Posted in general education, homeschool, mind, social studies, special education

Technology in the History Class: Creating a Facebook Travelogue

The Language Demands of Social Studies Learning

Social studies classes can be challenging for many students. Often, the content is text-based, which is daunting for students who struggle with grade-level reading. Response work is usually written, and, quite frequently, takes the form of research projects or essays – an added hurdle for many students. In addition, the topics are often from the distant past, and students have difficulty connecting them to their present life.

Students who are challenged by literacy-based learning tasks can still be actively engaged in high-quality, grade-level learning tasks, if we do two things:

  1. Make the task more accessible (by controlling the language demands); and
  2. Increase the interest level (by making the content and format more relevant to the students).
social media in history class
http://allkidscanlearn.school.blog
Facebook photo albums can be a way for students to share their history learning with others.

Facebook Photo Albums as Response Work

In a world where kids have more technology in their pockets than most teachers do in their classroom, it seems silly to ignore how adept today’s kids are in the electronic world. While many of their teachers are “digital immigrants,” they are, indeed, “digital natives,” many learning to “swipe left” before they even reach school age.

While we want to encourage kids to be well-balanced in their use of their electronic devices, it pays to think about the world they live in when we design response projects. True example: I have three boys, ages 32, 29, and 15. That’s right – there are 14 years between the last two boys, who both had the same 3rd grade teacher. I was disappointed to see that, 14 years after my middle child was in 3rd grade, the teachers were still using the same projects, the same books and the same strategies as they had with #2 son.

Enter social media. Now, I know that 1) my kids use social media platforms that I know little about and 2) they insist that Facebook is for “old people” now. But they all are familiar with Facebook, and it’s been around long enough to have a well-developed suite of tools that can be used in many ways in the classroom.

I do a lot of family history and geneology work. Whenever I can, I find authentic photos of people, places and events to add to my Ancestry.com work, and share them with my family by creating photo albums on Facebook. It occurred to me that Facebook photo albums would make a great vehicle for students to share their learning:

  • capturing part of the message in an illustration provides scaffolding for students who struggle with print media;
  • creating a caption allows for students to practice summarizing;
  • use of Internet content gives students an opportunity to learn how to give credit to other people’s work;
  • albums can be shared among different people as a group project.
social media in the history class
http://allkidscanlearn.school.blog
Instruct students to find photos of historical individuals, places and events, to tell important social studies information.

The Millionaires’ Triangle, Norwich, Connecticut

Recently, I created a walking tour of Norwich, Connecticut, that circles the Chelsea Parade Park and passes by Norwich Free Academy. Using online photos and content, I created a Facebook photo album that can serve as a virtual travelogue for the Millionaires’ Triangle Trail.

Each photo album entry contains the following:

  1. The stop number, with an image of a stop along the trail (I used Internet photos, but you could take your own photos, if you wish);
  2. A description of the photo, which includes the stop number, the name of the famous person who lived there, the year the house was built and the architectural style, and the address of the site or home (since it’s a walking tour);
  3. A brief summary of the life of the family who lived there, including the source of their fortune;
  4. A tag identifying the location;
  5. When needed, an image credit (many of the photos are part of the historical record of the town).

The stops are in order, so that the album can actually be used to conduct a walking tour.

social media in the history class
http://allkidscanlearn.school.blog
Historical maps and other figures, properly cited, can be helpful additions to a Facebook photo album in the history class.

Tips for Integrating Social Media in the Classroom

Using Facebook in school isn’t like using it at home:

  • consult with your administrator first, before setting up a page;
  • create a class or school Facebook page – don’t use your own account or a student account;
  • use photos of historical people, places and things, only – don’t include photos of the children;
  • consider setting your account so that comments are not allowed;
  • make your page by invite only, and set the privacy so that only current families (not the students) have access — remove access once families are no longer part of your classroom.

When you set students out to find images for the photo album, provide guidelines to help them choose well:

  1. What important information does this image tell the reader about ______?
  2. Is this the BEST image to give that message?
  3. What information do I have to include in the caption, so my image stands alone?
  4. What order do we have to put the images in, to tell the story properly?
social media in the history class
http;//allkidscanlearn.school.blog
Give students guidelines and practice Internet safety when using social media in the classsroom.

Social Media in YOUR Classroom…

How have you used social media in the classroom? Share the best of the best with us, in the comments below – add a link so we can visit and comment!


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Mom of four, Nana to seven, homeschooler, special educator, and lover of all good things... striving to do His work every day.

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