Sifting through the sea pt. 3: A few web 2.0 tools for the Humanities Classroom

The snow day has allowed some time for me to get back to this blog and post about four useful tools we use with our American Studies students. In a world where edtech tools for science and math dominate, the beauty of these tools is their utility in the humanities classroom.


1. Edublogs: After using WordPress last year, we made the switch to Edublogs this year because of the easy interface and ability to easily provide each student with their own blog that links to our blog. We use our blog  to post assignments, provide links, and also as a platform for students to publish their work. Although this is still a work in progress and we don’t feel we have mastered the use of blogging in our classroom,  we have had a much greater degree of success because of this tool. Students feel more ownership over the process, and we have found it far easier to assess individual blogs. I highly recommend taking at look at edublogs if you are looking for an easy to use platform for students, especially high school students. I have also created a blog for my ESL History students which you can locate here.

Image2. Peerwise:  Every year we have a sizable group of students who prepare to take the AP US History Exam out of our course, and we have found this tool invaluable. Peerwise:, created by Professors at the University of Aukland,  is a free tool that allows teachers to create classes where students create, answer, and discuss multiple choice questions. Taking a social media approach, students can rate questions, earn badges, and compete for slots on the leader board. This is the third year we have used Peerwise:, and we have had a tremendous amount of success using this tool because it enables students not only to practice multiple choice, but also provides for seamless review as each question must also have an explanation. It is also incredibly helpful for students to learn how to write multiple choice questions. While many schools are using Peerwise:, it is still quite easy to sign up for a school account and the people handling support are incredibly helpful and readily available.


3: Prism– Although I did post on this tool last summer, I hadn’t really had time to play with it until this fall. Prism is a a tool that allows for the “crowdsourcing” of interpretation. You can create a Prism from any text and then provide three attributes for students to identify in the text.  Students provide an interpretation of the text by highlighting words to fit each of the attributes which contributes to the generation of two different visualizations one based on size and another one based on color coding. For example, this fall while reading the Autobiography of Frederick Douglass we worked on mastering and identifying different rhetorical devices. I created a Prism based on a significant passage and then allowed students to highlight which passages represented the different devices. Prism provides endless possibilities for use in the humanities classroom, and in fact one of the best exercises is for students to create their own Prisms and set their own attributes, and then share them with their peers.


Video.notes allows students to take notes on youtube videos and save them directly to their google drive. In the age of the “flipped classroom” this tool provides students with the ability to take notes in real time and the notes are synced with the time of the film so it is easy for students to navigate. We use documentaries frequently in our class as a method of content delivery, and this tool allows us to view students notes not only as a mechanism for holding them accountable, but also as a way of assessing their note taking skills. Our ESL students have found this tool especially valuable as they are able to review significant moments from the films easily. Here is an example that I created to introduce our students to this tool in conjunction with our study of the Spanish American War using the film Crucible of Empire. I look forward to using during our Civil Rights unit when at home viewing of Eyes on the Prize provides our students with the majority of content.

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