Teaching and learning has changed drastically as a result of technological advances and the internet, which created new ways for teachers to reach and engage their students into the process of learning. New technology not only provided new ways to engage students, but also provided methods that lead to an even deeper understanding than a traditional lecture-based classroom. This deeper understanding is achieved through hands-on learning, which educators refer to as “doing history.” This means that learning is student-centered, and that the students can learn history through their own research and inquiry. Student-centered learning in many history classes consists of students researching primary and secondary sources to form arguments or conclusions. It could also ask students to create a product based on learned knowledge and ideas, like a project. While this method of teaching history is successful, it makes it difficult for students to stay motivated throughout the semester. Eventually students will get tired of primary source research day after day, and become even more tired of writing essays and answering questions. But, if this method of teaching is combined with these new digital tools, students can do history in a different way for each lesson. Digital tools have reshaped the teaching and learning of history by providing new ways to engage students in history through student-centered learning. This makes history interesting, fun, and emphasizes the importance of history in one’s daily life.
When most people think of a social studies class they picture a dry and boring lecture that takes up the entire period, with little student engagement, and is followed by a multiple-choice test or a paper to assess student learning. This method focuses on how best to teach history, and not how students learn history. This method or idea details a new way to teach history in both the college and 6-12 level, and provides a different approach to the typical layout of one’s history curriculum. The typical college curriculum has students take elective courses in their first few years of college, which provides them with historical context, and is usually in a large lecture hall with upwards of 50 students. The students would then finish their degree with a senior seminar on historical methods and themes. Instead, the historian and educator T. Mills Kelly came up with a different approach. Kelly’s approach says that students should begin their college career with a small seminar where they can learn historical thinking skills, so that these skills can be applied later in elective courses that provide content and information. As for in a typical high school class, this method transfers in the form of encouraging historical thinking skills before content. In my future courses I will use this method by including a “Historical Thinking Skills” unit, which explains how students can “do” history for themselves, and then get into content. This way students have these skills ready to implement with each future lesson in the course.
An example of a teaching strategy that encourages historical thinking in students that I plan to utilize in my classroom are interactive maps and graphs, which can be created using online programs like Story Maps. This strategy has students create or view geographic information systems maps that include multimedia elements. These elements provide information that relates to the geographical area, examples are migration patterns, troop movement, weather patterns, etc. These elements require students to use historical thinking skills coupled with digital tools to create a product that showcases their learning. Scholarly research on the use of Story Maps concluded that the strategy “transformed the way students analyzed primary sources, the types of historical conclusions they developed, and the way they communicated this information. With Story Maps students can become the historians all on their own, and can reach out to their teacher for help with content and the organization of their multimedia add-ons. One drawback to this strategy is that it can require access to the internet and technology outside of the classroom, and requires students to be somewhat technologically inclined to complete the assignment. I plan to combat these drawbacks by providing adequate time in class to complete the assignment, and by having a class workshop which goes through all the technological skills needed to create a Story Map. Below are examples of Story Maps, one is a map comparing Washington D.C. in 1851 to today. The other is a map that covers major events and their locations in Russia’s history, which allows the viewer to see how the events connect.
Teaching and learning has been changed forever as a result of new technology that allows us to do history for ourselves. This means that the days of history teachers lecturing to a room of students dozing off is over. Now teachers can use digital tools to create exciting and engaging lessons that allow students to take over the role of the historian from their own computer. This leads to deeper understanding of historical content, and shows students the importance of learning history. I plan to incorporate these tools and strategies into my future classroom so that I too can allow for students to do history on their own.
1. T. Mills Kelly, “Thinking: How Students Learn About the Past,” in Teaching History in the Digital Age, (University of Michigan Press, 2013), 14.
2. T. Mills Kelly, “Thinking: How Students Learn About the Past,” in Teaching History in the Digital Age, (University of Michigan Press, 2013), 15.
3. Christopher Saladin and Shana Crossom, “Spatial Approaches to the Past: Story Maps in the History Classroom,” The History Teacher, Vol. 55 no. 1 (November 2021): 35.
4. Christopher Saladin and Shana Crossom, “Spatial Approaches to the Past: Story Maps in the History Classroom,” The History Teacher, Vol. 55 no. 1 (November 2021): 55.
Carroll, Allen. “Story Maps 101.” ArcGIS Blog. Esri, April 25, 2019. https://www.esri.com/arcgis-blog/products/uncategorized/uncategorized/story-maps-101/.
“Historical Thinking Concepts.” HISTORICAL THINKING CONCEPTS | Historical Thinking Project. Centre for the Study of Historical Consciousness. Accessed May 2, 2023. https://historicalthinking.ca/historical-thinking-concepts.
Kabdylkhak, Nurla. “Russian History Story Maps.” UNC. UNC-Chapel Hill Libraries, March 12, 2021. https://library.unc.edu/hub/projects/russian-history-story-maps/.
Kelly, T. Mills. “Thinking: How Students Learn About the Past.” Teaching History in the Digital Age, 14–25. University of Michigan Press, 2013.
Saladin, Christopher, and Crossom, Shana. “Spatial Approaches to the Past: Story Maps in the History Classroom.” The History Teacher, Vol. 55 no. 1 (November 2021): 35-59.