Back to School: Digital Resources for Intrepid Teaching Professionals

With the end of summer comes the inevitable return to school and a degree of anxiety, not only for students, but also for teachers—especially for those who put off their preparations until the last moment. The good news: the web offers an abundance of resources that can help teachers experiment with their course content and teaching styles and reinvigorate lesson plans. Many of these possibilities use the latest digital resources, including cloud computing, digital primary sources, and application software (apps). Of course one can easily fall into the abyss of too much information. But the following short list of resources and articles should help returning teachers cope with information overload and inspire them to start the 2012–13 academic year in an innovative direction.

New Technology to Integrate into the Classroom

Using Wikipedia in the Undergraduate Classroom to Learn How to Write about Recent History: In the April 2012 issue of Perspectives on History, writers Jeremy Brown and Benedicte Melanie Olsen describe how Wikipedia can be a useful tool in creating an end-of-term assignment. Readers will find in the Perspectives article how the authors structured the assignment, setbacks they faced during the project, and overall impressions (which were mostly positive).

Blogging in the Classroom: In another article from the April 2012 issue of Perspectives on History, authors Sarah A. Curtis, Jason Lahman, and Brian J. Griffith discuss their attempts to create a course blog. They offer a number of suggestions on how to organize topics, find resources, and ways to integrate the blog content into their weekly lectures.

Digital Resource Guide for History Departments: Created by Jeffrey McClurken (Univ. of Mary Washington), this guide offers a wealth of information for department heads looking for ways to implement digital resources into their department and their course offerings. Particularly helpful are the examples offered by teachers who experimented with different forms of social media in their classroom, with links to their work and findings.

Teach with Primary Sources (TPS): Sponsored by the Library of Congress, this site helps K–12 teachers create strategies that utilize digital primary resources in the classroom. Along with a TPS journal, the Library of Congress also offers a teacher’s page that features classroom materials from its vast digital collections. Perspectives recently featured the TPS program in its May issue, found here.

Hiding in the Cloud: Great Classroom Tools: A short but very helpful list of the advantages of using cloud computing in both secondary and higher education classrooms. John Kuglin, a retired education consultant, offers a list and advice on implementing some of his favorite cloud-based tools, including SlideRocket, SideVibe, and ShowMe. One should note that these tools range in price.

Tech-Savvy Teachers Turn to App-Making in the Classroom: Spotlight blog features a growing number of teachers who have started developing personalized apps for individual classroom needs. Teacher-generated apps vary greatly depending on the creators’ need, but many feature useful study tips for their students, personalized lessons, and digital media.

Nifty Apps for the Classroom

History: Maps of World: A collection of high-resolution historic maps that are organized thematically, geographically, or chronologically. It is particularly useful when demonstrating to students how geographic borders change over generations.

World Book–This Day in History: An interactive calendar that provides educators with a significant historical event for each day of the year.

iTunes U: A very popular app among educators and students. iTunes U gives you access to complete courses from universities, allowing teachers the opportunity to share ideas and lecture materials globally.

Attendance: Allows teachers to keep attendance records for their classes, e-mail an entire class, and store notes on individual students.

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