to illustrate how animals adapt to their environments would do well to browse through the BBC Nature collection about the animals of Africa

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