5 ways to use social media in the history classroom

Using digital media in the history classroom was a hot topic at the American Historical Association’s annual meeting, which I recently attended.  One of the sessions I went to was the “Digital History Lightning Round,”  wStairshich showcased some of the latest examples of using technology and social media in the history classroom.  Examples were primarily from the college level, but some of the techniques could definitely be transferred to the high school level. Here are five steps you can take to get your students involved with digital history, in order from easiest to most involved:


1. Writing: Jesse Stommel (@Jessifer) uses the 140-character limit on Twitter to get his students thinking and writing with precision.  By requiring them to write a  Twitter essay, a 140-character “essay,” he gets them to focus on concision and careful word choice.


2. Public history: Getting students to showcase their work in the public arena always leads to stronger and more relevant work.  Some teachers have been using Wikipedia assignments to do this sort of thing. Students research a topic and add the information to the relevant article on Wikipedia.  It gets them thinking about varying historical perspectives, makes them practice research skills, and gets their work out in the public eye.


3. Local history:  History Harvests (@HistoryHarvest), in which students collect and digitize artifacts that illustrate local history, are a great way to get students out in the community and get their work out before the eyes of the public.


4. Public e-portfolios:  The University of Mary Washington not only encourages students to show their work publicly, it actually gives them their own domain. Using a “Domain of One’s Own,” students can develop their domain into a digital portfolio which they can use to showcase their own work.  Jeff McClurken (@jmmclukren), the Special Assistant to the Provost for Teaching, Technology, and Innovation at the University of Mary Washington, highlights some student domains at the above link.


5. Digital humanities: Digital humanities (the use of digital technology and media to explore questions in the humanities) is a rapidly growing field–see, for example, this recent article from the journal Nautilus.  For those interested in exploring the field, the University of North Carolina has developed DH Press, an open-source digital humanities toolkit, which allows students to create mashups and visualizations of historical material and data.


Want more ideas?  Check out the full list on my write up of the session here, on my own blog.


Image source: Jake Hill, unsplash.com

David Korfhage

History Teacher at Montclair Kimberley Academy

I am an upper school history teacher at the Montclair Kimberley Academy, in Montclair, New Jersey, where I also teach comparative religion. I am particularly interested in the application of technology to education, in using effective assessment and feedback to improve student learning, and in promoting thoughtful wisdom, insight, and reflection in my students.