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History Pin: Classroom Ideas

History Pin first caught my eye when Richard Byrne highlighted it on his website Free Technology for Teachers.  Now I know I’m an English teacher and that I should be able to articulate, in great detail, the coolness of History Pin.

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Unfortunately, I can’t.  It’s just cool.  Exploring History Pin requires little more than the ability to get on the website.  The concept is simple really.  Anyone with a Gmail account can pin photos to a specific geographic location.  With each pinned photo is the opportunity to add a “story” on the photo itself.  With modern Google street view as the backdrop, photos appear in the spot where they were originally taken.  The effect is remarkable.  It makes a much better argument than I ever could about history, the human experience and the passage of time.  History Pin’s overview video is a good place to start with your students when beginning any project involving the website.

What’s particularly intriguing is the idea, in their words, of creating a digital history of the world. Easy to navigate, the website offers several different classroom uses. Because students can search their own streets and towns, it is an interesting way to teach about the art of stories via image.   History Pin offers a variety of resources for getting started.  Check out their resources so that you can easily familiarize yourself with the ins and outs of the website.

1.  Use it as a means to explore time periods that accompany literary units. Now that the National Archives and the Smithsonian have partnered with History Pin there many options for how this can be accomplished.  Listed below are some collections/tours that can be easily implemented in your classroom.  Have students annotate the images and use them to create arguments about literature’s place within the society it represents as well as today.

2.  Use History Pin as a means for students to begin constructing their own narratives or college essays.

  • Since students struggle with creating their own authorial voice, ask that they begin by creating a History Pin tour of their own focused on one particular theme (i.e. the role of family, nostalgia, education, disappointments, triumphs).  Each photo should reflect the theme that they are creating.
  • When they create the accompanying “stories” for each photo have them treat each as if they are the opening paragraph of their college essay or personal narrative.  They should not just be a basic summary of the photo itself.  Use our previous post about personal narratives to offer some professional models before you begin.