Virtual Field Trips and Student Tour Guides

After reflecting on my research topic and question this year, I think that focusing on primary sources has helped to increase both student understanding and engagement in my social studies class. I believe that students had a deeper understanding of the content being taught in class, which therefore helped to improve student engagement and class discussions. Students learned the process and importance of analyzing primary sources with the support of technology. This analysis helped create lessons that required students to critically think and synthesize information.

Last week I asked my students to complete a Google Form to get feedback from my students about primary sources. When asked how students felt analyzing primary sources at the beginning of the school year on a scale of 1-5, 66.3% of my students responded a score of 3. When asked how students felt about analyzing primary sources now 100% of students responded with a score of either a 4 or 5. I was encouraged to see that my students now felt more comfortable reading and analyzing primary sources.
IMG_2410 (2)I also received feedback that my student’s favorite primary source we looked at this year was Hammurabi’s Code. I agree with my students as these laws provide a shock value when learning what the laws were in ancient Babylon. This was an example of a primary source encouraging student engagement and interest in the content we are learning about.

Nearpod has been my main use of technology to help roll out the analysis of primary sources. This application allowed students to zoom in on images and it allowed me to focus on key points of a primary source. Nearpod allows you to share student work with the rest of the class. One student commented on the primary source survey “I like when you share my answer with the class.” In addition, I have really enjoyed sharing the Nearpod field trip with my students this year. This new feature on Nearpod allows students to virtually travel to the areas we are learning about in class. My students loved this feature! When teaching about the Parthenon, what could be better than taking a virtual field trip to the Parthenon itself? Here is a picture of a student enjoying the field trip. Field trip (1)One student wrote “the field trips are awesome because it feels like you are really at the spot we are learning about and you can see all around it.” Below is a picture of my students on a field trip to the Parthenon.

Next year, I would like to explore the use of Google Maps and Google Tours in my classroom. I am most interested in exploring Google Tours because this application will allow students to be the tour guides of the ancient cities we are learning about in class. Google Tours provides both visuals and an area for students to add a description. I plan to create a project using this application next year. Stay tuned to receive your own personal tour of ancient history!

Students on a virtual field trip to the Parthenon using the application Nearpod.
Students on a virtual field trip to the Parthenon using the application Nearpod.


Researching Battles

One part of history that I always struggled to get into was war battles, and so that followed me into my teaching. Any unit that is war-themed, which let’s be honest, there are quite a few, always make me a little anxious for how I’m going to try to make a creative and engaging lesson on the actual fighting-the-war part. I think I’ve tried a different approach each time I’ve reached that point in a unit, so again I faced this dilemma with World War I in my freshman class. I decided this would be a good opportunity to try working with a structured research assignment using the iPads in class.

I had small groups assigned to one of four significant battles in the war, and they had to do some research to determine why this battle mattered. I introduced these as some of the bloodiest battles in the war, which definitely hooked some students. And really just sent them off to find out why.  Each group had a “starter set” of information to read through to help focus their research. Something I’ve noticed from previous research assignments is that students often get intimidated by the amount of information out there. I figured that by finding sources to frame the basis of their knowledge of their battle, I could avoid some of that initial intimidation that can keep students from really knowing anything about their topic.

One other strategy I decided to implement in this project was for students to write out more detailed research questions as they read through each new source. After talking with our school librarian a few months ago, she highlighted how often our freshmen struggle crafting research questions in the first place. That is why I gave my students the overarching research question, but had them create their own sub-questions as they continued with the research process. Groups came up with some great ideas like:

  • How did they rebuild their city after the war?
  • How did reinforcements know to come help the French?
  • What is the benefit of the Turks being pushed out of the war?
  • Did the allies go back to fight in the Ottoman Empire ever again?
  • How did this battle affect or change the war overall?
  • How did the weather impact the battle?
  • Why are New Zealand and Australia in this battle?

Overall, there were still many clarification type questions listed, but I was still very excited to see these types of connections questions that groups were asking to inform their research.

Being able to use the iPads as a tool for this assignments was very powerful. Because there are always issues with the iPads ranging from it’s not working, it’s been left at home, or some students just don’t have one, I made sure that this wasn’t an iPad dependent assignment for all students. I made sure each group had at least one, and printed off paper copies of the articles in that “starter set” of information. Beyond that, groups had to use the library databases to find at least one more article on their iPad to answer those sub-questions that still lingered in their minds.

By the end of the assignment, I would say that most students had a pretty solid understanding of the basic idea of their battle and why it mattered in the war. I was pretty happy with this assignment in the end with how it was a good balance of scaffolded research skills and integrating the iPads in the class. I’m sure the assignment could be spiced up a bit in the future, but the basic outline of the assignment is one that I’ll continue working with.

I added a few images below of students working on the project and a newspaper article that one student wrote as part of his final product.


WIN image 02 WIN image 03 WIN image 01